April 20, 2022
Hauser Creek to Fred Canyon – 16.6 mi
My alarm wakes me at 5:10. I turn it off and snooze for ten more minutes before finally remembering that I’m getting breakfast at Lake Morena! I pack up quickly after that. It’s so nice not to be hooked on coffee anymore. It means I can pop right up and get ready to go. I didn’t sleep that well last night though. My leaky sleeping pad woke me up twice demanding to be re-inflated. I’ll have to figure out how to fix that.
Andy and I start the climb up Hauser Mountain as the world starts to get brighter. There’s mist in the valleys this morning, and the sun gently touches the rocky outcrops at the tops of the surrounding mountains. We’re pretty quiet on the smooth, well-graded walk up the mountain. 6:30 AM hiking on clear golden day beats any coffee! (Okay, maybe not any, but you get my point.)
We make it to the top of the climb and take a second to look around and drink water. It’s not too far to Lake Morena now, and we cruise the miles as we chat, warmed up and awake. It’s a short walk down to the Malt Shop, where we run into RT and have breakfast with him. I get the sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, and it is huge, salty, and delicious. After breakfast I call Thermarest to get their opinion on my sleeping bag situation, and they are not very helpful. The turnaround time for repairs is 12 weeks, and the agent says they don’t offer replacement pads in the meantime, even though their website says they do. So I guess I’ll just have to get a new one in Julian, or see if I can find the leak myself.
We walk to the spigot at the campground and fill up water and then continue on a miraculously flat, rock-free trail for the next several miles. Andy is probably already getting tired of me comparing the PCT to the AT, but I can’t help it. It is ridiculous how easy the terrain of this trail has been. Is the AT a cosmic joke? Did the trail builders know that switchbacks were an option? Are there just more rocks on the East Coast?! I can’t figure it out. All I know is that this trail is so beautiful, like something from a painting. I keep seeing new wildflowers, yellow, red, purple, white. It smells like sage. I’m obsessed with manzanita bark. I am so happy.
At Boulder Oaks we run into RT again, as well as a new hiker, Renegade, and later the Czech group and some folks with the most amazing looking ultralight packs. I have a leisurely lunch, fix my food bag, which has already torn (this trail is really testing me…) and fill up on water.
Andy and I continue through the campground, passing our first trail magic: a bowl of Dum-Dum suckers and a container of Twizzlers. We both opt for the lollipops and eat them as we cross the road and head uphill again.
I didn’t expect the views on this section to be as beautiful as they are. The weather has been perfect and the visibility is impressive. There are yucca blooms and manzanita trees everywhere. It smells so good.
Soon we come to Kitchen Creek, a beautiful stream meandering over smooth rocks in the valley below the trail. Someone has dammed up part of the creek to make a small pool. Charlie is down there, and we join him on the edge of the pool. He and Andy get all the way into the water, but I only make it up to my waist (after almost falling in at first). It feels so good to wash off a bit! I’m already disgusted by myself on day two.
After a nice long break, we continue uphill again, across a road, and along the most beautiful ridgeline. The evening light is hitting the valley and the crest of the hill just right. It is like liquid gold. We round a corner, walk downhill, and wind up at a lovely campsite next to a dry creek. There are about five of us here. It’s quiet but not too quiet. I suffer through a very gross new Knorr rice side, drink some tea, and brush my teeth for what I remember with disgust is my first time today. Hiking is disgusting.
I can’t get over how happy I am to be out here. More adventure tomorrow!