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April 2002 Journal

Thurs. April 25, 2002 Days on Trail:  0
Destination:  Lake Morena/Campo Today's Miles: 0
Starting Location:  Lake Morena/Campo Total Miles:  0
Finally got to sleep last night. Ray and I had breakfast in the restaurant at the Warner Springs Golf Course across the street. Afterwards we had our pre-booked 1-1/2 hour long massages back at the Ranch in the Spa. I tried to pay special attention to Sharon’s great touch, knowing this would be my last massage for a long time.

We were on the road south towards Lake Morena by noon. Around 1:30pm we were talking to 5 PCTer’s who had hiked 15 miles in 6 hours that morning and were now making use of the hot showers in the campground. They’d mentioned the only running water was at Hauser Creek.

The Park Ranger mentioned the backpacker’s campsites that Greg Hummel had reserved for the 5th ADZPCTKOP this weekend (Trail Register 2002). Again, this is a gathering of past through-hikers, section-hikers, wanabes, trail angels, and friends who put on this weekend event to support, inform, and calm the nerves of this years through-hikers. To date, approximately 400 of us have applied for through-hiker permits – going from Mexico to Canada.

We came back and camped at Lake Morena campground, but first drove to Campo. I wanted to check out the monuments that designate the start of the PCT. After a stop at the Trading Post in Campo, we headed for the Post Office where Ray took pictures of me signing the PCT register. I understand there are many registers along the trail at different P.O.’s or stores. It felt great to be in Campo and signing the trail register, but I still am not in touch with my feelings and the reality of hiking for 5 months.

Our next stop was the Mexico/U.S. border where the trail begins. We drove out of Campo, south along a dirt road for 1.3 miles. The monument sits on top of a slight hill in front of the border fence separating the United States from Mexico. That was weird seeing this make shift fence running left and right as far as I could see.

I signed the monument trail register located at the back of the monument. Many other hikers had started already. Brad, who is hiking this year, and his wife Rose, were at the monument when we arrived. We all took pictures. Still no feelings.

Ray and I went back to Lake Morena campgrounds to camp for the night. We left a note for my friend, Kevin, who is joining me for the first 4 days, on the Trading Post Store’s bulletin board in Camp, letting him know where he could find us when he arrived.

Many other backpackers started to arrive at the campground right after we set up camp. Actually, Ray and I slept in the back of his Tahoe. It had rained hard the day before and looked like it could rain again even though the late sun was out.

It was fun meeting and seeing the people I had only known on-line – Mad Monte, Tom Reynolds, Strider, Sly, Mags, and Dave Osborne to mention a few.

The liquor and beer flowed freely. Ray retreated to his bedroom in the Tahoe and I mingled for a while until I got too cold. I got caught up in the frenzy. I started writing names down in my fanny pack notebook and taking pictures as new people arrived. The feeling of not knowing the others, who immediately appeared as if they’d known each other for life, made me feel a little uncomfortable. I’d say 85% or more of the people I met were under 25 years old. Ray and I went to sleep wondering if Kevin would find us from the note we left for him in Campo.

Fri. April 26, 2002 Days on Trail:  1
Destination:  Lake Morena Today's Miles:  20
Starting Location:  Campo Total Miles:  20
I was awake when the alarm went off at 4:00am. I walked to the showers and got rained on while walking back to the car. I forgot to take my headlamp with me and had trouble finding my way.

Kevin appeared at the car around 5:15am. He’d camped close by and noticed the light on while Ray and I were getting ready. We headed for the PCT monument and began the trail at 5:45am. It was still dark until we arrived at the dirt road just out of Campo. I couldn’t believe so many hikers were already on the trail. We noticed 10 hikers or more just 1 mile from the start.

At the monument I finally got to meet Mags who I’d been corresponding with on-line. I had my picture taken with him, then with Kevin. My last photo at the monument was the one Kevin took of Ray and me kissing goodbye. I felt rushed and didn’t experience the emotion I thought I’d have when I said goodbye to my husband. I’ll be seeing him again May 3rd at Warner Springs, maybe that’s why. Poor Ray had his hands full trying to keep me organized. He remembers more of where my re-supply towns are and when I’ll be there and when he will meet me than I do. I only have one backpack full of my things to keep track of, but I almost left my trekking poles in the car! Thanks Babe. Ray was probably happy to see me go so he could stop worrying about me. Ray went to any lengths in the last few days driving to many of the trail towns. I knew it wasn’t easy or fun for him, and when I saw the water bumps on his fingers – an allergic reaction to stress – I finally “got it” as to how hard my trip is on him.

