Day 3:

Start: mile 29.7 

End: Mt Laguna (mile 41.3)

Day 3 was quite the ordeal. We knew from day one that a storm was blowing in, but it was even worse than expected. It started as rain, but as we moved up in elevation (climbing about 3000ft over 13 miles) it transformed to snow, sleet, rain again, and hail. We experienced all of those things within the first few hours of breaking camp.

By the time I got to Mt. Laguna, I was drenched to the bone and almost everything in my pack was soaked. I hiked 13 miles before 1p.m. and was completely exhausted. The only thing that pushed me through those last few miles was the thought of a warm bed and a shower in Mt. Laguna.

But that was not to be.

Mette and Mikkel had gone on ahead, but upon getting to town, Spence, ICU, and I realized that we weren’t really sure where to meet them. We went into the first building we came across to warm up and it was full of hikers. Mike and Mette weren’t there, but we assumed they’d gone ahead to try and book us a room somewhere in town. I ran into Scott, who we’d been leapfrogging for a couple of days and he broke the terrible news to me: everything in town was booked full. Everything.

My brain couldn’t comprehend the idea of sleeping outside in a wet tent, with wet clothes, in this weather:


We continued up the road to the lodge and found our friends, hoping that they had gotten us a room before everything booked up. They hadn’t, by they had heard that every surrounding town was also booked full, even Julian (18 miles up the highway). Completely crushed, we stayed in that tavern for a while, trying to figure out other possibilities.

Maybe they’ll let us crash on the floor here if we pay them. 

Maybe we can find a trail angel to take us in?

I heard some girls spent last night in the campground bathroom and all of their things dried!

It took over an hour (plus a burger and three cups of hot cocoa) for me to stop shaking. Our friend Chris staggered in looking in even worse shape than the rest of us. Being ex-military and expecting more standard desert weather, he was wearing a full linen outfit.

My brain continued to reject any notion of sleeping outside, but cell service was terrible so we had a difficult time exploring alternative ideas. Finally, we managed to get logged into my AirBNB account on Mike’s phone, and we found a place up by Julian that was within our budget. At this point we hesitated. We’d heard that no one was picking up hitch hikers in this weather and besides, there were six of us. There is no Uber or Lyft out there. How could we all get to Julian?

Chris made the breakthrough – there was a guy in the tavern with a pickup who’d heard about our struggles and was willing to give us a ride. The back of his pickup was covered, but it was full of tools. If we could fit all of us in there, he would drive us. We booked the AirBNB, put the two tall Danes in the front seat and wedged the rest of us into the back with all of our gear. He took us right to the front door of the AirBNB and wouldn’t take any money as recompense. What a wonderful man.

The airBNB had a fireplace, beds, a hot shower, and a taco bar downstairs. What more could we possibly have asked for?

Drying our shoes and socks (and selves)

I think I may have overdone it a little – that night I got a fever and couldn’t eat much dinner. But I was dry and warm, so I was content.

Relaxing in the taco bar. Such happy campers!

Day 4: 

Start: Mt. Laguna (mile 42.5)

End: Pioneer Mail Picnic Area (mile 52.6)

My fever broke overnight, so I figured I was good to go, but I think I may have overestimated myself. We made it back to Laguna, resupplied, stopped by the Outfitters to make our first gear changes, and headed back to the trail. I picked up a pair of cheap flip flops to use as camp shoes, and a rain kilt. Part of the reason I’d gotten so chilled the day before was I had no bottom rain protection.

The first 7 miles went alright, it was a gorgeous day.

The trail followed a range of small mountains, and the views were wonderful.

But my last three miles took me about three hours. My IT band got extremely tight, my back was starting to ache, and my feet were little balls of pain at the bottom of my legs. I started feeling sick again. Around mile 52, the trail came up alongside a highway and I got off trail. I hitched into Julian and booked myself into a B&B. It was time for my first zero.

Day 5: taking a zero day in Julian

I guess I pushed myself a little too hard to start off with. My initial plan was to start off the trail by doing 10 mile days. But Hauser Canyon made for a tempting campsite on day 1. And when I made it to mile 11 by 1:00 p.m. on day 2, stopping there just seemed like a waste of a good hiking day (especially with the aforementioned storm looming).

Got a free slice at Mom’s Pie! Pecan pie with vanilla ice cream and apple cider.

I think that I can keep up with doing 15 mile days, but I need to be more diligent about taking care of myself. I’ve spent maybe half an hour doing mobility work in the first 4 days – considering that I’ve spent over a year in therapy for a back injury, that is unquestionably inadequate. I also think that I need to drink more electrolytes, and probably eat more food. I’ve been mostly living off granola and bars, supplemented with salami/cheese wraps (and the occasional town meal). My body is craving healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. Also, I am getting very sick of greasy town food.

I spent Day 5 napping, stretching, and going through my pack to get rid of things that I haven’t used even once. Today, I’m heading to pick up the trail and hopefully meet up with my friends. Lots of stretching this week, I promise.

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