Day 3: Goodbye, blue sky

13.8 miles (22.3 to 36.1)

In the morning, everything is wet. My tent fly is heavy with rain. When the rain stops, Dad visits my tent to find out if I’m awake. I am, but I’m not ready to get up yet. Packing up is going to be a hassle. 

I pack what I can from inside my tent, then eat breakfast inside my vestibule. The clouds have lowered, bringing dense mist. I take down my tent’s inner first, and when I return to my backpack to stuff the tent inside, my pack is already soaked. I put away my saturated rainfly and lash my pack cover onto my backpack. When we finally start hiking, it’s 8am, and I’m wearing my rain jacket and rain kilt to keep out the mist. 

We descend to Buckman Springs Road under fog worthy of San Francisco. In the valley, we cross Cottonwood Creek twice, first on stepping stones, then on logs. At Boulder Oaks Campground we refill our water and carry on, passing under Highway 8 and then mounting a long, exposed climb – which, once again, is downright pleasant thanks to the heavy cloud cover. 

First crossing of Cottonwood Creek, in full rain gear.
Second crossing of Cottonwood Creek

Kitchen Creek is flowing fast and deep. It’s hard to believe this stream runs dry in most years. We eat lunch overlooking the creek and I lay out various tent parts to dry. 

Kitchen Creek
Climbing toward Fred Canyon.

At 2pm we hit Fred Canyon, where the flow is more than adequate for a refill. While we get water and chat with a hiker called Tramper, the sun breaks through for the first time all day. I optimistically strap my solar panel to the top of my backpack. The sun soon disappears behind clouds, and we don’t see blue sky again for a few hours. 

My feet hurt. I’m getting little stabs of pain in my left achilles, and my right arch aches. My tip-of-the-toe blister returned after I drained it last night. Body Glide doesn’t improve the situation. I experimentally attach an Engo blister patch to my insole to reduce friction, then I switch insoles, which alleviates the achilles pain. (Yes, I’m carrying an extra pair of insoles.)

Really cool rock formation.

I’m considering leaving the trail for a day when we reach Mount Laguna to search for better-fitting shoes. I’ve been looking for PCT shoes since September, when my last hiking shoes died, but no matter how many pairs I try on, I can’t find a good fit. My uncle Pete knows of an excellent shoe store, however, and I’d like to make one last effort to find a better fit than my Altra Lone Peaks. 

In addition to getting new footwear, Dad and I are both eager to stock up on food. Only a few days into the hike, we’re both dreading the onset of true hiker hunger. Clearly I haven’t packed enough in my resupply boxes; I already need to supplement. How are we going to carry enough food? 

For now, we’re settled in a campsite halfway up the mountain on the way to Mount Laguna. Tonight we’re camping with several other hikers under a huge old oak. After a brief interlude of blue sky, fog is rolling back in. Looks like it’s going to be another wet night in the desert. 

So many beautiful wildflowers in the desert.

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