March 23, 2018
When I crawled out of my tent the next morning around 7am many hikers already had their tents down and were scarfing a quick breakfast before hiking out. Lee and Sarah were long gone. I wasn’t nearly as sore as I expected I’d be that morning but I decided to stick to my plan of camping at Lake Morena, so I took my time breaking camp. Sadly, most blisters do not heal overnight. I’d lanced it the night before but had done a poor job of it, so I put a piece of moleskin over it and hoped for the best. I was happy to learn that a tiny bit of Bag Balm heals butt chafe pretty much overnight. Who knew?
Yesterday we’d hiked so quickly and with so few/short breaks that I took almost no pictures. I knew that would be one of my bigger regrets on this hike, but it was my own fault and hopefully, a good lesson learned. This “Nero” day, meaning a day where very few miles are covered, would be good for me for several reasons. I could take it easy, take more photos, and use the downtime in Lake Morena to let my tent dry out after the nights’ rain. It also meant I could go through my gear again and dump some stuff in a hiker box at the campground.
The hike was really nice. It was overcast and foggy, so I didn’t end up taking many pictures, but it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t hot, so that was nice. I later heard people describe “that climb out of Hauser Canyon” as being varying degrees of challenging, but I guess I took it so slowly that I didn’t even notice. I met two older hikers from Alabama named John (his Christian name) and Jumanji (his trail name). They are cousins who started the trail together in celebration of John’s 50th birthday, but they would later part ways to hike separately as John’s girlfriend would be joining him at some point in the next few weeks. John was fairly new to hiking so they were both taking it very slowly, which was exactly my pace that day. We hike together most of the day and spent a lot of time chatting, which was nice.
By the time we reached Lake Morena around 11am I was already tired. It only cost $5 to pitch a tent in the PCT Campsite area, and since I’d arrived so early in the day I was one of the first to claim a spot. Naturally, I picked the one fairly sheltered from the wind by a few small trees and right next to a picnic table, where I was able to spread my stuff out and get medieval on shedding some ounces. I’d already learned through books and blogs that picnic tables were something of a luxury on trail because it meant sitting on a real seat instead of the ground.
Hikers filtered through all afternoon and about 10 ended up staying the night in the hiker campground. A hiker named Riddles foraged for wood and built a fire in the designated fire ring, where we sat around chatting and eating dinner together. An older woman named Shante enthusiastically got the introduction ball rolling, having us go around the circle and say our names, where we were from, and other fun facts about ourselves. I wondered if she was a teacher or some other type of group leader.
Because Lake Morena is such a popular stop along the PCT, and because it’s just 20 miles from the border, most hikers stop there. I remember several of the people who camped there with me that night, mostly because we spent so many hours hanging out and chatting, comparing notes and resupply strategies, short term and long term plans for our hike, past hikes, and so much more. Some of these hikers I’d see often along the trail, and some I’d never see again. There was Bear, an AT thru-hiker who’d acquired his name by carrying a BV 500 bear canister along the entire AT. He said it was easier than hanging a bear bag every night and kept the shelter critters out of his food at night.
Satyr was the poor soul who’d been puking and dry heaving into the bushes half the night in Hauser Canyon. He told me he’d been so anxious about starting the hike that he hadn’t eaten well the day before, had barely eaten at all the first day, and certainly hadn’t been drinking enough water, which was why he’d been so sick and why he was staying the night at Lake Morena instead of hiking on. I’d continue to see Satyr often along the trail and we kept in touch when our hikes were over.
Riddles I’ve already mentioned, but there were two men named Jay camping there that night. Neither of them had trail names yet. One was a young man with very tidy hair and a clean-shaven face, and a few of us took to calling him Clean Cut. I only saw him once or twice after that day and he was very reserved, so I don’t know if the name stuck or not.
A hiker named David came rolling into camp all hyped up and energized, having hiked the whole 20 miles from the border to Lake Morena that day. He was puking into the bushes shortly after arrival but popped back up and assured us he was feeling great. His trail name later became Baby Lungs. I won’t say why.
It was a really fun evening. I enjoyed meeting and getting to know so many different people, and couldn’t help but be excited by the fact that this was only the beginning. There was no way of knowing how many interesting people I’d meet on this trail, and I couldn’t wait.