14.4 miles (42.5 to 55.9)
In the morning, my foot still hurts, but the pain comes in waves rather than sudden stabs. My uncle Pete, trail angel extraordinaire, makes eggs and potatoes for breakfast, then drives us back to Mount Laguna. At 8am we’re hiking. The pain in my foot lessens, and I finally stop noticing it.
I’m wearing my new Merrells; I’m also carrying my Altras on the top of my pack. Yes, that’s a lot of extra weight, but I’m not willing to take risks after unexpectedly injuring my foot while hiking in new shoes last March. If these new shoes give me any trouble, I’m ready to switch back to the Altras.
So far, my feet feel ok. We meander through oak-pine forest before the trail drops us back into shrubs. That’s fine, because suddenly the views are spectacular. The landscape is so different than the mountains I call home. The desert is more beautiful than I expected. I love hiking through this new country.
Around mile 45, the view really opens up. We can see all the way to snow-topped peaks in the distance. With the open views come wind. My dad soon declares that this is the strongest wind he’s ever been in. I have to agree. We’re getting blown across the trail.
We stop for lunch at Penny Pines Point and refill our water at the faucet for another dry camp tonight. I take this opportunity to switch back to my Altras. I’m paranoid about the possibility of re-injuring myself by putting too many miles on brand new shoes – especially because these new Merrells are so minimal. After lunch we see our first snake: a little gopher snake sprawled across the trail.
We hike at a good pace despite carrying five liters of water each, and when we come upon Pioneer Mail Picnic Area, we stop for a break. We both crash out on a picnic table in the shade of a large oak.
Back on the trail, the views keep getting better and the wind keeps getting stronger. My legs and feet feel good. We pass two couples on the trail and keep cruising until we reach our intended campsite among the boulders.
Whoa. We can’t camp here. We’ll never get our tents up in this wind. We weave through the shrubs and boulder looking for open, flat-ish spaces somewhat sheltered from the wind. Failing at that, we sit down to eat dinner partially sheltered behind a boulder. Afterward, we resume our search for a place to sleep.
I find a few sites that might be useable. But no, it’s just too windy for Dad’s ZPacks Duplex. The tent won’t hold its shape even with the lines guyed tight. Dad decides to cowboy camp. Thankfully, my Copper Spur tent stands up even while taking a severe beating. I hope it lasts the night.
By the time we set up my tent, fog is rising up the mountains. We may soon be enveloped. I’m bundled up in my shaking tent, feeling like I’m lost at sea. I doubt I’ll be able to sleep tonight.
*More photos on Instagram.