Today was TOUGH.
Having set an alarm for 6am I awoke and slowly made it out of my tent. Nicole and her kids had cowboy camped (sleeping without a tent under the stars) all night long. We made a big cup of coffee and split it between ourselves and her daughter. A great way to start the day!
My appetite was absent but I forced myself to eat at least one packet of oatmeal even though I had to wash each small bite down with a swig of coffee. It’s very frustrating to know you need the carbs and the calories but are almost completely unable to eat.
We started off backtracking the 1.5 miles we had hiked off trail to the water source and then took a short break before we began ascending the other side of the valley we had descended the day before. We could see the trail switchback it’s way up to the top and had hoped it would be shaded from the sun…but we apparently had not paid enough attention to the way the sun was moving because it was already under full sunlight.
Nicole’s kids were in such good shape they quickly took off ahead of us taking Nicole’s “See yah at the top!” Too seriously. After about a mile in I noticed that my stomach started to hurt a bit and I couldn’t tell if it was my abs from the climb or an upset stomach. I continuously took short breaks wherever I could find shade. Nicole suggested eating some of a candy bar since I had had such trouble eating. I was drinking enough water and electrolytes so I figured it was a good idea. Not even a minute after the first bite I was standing over a bush, leaning on my trekking poles and puking over the side of the switchback.
Typically I will rarely ever throw up, and I live in Southern California. I spend plenty of time in the desert and trained for the PCT in the mountains. I was drinking a ton of water with added electrolytes so I couldn’t figure out why I was throwing up.
After the joyous puke I felt 300% better and we continued the climb. We made it to the “first top” of the climb and took a break. Only 3 miles left to Lake Morena.
A photograph we took when we reached the top of Houser Canyon. Left to right: Nicole, me, Worm and Zero.
The trail finally broke downhill and it was smooth sailing until we began to ascend another “second top” of the climb. After this second top the trail would descend for a bit before ascending a “third top” and then finally down into Lake Morena. About halfway up the climb we shared shade with Simon Says as I was beginning to feel sick again. This time I figured it was low blood sugar from lack of food since I had been drinking water. I attempted yet another bite of the Snickers (I know, horrible idea) and found myself throwing up yet again.
I put my feet up and relaxed in the shade, again feeling much better. We continued onward and made it to the final descent into Lake Morena (And the Malt Shop!). I was sick yet another time, after drinking more water and Nicole egged me on to get me into town before the hottest part of the day kicked in.
With her amazing pep talk and egging on I both begrudgingly and thankfully made it to the Malt Shop. Taking my pack off on the porch I made it inside and grabbed the first lemon lime Gatorade I found and sat down, too shaky and sick to think about paying for it just yet. As I opened it Nicole reminded me to only drink a little at a time to make sure I was able to keep it down.
I was a zombie, shaking endlessly inside of the store as my body began to cool down. I put my wrists on the ice chest next to me and my cold Gatorade in between my legs. As I cooled down I was able to drink more and could feel myself pepping up by the minute. I shared some fries and we made our way back to the campground after socializing with some other hikers.
I felt brand new! I believe the lack of food made me sick and then made it hard for my body to hold down water. All of that in combination with the sun and heat, of course. [Edited: In retrospect it was actually lack of salts in my body that made it hard to intake water and electrolytes]
Lake Morena County Park is a pretty nice campground and we stopped to rest in the shade before searching for a campsite. PCT hikers were welcome for $5 a night towards the back of the park, but unfortunately it offered little to no shade. Being 3pm we were hoping to stay out of the sun.
Another hiker who had friends meet him at the campground offered to drive us around in their car to scope out nicer campsites. We went to the ranger station and found both of the sites we liked were available. We split the cost of the site and headed back to set up camp.
A bad photograph of our camp at Lake Morena Campground. Nicole had impressively built both of her tents on her own. The orange and blue one in the back are the tents she constructed.
The best part of the entire day…was showering. I actually have a very irrational fear of public bathrooms but I found myself crying happy tears as the hot water ran down and soothed my aching muscles.
I washed my socks and active hiking clothes in the sink, finding my shirt to be undeniably dirtier than any other article of clothing. Impressive for just 2 days out on the trail.
Finally feeling refreshed we headed back down to the Malt Shop so I could enjoy a mint chocolate chip milkshake…my favorite! I ordered my shake and bought a fresh orange. I saw it across the shop and have never wanted an orange more in my life. My appetite seemed to be coming back!
I lay here now in my tent. The sun set 3 hours ago. My stomach is finally full and my campsite is plush enough to offer better cushion than my campsite the night before. Tomorrow we plan on sleeping in and taking most of the day off in order to avoid the scorching sun. The plan is to head out around 5 and hike 6 miles to the next water source and camp. Although, nothing really goes as planned out here. Nature has its own agenda.
Many people have already started off doing 20+ mile days. The plan I have for myself is to take it easy the next few days as my body better acclimates to the environment. Also to avoid injury and over exertion as I have seen many others leave the trail after pushing their bodies too hard. I will probably hike early in the morning, take a nap in the shade during the peak sun hours, and then hike into the night to avoid repeating what I went through today.
Last but not least…I got a trail name! They call me Ms Sparrow, after Jacobs love of pirates and my dreadlocks. I think it’s very suiting.
So far the PCT has been challenging, but at the end of the day it is rewarding and quite a beautiful experience. The people are amazing and so willing to help each other out in various ways.