Day 3 - mount laguna to sunrise trailhead junction
March 30 | Miles 42.5 - 59.5
I slept in until 8, knowing full well today would be a slow day. And boy am I glad it went the way it did.
I hopped in the shower first thing to warm my chilly, achy bones, breathing in steam until I could put my hiking clothes on. I’d washed them the night before, but they still smelled. From now on, nothing will ever really be clean. I accepted this and moved on.
I dressed my blisters, packed up, braved the cold mountain air, and popped into the store to grab a hot cup of coffee. There again was the owner, who comped the joe because he said I had a nice smile. I thanked him for everything and he gave me a quick hug before imploring me to be safe. Generosity aside, I doubt he would have said that to a guy. But I realize this angle can also work in my favor.
I chatted with some other hikers on the porch before setting out with one around 10 (which is like 3PM hiker time, but we were both a little beat). We talked homesickness, trail families, and Buddhist meditation. It was nice. For the first time I actually had a meaningful conversation, beyond “what’s your name/where are you from/why are you hiking” etc. and all that filler stuff. The sun began to shine, and it was just windy enough that I had my hair down, full curl, under my beanie. I started to feel like myself again.
Before long, the trail spat us out onto one of the most stunning ridges I have ever seen. A gorgeous horse and rider passed by, completing the idyllic scene. I snuck a poor quality photo:
Peering over the edge of a cliff, I was stunned by the enormity of the landscape. To the right lay the Anza-Borrego desert, low on the valley floor; to the left, the trail; far in the distance loomed snowy Mount San Jacinto, which I have to look forward to in about 100 miles.
Views today were in abundant supply. The best surprises, they caught me blissfully unaware.
I passed the 50 mile marker. Woohoo! 1/53 of the way to Canada!
I arrived at an inauspicious day-use area by the name of Pioneer Mail Picnic Area (no covered wagons nor post to be found) and as I went to fill up my water from the trough, I saw a woman in a lawn chair next to a cooler with two hikers sitting next to her.
Floored, I glommed down one of her fresh bananas and an ice-cold Diet Coke (the full size plastic kind! Not the weeny little cans!!). As it turns out, she hiked the PCT last year and actually was heavily featured in the trail blog I had followed in 2018. It felt like seeing a celebrity in person. I played it cool and promised I wasn’t stalking her.
It was a balmy 2:30 by the time the others and I stepped away from the cold beverages, hiking along a vertigo-inducing cliffside that offered neither mercy nor shade.
From there, the trail crept easily through a lush, dark green canyon with a gentle grade. I munched on pistachios as I considered what this long footpath had in store for me. The day had been generous. But the next might not be so. Days go by like that. They don’t really care how you feel.
By 5PM I was toast, and that is precisely when I stumbled upon the most impeccable single-tent site surrounded by spiky desert plants and overlooking the entire Sawtooth Range to the east. I had found my home for the night.
As the sun began to descend behind the hills, I cracked open a (still cold!) Pacifico I had carried out from the night before. I ate a real meal for the first time in two days, and finished it off with some Rolos as I gazed at my private 360° sunset.
It was a day I needed. It was my best day on trail so far. It was a day that reminded me why I like to do this.
And now, I sleep.