5.4 miles (36.1 to 41.5)
I sleep hard, and don’t hear our neighbor’s alarm clock ring for 20 minutes before he finally wakes up to shut it off (or so my camp mates tell me).
In the morning, so many birds are singing that I dream I’m point counting. Awake, tucked into my sleeping bag, I identify House Wren, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Spotted Towhee, Wrentit, Oak Titmouse, and California Quail – not so different from my home in northern California. That is, until a Hermit Thrush chimes in. Cool!
The sky is clear. My tent’s fly is soaked again, this time from condensation. All of our tents are soaked. This is my 29th consecutive month of backpacking, and I can’t remember a wetter trip than these few days on the PCT. Packing up a wet camp makes me more frustrated than it should, but once we hit the trail, frustrations evaporate.
We hike a short distance and find ourselves in a riparian oak wonderland. At the crossing of Long Canyon, we encounter a man marking the trail for an upcoming trail run. He tells us that this is the first time the creek has flowed in 10 years. We’re lucky: the water here is cold and delicious.
We begin the climb to Mount Laguna, and soon leave the shrubland for pine-black oak forest. The forest smells wonderful. At mile 39.8 I hear an Olive-sided Flycatcher! It’s amusing and slightly disorienting to hear them sing alongside Acorn Woodpeckers. They’re probably still in migration.
Dad and I reach the fork to Mount Laguna and walk through the campground to the main road. We hit the outfitters in search of new shoes, and I try on many, many pairs, but none fit better than what I have.
We call my uncle Pete and he agrees to pick us up so I can look for new shoes in the city. While we wait, we walk to the store and collect our resupply boxes. My first resupply box! I feel like a real thru-hiker.
Pete takes us to his house. We shower and throw our things in the washing machine, then head to REI, where I try on every pair of shoes I haven’t already tried on. To my great surprise, the first pair, Merrells, seems to fit well. I decide to take a chance and buy them. I also pick up a Thermarest Zlite Sol, my mattress of choice for the last two years until I switched to an inflatable pad last month in pursuit of a more compact backpack. After a few nights with the inflatable, I want to switch back to the Zlite.
Back at my uncle’s house, I doctor my blistered toe in preparation for tomorrow’s return to the trail. Suddenly, intense pain shoots through the top of my other foot – the foot I injured in March. Several minutes later, the pain returns, then vanishes just as quickly. What’s going on? We only hiked 5 miles today – and that was 8 hours ago.
I go to bed with pain shooting through my foot at regular intervals. I really hope all will be well come morning.
*More photos on Instagram.