The first two days started out strong for me on trail this year. On our first day on trail, Bleeder and I both ended up doing a twenty mile day and made it all the way to Lake Morena. Last year, I had gone only fifteen miles on my first day and camped at Hauser Creek. This year, we decided to take a short lunch break at Hauser Creek and pressed on towards Lake Morena since we both felt pretty good. We were pumped about crushing twenty miles on our Day One.
Day Two, we took our time getting out of bed and packing up camp. Even though we both physically felt okay, we decided to scale it back to a fifteen mile day instead of pushing for another twenty. We stopped for a short break at the overpass where we first met each other last year. We then spent lunch at Boulder Oaks and filled up on water before making the big climb out.
It’s funny how the same trail can be very different each year. Last year, we were already having to do heavy water carries. This year, there’s been quite a bit of water along trail and it’s been amazing. It also means we’ll be traveling over snow within the next 100 miles up trail around San Jacinto, outside of Idyllwild and again after Wrightwood around Mile 370 at Mount Baden Powell. Last year, we didn’t have to travel over snow until the Sierra.
We were originally going to spend our second night on trail at the Cibbets Flat Campground, a place we both camped at last year. The thing about Cibbets was even though we knew there were pit toilets, running water, trash cans and picnic tables, neither one of us were looking forward to the long and steep trek down to the campground from trail and then the big climb up back to the trail in the morning. This year, we found a perfectly good tentsite a half a mile before Cibbets that had a creek running nearby. I know for a fact the creek wasn’t there last year. We chose to skip Cibbets and camp at the tentsite with the creek instead.
On Day Three, we hiked up and into Mount Laguna, making it to the campground just in time for lunch. Bleeder and I decided to skip having lunch at the restaurant and ate from our heavy food bags instead. On our way back to the trail, we made a pit stop at the general store to enjoy our first ice cold root beer on trail. Totally worth hiking 40+ miles for.
The hike out of Mount Laguna later that afternoon was amazing. We had perfect hiking weather – clear, blue skies, sunshine and a light breeze. We were greeted with the first of many epic desert views along the way. We even saw a couple of people riding horses on trail. We decided to call it a day at a water faucet/tentsite shortly off of trail, six miles outside of Mount Laguna. Camping with a water source nearby is always so incredibly luxurious on the PCT, especially in the desert.
Day Four started off pretty solid. Bleeder and I were treated to more amazing hiking weather. The terrain was relatively easy and the views were beautiful. we even hit Mile 50! It seemed to be another carefree day of hiking along the PCT.
Shortly after our first break, we came across a rattlesnake sitting on trail. A few miles after, we saw another one. Thank goodness I hadn’t started hiking with my headphones and loud music yet. Now I think I’ll skip listening to music all together in the desert because I know I wouldn’t have heard either one of these snakes had I been listening to music. We were both startled, especially because neither one of us had encountered a single rattlesnake last year on trail.
If being spooked by rattlesnakes wasn’t enough, about six miles into our day, I rolled my right ankle pretty bad. I first started rolling my right ankle in Washington while hiking the PCT last year. It was both scary and painful. Thank goodness I was hiking with a fellow hiker who was kind enough to give me her ankle brace. As soon as I got home from finishing my hike last year, I saw a doctor and got x-rays of my ankle. Luckily nothing was broken. To be safe, I added a sturdy and hefty ankle brace to my first aid kit for my hike this year. Seems to have been a wise choice because a few hours after rolling my ankle the first time on Day Four, I rolled it again. I immediately stopped and put the new ankle brace on.
Originally we were going to push another twenty mile day on our Day Four. After I rolled my ankle for the second time that day, we had to make an 800-foot steep descent on trail. At the bottom of the descent, we came upon another tentsite we had camped at the year before. We decided to play it safe, call it a day and set up camp so I could rest my ankle for the rest of the day.
The next morning on Day Five, I woke up to see that both sides of my ankle were swollen. The disheartening part was I knew I still had to hike another 12 miles to get to the road before we’d be at the next town stop. I put the ankle brace on, popped three Aleve and slowly started hobbling my way down the trail. We eventually made our way to the road and road walked for about a mile before a car with two sweet ladies and three dogs picked us up and gave us a ride to the Stagecoach RV Resort Park where we decided to take a Zero Day the following day.
We arrived at the RV Park on a Monday. Just our luck, Monday is the one day out of the week when the RV Park is closed. Luckily, we were still able to set up our tent, do a load of laundry and enjoy a warm shower before calling it a day at our tentsite. Since we were planning on staying another night, we would pay for our first night’s tent camping in the morning.
Overnight, the winds raged on our little tent, but it made it all the way through the night. Even though we didn’t set an alarm since it was our first Zero Day on trail, Mother Nature woke us up instead with an incredibly strong gust of wind that proceeded to snap one of our tent poles in half. Not exactly the way we wanted to wake up up on our day off.
We spent our Zero Day doing a few hiker trash chores. First and foremost, we upgraded to one of the wagon cabins at the RV Park where we could sleep inside, free from the sand storm and have access to our own electrical outlet so we could freely charge all of our electronics. After repairing the tent, we then had to contact Big Agnes about getting a replacement tent pole for the one that had snapped in half. We also had to contact Darn Tough about their lifetime warranty because each of us had holes in our socks. Then I spent the rest of the day resting and icing my ankle. My favorite part of the day was when we dined on delicious deli sandwiches and bbq potato chips. What can I say? I’m a food motivated hiker, even when I’m injured.
In the morning of Day Seven, Bleeder took a look at my ankle and suggested we take a second Zero Day. I agreed. The swelling and bruising had gone done in my ankle some and it didn’t hurt as much to walk on it as it had the day before, but why risk injuring it even more? We were already in a perfect place for another Zero Day. We spent our second Zero Day lounging by the pool, splitting another delicious deli sandwich, indulging in ice cream and talking to other fellow hikers.
As much as I enjoyed the two days off, it was really hard for me to accept having to take two Zero Days this early in our hike. At first I felt sorry for myself and even felt like a loser. We were already two days ahead of where we were on trail last year. Then I realized, what the heck was the rush? It wasn’t worth making my ankle worse, possibly forcing more Zero Days on down the trail or even worse sending me home from trail before making it to Canada. Slow and steady runs the race, you know?
Already a week into our hike, I’ve been humbled by this trail and it’s a good thing. Better to get all of the wiggles out now within the first 100 miles – encountering multiple rattlesnakes, getting a sprained ankle, camping through a crazy wind storm and having a tent pole snapped in half then to be further up the trail and have all this stuff happen. I’m sure by then, we’ll have bigger things to worry about like traveling over snow and having to deal with extreme water crossings. Hopefully this means the rest of our hike will be somewhat smooth sailing, at least for the next few hundred miles or so.
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