New Trail Family
Early into the day, we encountered our first stream crossing. It had a soft, sandy bottom so I wore my camp shoes. The chilly water rose almost to my knees and the current was gentle. On the opposite bank, I filtered water while I dried off in the sun. Afterwards, Debbie hiked with Serendipity and me for the rest of the morning. At mile 30, a local man from San Diego, named Carl, offered us our first trail magic: Lays chips & Gatorade. I gratefully accepted. He gave us a water report and weighed each of our packs. Mine was 26.4 lbs to start so I guessed 24 lbs. It actually weighs 22.5 lbs, which made me happy!
I was curious about a couple plants, a tree with beautiful, smooth, dark brown bark and a spiky bush that shot up a tall stem covered in a cluster of flowers. Luckily, thru-hiker James knew their names, Manzanita and Yucca. Yay for learning! In the evening, at a full campsite, I pitched my tent in a makeshift spot next to a Manzanita grove. I loved it! It felt like the grove was hugging my tent.
I have to admit that when Serendipity wanted to stop our day at 7.5 miles, my mind rebelled. It argued that I should be making miles. However, I wanted to support my friend. Also, my gut has not been happy since starting the trail and I realized the value of bathroom access. Additionally, on the AT, I started out much faster than most of my fellow hikers and community was slow to arrive. It’s fun traveling at the same pace as a large group who started on our date.
In the end, I too enjoyed the comforts of Mt. Laguna. I mailed a couple letters at the post office and got a few food items at the general store. The staff at both locations were super friendly. Serendipity stayed in a tiny home; Debbie and I joined a bunch of hikers at Burnt Rancheria Campground. The hosts let us thru-hikers set up nine tents in a large camping spot. I spent the next couple hours soaking in the sun; chatting, drinking water, and stretching.
By the time dinner rolled around, my gut felt partially cleansed and I was ready to share a GF pizza with Serendipity. Debbie and Eric joined us for dinner at The Outpost. I was impressed when a staff member came out to warn me that the beans on our El Borracho pizza were cooked with pork; I modified the order. The food was delicious! Then it was time to walk home and get cozy for our chilliest evening yet. Sitting in my tent, I felt grateful. The day was a reminder that the journey is more important than the destination.
When I exited my tent in the morning, there was a thin layer of frost on the outside. After visiting the warm refuge of the bathroom, I returned to my tent and ate granola as I packed away my gear. Soon the sun struck my tent and I ventured forth. The large pine in the middle of our site dripped as its frost covered needles warmed. Debbie and I finished packing then headed to Serendipity’s tiny home. Her roomie Paul offered us freshly brewed coffee and her roomie Theresa directed us to seats by the electric fire. We lingered and chatted until after 9 am.
The trail undulated gently all day and we walked under sunny, brilliant blue skies. It was a perfect walking temperature. We stopped in a flat, grassy area near Penny Pines point to eat lunch and dry damp gear. There were fantastic views of the desert valley far below. In the mid-afternoon we reached Pioneer Mail Picnic Area. A water tank fed faucet offered crystal clear water. When I went to use the pit toilet, a local named Desirae showed up with trail magic. I ate a tasty apple.
Mike & Martina joined our party of three for the remaining miles to camp. The view was absolutely spectacular! For a time, rocky cliffs rose to our left as on our right the hillside dropped straight off to the desert floor and wrinkled hills beyond. The cliffs were replaced by green hillsides and still we wound along the edge of the hills, views with every twist and turn. Eventually we reached an area with large boulders amongst springy shrubs. With creativity, each of us, and twice as many more, found spots…Serendipity and I sharing a large gravelly patch and angling our tents to form a triangle of access space between, bushes on our other sides. I ate dinner on a large, flat rock and watched the sun sink below the horizon.
I hiked all morning with Serendipity, Debbie, and Eric. Early on we stopped at a burbling creek to get water. Then I had fun chatting with Eric. A passing trail runner apprised us of an aid station ahead. When we reached it we found a 50k race going by, one large tent with snacks for the runners and a second smaller tent with a large spread of tasty treats for us hikers. I had two types of chips, a rice Krispy treat, a clementine, and a watermelon slice. We cheered for the racers. A bulldog with an adorably wrinkled face sat in my lap. The volunteers were amazing, giving us hugs and asking questions about our hike.
After a long break, the four of us set off again. The day was warm and we took one break so Debbie could air her blistered feet. The hills were dotted with flowers, sagebrush, and yucca plants in various states of growth. As we approached the final water source (a tank) before Julian, I saw an awning erected next to a jeep. A man offered us ice cream bars and brownies. Trail magic again! Though appreciative, it was a quicker break this time… we were ready to find a campsite. A couple miles later, Serendipity and I passed four full sites, then we joined Glamazon & Smiles at a spot with an amazing view. I’m a sucker for a view. I angled my tent door towards sunrise then began my camp chores.
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