Those damn dogs! Sleeping in a hick town where every resident has a noisy dog in their yard isn’t easy. I’m so jealous of Morgan’s ability to sleep through anything. Today we head for Laguna – at 6,000ft elevation some climbing will be necessary.
However, before we even get beyond sight of Lake Morena, the first blister crisis comes on. My battered feet start to burn as one has burst. I should have pierced it the day before, but I had hoped it wouldn’t be necessary. Instead I was sat on a rock with the hydrogen peroxide, hoping that the pain would go away. Strapped up, and treading carefully we pressed on to finish the 6 miles to Boulder Oaks camp-ground for water and a breakfast stop. The route took us under a major road and made for one of many jarring contacts with the rest of the world. As school buses, trucks, and commuters bustled past our slow progress felt idyllic and the dry grass was a world of yellow. It was in this field that we saw our first snake. Generally the snakes were put in a poor performance, we saw only 4 between us on the distance between Campo and Warner Springs. Even verbal taunting didn’t bring them out. Lightweights. Anyway, this particular snake was narrow, kind of yellow ochre with black markings, and its tail was hidden in the grass. If it was a rattler, it wasn’t putting the effort in.
Eventually, we made it to Boulder Oaks and Morgan set off to find a working tap whilst I attended to my feet again. Old blisters feeling slightly better, but new blisters at the sides of my heel. Having a third item to add to my putative letter to Mr Salomon, I once again took knife to my shoes. This time trimming the edges of the insole where it had rolled over to make a lump around the edge of my foot. The “sterilise needle, clean up mess, hydrogen peroxide, strap” routine was getting pretty familiar now. As Morgan came back, the news was: no water.
So we had breakfast with water from our packs and got back on the trail. The water report said we would cross a road and we could go 1 mile off-trail to reach a spring that had been running a couple of weeks ago. Arriving there involved throwing away a load of height on the tarmac, and then we found the spring dry. Bummer. The next chance was back up another mile and along the trail for nearly 2 hours before diverting back off it to a camp-site. It was a hot trudge round to there, but we were getting towards the mountains and views along (the gloriously mundanely named) Fred Canyon were a great distraction from pointlessly sucking on my camlebak. The miles rolled by, and eventually we met the jeep trail down to Cibbets Flat Campground. Running water! Toilet paper! We clearly hadn’t completely adjusted to trail life yet.
We spent a few hours hanging out in the shade and considering how far we had to go to make Mt. Laguna before dark. It was going to be pretty tough with the required elevation gain, but we could should make it. The trail snaked in and out, but gently upwards for hours. Just chapparal, kinda big hills to the sides and ever bigger hills above. As the shadows got longer every stick started to look like a snake, but they must have all been at home drinking gin and knitting because each stick was just a stick. A marker we had been looking for to indicate that we were getting there was a “Horse Meadow” and as we got close things got surreal. Lush green grass, overhanging trees, running water. Had we just wandered into an English summer?
The lengthening shadows were beginning to be a worry as switchback after switchback crept us up towards camp. Finally we seemed to stop climbing and reach some woodsy singletrack that even Morgan (roadie scum) could appreciate. Picking nice lines to ride and willing myself through the last few miles I could feel an ominous weakness in my knee. When we finally made it to Burnt Rancheria camp-ground I was tired, confused and hurting. Fortunately Morgan stepped up to sort things out so that I could go for a shower, and hopefully find some resolve underneath all the dirt.
Wandering around the camp-ground looking for the shower block things just got worse. In the fading light, my knee kept failing and I was lucky not to just fall. The shower helped my mind, but the body still wasn’t playing the game as I tried to get back to our camp. Over orzo and veggie chilli I told Morgan about the knee and we decided to take the next day off for stretching, research into what the knee problem could be, and possible replanning. 40 miles in and doubts about whether I could continue. At least there were no dogs to keep me awake up here.