Miles: 18.8
Camping: Lower Morris Meadow mile 38.8
Hikers seen on trail: 12

Last night at Lake Morena the wind started. It started as a few passing breezes, and then WHOOSH, all night long. I slept with ear plugs in, something I only do if I know other people are around, and there were enough other hikers nearby for that to work out.

I could also hear some dogs nearby (not coyotes), and they somehow worked their way into my dream.

I woke naturally at 5:30, which is something I’m not entirely used to, but I like it. I like adjusting to a new time clock, and enjoy the idea of sleeping when the sun does. Guinness and Xtra Stout were already up and having breakfast. Since their tent was already packed, I figured they were ready to break trail, and I needed time to eat, do some yoga and pack up my own things…so I told them I’d see them later and went about my morning.

At 6:30 I hit the trail, making my way along the flat, shady path that leaves the campground and into the desert. It was a beautiful morning, and I didn’t have to hike in the sun for several miles. The wind was ever present, though inconsequential until later in the day. The next water source was only 6 miles up trail, so I got away with a lot less water than when I left the border yesterday. That combined with having eaten some of my food made my pack so much lighter. It felt great, and I found early on that I absolutely LOVE hiking alone. I can go at my own pace, stop and take pictures whenever I want, and make up silly songs to myself. My favorite was about my “Fruit & Nut delight” trail bar and it went something like this, “I like fruit, I like nuts, I like delight…and I’m nuts.”

I reached the campground with water fairly fast as the walking had been easy all morning. I turned on my phone and was able to text my mom to tell her I was alive and well before losing signal. I had a blister forming in yesterday’s hot spot on the ball of my left foot. Super inconvenient, but I suppose that it will toughen up soon enough and I won’t have to worry about that spot any longer. Right? I popped it and added benzoin tincture and mole skin…and wished I had leukotape. My next bet will probably be the outfitter in Mt. Laguna at mile 42.6 (I was at 26 @ the time).

After popping the blister and filling my water bottles, I sort of hobbled down the trail for about half a mile nearly stepping on a baby rattlesnake! I was down wind from it, and it didn’t budge. I stood mesmerized, waiting for it to make a move. It did nothing, so I snapped a picture and gave it a wide berth. Every stick thereafter was something to approach cautiously, which took my mind off my blister for a little while.

That was when the climbing began. It was gradual, but exposed, and the wind was blowing in my face slowing me down a lot as I tried to climb. I later found out it was 20+ mph winds all day (and even still as I hunker down for the night).

Another amusing hiking alone moment was when I used my best monster truck voice to say, “Extreme winds!” As I battled my way uphill and against the strong gusts. I was amused, and still smiling broadly, happy to simply be on the PCT! This feels like all I was meant to do, and it’s all I want to do. Hiking is by far my favorite activity.

I soon realized that it was going to be real difficult to find a lunch spot on the exposed ridge with both shade and a wind block. It took me almost 4 miles to find a suitable spot, and when I did, I was beyond ready. This blister is not relenting, and it’s in the worst possible spot. There is no way to avoid stepping on it, and I couldn’t very well stop hiking. I was enjoying that part a lot. The views have been breathtaking, with mountains as far as the eye can see, with scattered valleys between them. Not to mention the fun sages and cacti, lizards, birds and insects.

I took a long lunch to ease my blister pain and a few other hikers passed by, all commenting on my great spot. I enjoyed the respite from the wind, heat and blisters, but I couldn’t stay there forever. There is still so much more to see!

The rest of the walk was windy and painful. I felt as if I’d be blown off the mountain on several occasions and had to hold onto my hat. I decided I would poke holes in it and add string when I got to camp, so my hands could be used for balance instead of hat protection.

At some point I realized that I must be compensating for the blister poorly, as some ankle pain began to develop. I took smaller steps after that, thinking of using my foot properly so I could get to the next water source and camp without injury. In the process I met a nice man named Rocket, who was taking a break in a spot that seemed to break the wind. We exchanged pleasantries, and I hiked on.

Finally at the water source, a small stream called, “Long Creek,” I took out my new water filter (Sawyer Mini) for the first time and saw that the pouch was only 16oz and I needed 3 L to get to the next water source, which means a lot of extra work (rookie mistake!). Sensing my frustration, a nice man from Tacoma, WA named LJ came to my rescue and helped me collect water in his larger pouch. Thanks LJ! He is hiking for a month or so with his son and his son’s girlfriend who were also dealing with some blister issues. It’s pretty commonplace this early on the trail, and the best thing to do is keep them clean. I look forward to when my feet toughen up though…I will be so happy when I’ve paid my beginners dues.

I set up camp a mile up from the creek, hobbling the whole way. I had to find something out of the wind, and I can’t say I was that successful, but options were limited. I found a little cove of trees that helps with some of the wind, but it is relentlessly blowing in all directions and a constant howl. I decided not to use my stove due to the wind and simply rehydrated some quinoa, lentils, tomatoes, onions and celery in the shelter of my tent. The wind is a little eerie now that it’s dark, and it’s been  blowing for nearly 24 hours already. I didn’t like the thought of camping alone in it, but I heard some other hikers pull into camp and set up. That puts my mind at ease, because  this wind is enough to drive one mad. Alas, it’s just part of the experience,  and it too shall pass…though I’ve just become aware of a tent peg that has somehow blown loose, and my tent wall crashes down on me when the gusts are hard.

I better try to sleep (it’s only 8!), so I can get an early start into Mt. Laguna in the morning. Praying for the wind to die down at some point…goodnight!