Miles: 8.7
Camping: mt. Laguna Campground PCT mile 47.5
Hikers seen on trail: 8

To say I woke up at 5:30 would insinuate that I had slept. I may have slept a wink or two because I know I had snippets of dreams, but I don’t remember them. The wind had been howling it’s windy howl all night long, with gusts I later found out were up to 65 mph. My tent flapped in the gusts, sometimes so much so that the tent wall would come crashing down on me, tent poles twisting. I waited until first light and decided I’d rather hike than lay there tortured by the wind.

I had my stuff together by 6:20, and went over to meet the other hikers who had arrived after I’d hunkered down for the night. They were also getting their gear together in the wind, wrestling with flapping tents and blowaway socks. They are: Phoenix, Melody, and Al. We all commiserated about how rotten we slept, and I left them for my tired walk on.

I hadn’t bothered to do any camp chores, like eating breakfast or making coffee, as the wind prevented pretty much all activity one could do in one place. Walking was rough at first with my tender blister and wind gusts trying to knock me off course, but my ankle felt better and I was happy. Just being here makes me happy.

Soon, I was in a wooded area of Ponderosa Pine and a Cedar I couldn’t identify. It was a little less windy, but I could hear it howling overhead. Persistent, that wind. It was shady in the sparse forest, which made for a cool morning and easy walking. About a mile in I saw a man in uniform, and I guessed he was a ranger and might want to see my permit.

“Where are you headed?” He asked cheerfully
“Canada.” I replied, praying I didn’t have to drop my pack and dig for my permit.
“That’s so cool, I wish I could do that.”

This is when I realized he was Border Patrol. We chatted for about 10 minutes about the trail, wind and immigrants before I headed onward. He was very nice, and quite easy on the eyes.

Before I knew it, I was in Mt. Laguna, walking up to a little cafe with a flashing neon OPEN sign. I was thrilled to seek respite from the wind, and a cup of brewed coffee sounded delightful. The propritetess welcomed me in, offered coffee and listed her menu to me: hard boiled eggs, fruit, fruit cobbler or a Mexican frittata. No brainer folks, I went frittata. She showed me where to put my pack, a literal taped off area called, “pack parking,” and I sat at a table and plugged in my phone.

Another hiker named Kapiko chatted me up about wind and blisters. He was waiting out the wind, but the forecast called for two more days and nights of its incessant howling, and I wanted to make tracks. I pondered my options and suddenly the power went out. I didn’t mind, the coffee was still hot, and my frittata long gone. This is when the trio from camp this morning rolled in and we all joined forces for the day.

We sat for a while discussing options for the day, all of us with errands to run in town. It’s a small town, but they have an outfitter, a small store and a post office. We collectively needed to visit all 3. As we finished our coffee, the propritetess pointed out that the people we were watching run up and down the street were Olympic athletes fom around the world. Apparently they come here to train, as the elevation is good for that. They were fun to watch, and of course, gorgeous. We later found out that the military does training here too because the elevation and climate are similar to Afghanistan. We are training among the best here!

We walked to the outfitter next and took care of some gear tweaks, led by an amazing woman named “Puppy.” She hiked last year, and had great advice for all of us, the best of which was to not let people fear monger us. Apparently people are either jealous or angry and try to talk us out of forward progress, like continuing on in the wind. She said that you’ll never make it to Canada if you listen to all of that, so do what you feel is right and take what people say with a grain of salt. She also let us weigh our packs on the hanging scale. Mine was only 30 lbs with food and water, which is awesome. I also weighed myself by hanging from the hook, and I’ve lost 2 lbs. No surprise, as I’m exerting myself and not eating as much as I probably should. It’s hard to eat that many calories, and I’m not super hungry yet. I know the famous hiker hunger is on its way though, and if you know me you know I’m not shy about food.

Having planned an easy day to nurse our aches and pains, we spent a good chunk of time loitering on the steps of the store/post office with other hikers. My blister was, and has been the only thing holding me back. I feel so good otherwise, and so eager to hike and see what’s around the next bend of the trail. The rest helped though, and even with the power out, we were able to obtain items from the store.

We headed back to the trail around 2, with a goal of 5 miles to a campground up the way. We passed more Ponderosa with their giant pine cones strewn about before the terrain opened up and we were hiking in a burn (an area affcted by a forest fire). The desert loomed below, reminiscent of Mars, and the wind tried to knock us off course several times whipping sand at us. This, I decided was free exfoliation, including for the inside of your mouth if you were unfortunate enough to have it open.

I inquired if these might be the world famous Santa Ana winds and Melody replied, “I don’t know, but they sure are the world famous pain in the ass winds.” Well said, new friend. Will they ever end, I wondered? What is quiet? Will it seem strange?

We arrived at the campground where other hikers had aquired a group site for 8 of us to share. We were happy to hunker down as we were windswept, and hadn’t slept the night before. There were showers, but they were coin operated, and hikers don’t carry coin due to weight. What a tease. I settled for a sink shower in the bathroom and treated my blisters with some new stuff I picked up at the outfitter (Glacier Gel). It felt better immediately, as the packaging promised. We will see if that statement holds true after hiking tomorrow.

In camp I met: Natasha, Jake, Duckets and his nephew Andrew from Birmingham. Duckets did the AT in 2011, and was taking his younger nephew out for his first time.

We all cooked our dinner, talked about books and Phoenix’s thesis work. She’s writing about flow theory and using the trail as research. Very cool stuff! I’m eager to learn more.

That about sums it up. It was a great day and I pray for sleep to come despite the howly winds. I guess I’m getting used to them now. Goodnight.

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