We got up “early” to put some miles behind us before the heat of the day really took hold. Later, we would come to a whole new definition of early, but for now we dragged ourselves out of tent and bivvi sac then spent some time faffing with where to pack stuff. Having laboured along with a full load of water the previous day, we actually looked at the map (!) today and dumped the majority of it.
The first real steps of the PCT were springing and lovely. Coarse sand, exotic (to me, at least) shrubbery, the sun rising slowly across the low hills. The path wound along like some manicured singletrack, just waiting for a mountain bike to swoop through. Clearly, my head had not yet adjusted to life on foot. It wasn’t long before the heat started to build but we made some distance and were rewarded with views down into Campo Valley as the PCT wound in and out of the hills of the Hauser Wilderness (The trail is graded to be very shallow so every change of elevation brings with it a clutch of switchbacks). A burrito breakfast propelled us on towards Morena Butte, with only Hauser Canyon in the way.
At this point simple things like the Manzanitas were exciting. You find the red bark peeled back like some sort of flesh trees that would be on a Slayer album cover. We laboured our way up towards Morena Butte and I had the first occasion to deploy the desert umbrella. It worked amazingly well, shading fragile English skin from the sun and providing some respite to the heat.
Unfortunately, too little map-reading led us astray and a simple descent into Lake Morena involved a 2 hour diversion. Lesson learned: read the map, don’t just rely on trail markers. Once down to Morena itself, the Malt Shop was much less Happy Days than I’d hoped but still a welcome treat.
The day had taken its toll on my feet though. Disregarding the wisdom of Ray, I had ignored the building pain and now I had blisters to contend with. Some Hydrogen Peroxide cream (mmm… fizzy) and some patches later, I was ready for shoe surgery part 2. There was a hard spot in the sole right under the ball of my foot. Nice quality control Saloman! I hacked out part of the insole to account for this and crossed my fingers. It felt better, but with my feet taped up it was hard to tell.
So, we camped down in Lake Morena, tried to avoid talking to the crazy ex-marine for too long. – he was carrying wheely luggage of the sort that people take on planes (how heavy?!) and also believed that the saliva from chewing beef jerky meant he had to drink less. To his credit he had made it all the way from Warner Springs, though.