April 21, 2022
Fred Canyon to tentsite at mile 47.7
I didn’t sleep well. The sleeping pad situation is getting increasingly terrible, and I have to wake up at least three times to re-inflate it. Last night Andy gave me his sleeping bag liner to help with the cold situation, which makes it better, but still not ideal. I’m going to have to fix it myself in Mount Laguna or Julian.
This translates to a very slow morning. I pack up sluggishly, eat a Protein Puck, and get ready to hike out. Andy went ahead, so I’ve got a little time to myself this morning. I warm up quickly. The light is so beautiful this time of day, and I put in some music to help me up the rocky hill.
My achilles starts burning about three miles in. I realize that I’ve not really been stretching, which is not wise because I have a few old injuries on that foot that I should be careful of. I stop for a moment and do a few deep stretches and drink some water. This really seems to help. Stretch, people!
Not long after that I run into Charlie and Andy. We start walking together, and then Will comes up and joins us. I hike a lot faster with the boys than on my own, I realize as we start moving. Not long after that, we come upon a tent site with access to water, fill up, and have a snack. It’s so cold when we stop hiking! It’s sunny and burning up when we’re moving on the side of a ridge, but so cold the second we stop. The Southern California PCT paradox.
It’s not much farther to Mount Laguna. We cross a creek and then head uphill. Somewhere along the way we lose Will. The trail turns more lush, with pine trees and smooth meandering paths. It looks so much like Flagstaff here, with towering pines and needle-littered forest floor with the occasional small shrub. We take another break under a tree after the trail turns hot again.
Just then, Will comes up to join us, looking slightly scandalized. “A life-changing experience just happened to me,” he says, and proceeds to recount how, a few miles after he had gone to the bathroom, he felt a strange sensation in his pants, and realized that a huge black beetle had hitched a ride and was biting him on the butt.
“I think that’s a trail name,” Andy says. “Beetle!” Thus, Beetle was born.
A little while later, we take the side trail to Mount Laguna, where we head directly for Pine House Cafe. We order burgers and beer, and sit around consuming calories and charging our devices. It’s a really nice place, and they seem pretty chill with us hanging out for a while.
The guys mention that the men’s room randomly has a bathtub, and suggest that I ask the owner if I can use it to see if I can figure out where the leak in my Thermarest is coming from. It’s maybe the weirdest request I’ve ever made on the trail, but the owner kindly agrees. Andy and Beetle help me fill the tub and press on the inflated pad. Bubbles spring out from a small puncture near the top. We found it! Andy gives me one of his repair patches and we fix the sleeping pad outside. Hopefully that works!
We stop at the store and post office and I get my resupply box, complete with a very sweet note from my mom. Thanks, mom! We fill up water at the spigot and then Andy, Beetle, and I keep walking through more beautiful Flagstaff-y pine forest.
Then the trees thin out as we go along a very windy ridge. It only gets windier as we go up towards a viewpoint at Flathead Flats, with the wind tearing into us and pushing us back to the trail.
It’s very uncomfortable hiking for the next few miles. The wind is like a wall of force pushing one way and then another as we curve around the hillsides. We make it up to a bridge where Charlie and Kelly are hunkered down below a bridge where the wind isn’t quite so strong. Beetle considers camping under the bridge but then decides against it. He, Andy, and I find a marginally passable campsite among some short trees. The wind is still pretty bad, but nowhere near at the top of the ridge, so we decide to take it.
There’s only space for two tents, though, so since mine is the largest of the three, Andy is sharing with me. There is… a decent amount of room still? Way to go, Zpacks (pronounced “zed packs” if you’re Andy) is quite a production to set it up with the wind. It takes all three of us to get it standing.
We don’t bother cooking. Andy and I both eat somewhat sad wraps, then we listen to The Fellowship of the Ring on audiobook while the wind tries its best to rip my tent apart.
It’s supposed to rain tonight. That’s going to be a fun spice to go with the wind! But it’s been beautiful so far on this trail, so I guess it was bound to be bad weather sometime. I’m feeling pretty good about having (hopefully) a functional sleeping pad, happy to have friends to share the suck and the fun, and grateful for the people at the restaurant and their magic random men’s room bathtub. This trail is wild.