Kevin took one last picture of me at the signed trail start after we waved goodbye to Ray as he drove off.

The weather was misting so we kept our rain gear on. We leap frogged many hikers over the 20 mile day to Campo. I’d write about them but I can’t remember all their names. I’m sure as time passes and I calm down, or better yet, get my systems down, I’ll hear and remember my new friends’ names.

Kevin and I stopped occasionally for 5 minute breaks. I didn’t follow or read the PCT book or map because the trail was so well signed. Kevin walked in front of me and I followed him without hesitation.

We stopped for breakfast for about 20 minutes. Other hikers passed us, and then we passed them. But in general, I’d say almost everyone this day hiked at a faster pace than we did. (Kevin walked my pace, not his faster pace!)

It started to rain again at about 10 miles. We put back on our rain gear and pack covers. It was cold and windy too. I was wet and cold, so we didn’t stop very long when we took our breaks. My shirt was wet and never did dry. So we kept a better hiking pace than we had earlier. It was close to 3mph by now. I was surprised how comfortable I felt hiking. I hadn’t been training much, if at all, for the last 3 weeks.

When we got to Hauser Creek, I knew we’d be able to hike the 20 miles in one day. Mad Monte and Linda came up to Kevin and me at the creek while we were throwing out extra water in anticipation of the upcoming uphill switchbacks. Mad Monte asked us if we wanted to have a cup of tea. I thought he was kidding, until I saw Kevin lay out his ground cloth by the creek.

The last 4 miles were the hardest part of the hike. Not so much because my body was sore, but because it was so cold. I didn’t have much energy. I hadn’t eaten very much. So I hoped a Snickers bar would give me the energy to get to Lake Morena feeling warmer. It worked.

Just before 4:00pm we walked into Lake Morena’s campground. It was full of PCTer's and friends. We quickly set up the tarp tent we’d share. Kevin had brought his bivy sack, not anticipating the bad weather.

I showered and could not get warm. I got into my tarp tent and in my sleeping bag. I couldn’t lift my head up while laying in my sleeping bag. The top of the tarp tent was hitting my head. Whatever the tent touched - got wet. I’d washed some underwear, but there was nowhere to hang it. It was stupid of me to think anything would dry. My sleeping bag was getting wet too and I got scared. I told Kevin of my dilemma when he came by, and he called his girlfriend, Melissa, the best trail angel. Melissa works for Adventure 16 in San Diego. She brought me a heavier weight rain gear set than I had … a more breathable one, a large Meterolite, Sierra Design tent and another top for warmth. I was wearing all the dry clothes I had on me and realized I needed another warm top. Melissa arrived 2 hours later and made me one Happy Camper!

What I learned is that I am not a light weight backpacker. I am an athlete by day and a princess by night. I like to be comfortable in my camp. Kevin and Melissa slept together in another large tent she brought and I slept in the Sierra Design alone. Ahhhh, bliss!

One of the reasons I wanted another tent until Ray can bring me the more suitable one I have at home, is that we were told the storm would possibly last another two days.

Sat. April 27, 2002 Days on Trail:  2
Destination:  Lake Morena (ADZ) Today's Miles: 0
Starting Location:  Lake Morena Total Miles:  20.2
I slept until 8:00am! By the time Kevin and Melissa set up the tents she brought, it was around 11:00pm. Most everyone was asleep.

Today is the day of PCT activity. Breakfast was made for us. There was a “how-to” by Tom Reynolds on how to pack bean canisters and what types of food work on the trail. (A tip I learned was to fill up the empty spaces in the bean canister with loose rice.) There were gear contests and how to make alcohol stoves. People hung around all day talking and getting their gear together for tomorrow. Some hiked 10 miles of the trail back to Lake Morena after having been shuttled north ahead. I enjoyed meeting people and learning from the contestants who entered the gear contest, but I’m ready to get on the trail. Lots of chit chat.

Dinner was served around 5:45pm. We hikers got to eat first.

It’s 7:00pm now as I write (I’m finally current with my journal writing!) and we are waiting for the other people to finish eating so we can hear where the water stashes are along the desert portion of the trail.

A hiker name “The Bro” brought me another cup of hot chocolate. He has been there with 2 previous cups for me over the last day and a half.

As soon as Meadow Ed gave us the water report, I got in my sleeping bag. Sleep was difficult because those not hiking tomorrow were having a good time around the fire - singing.

Sun. April 28, 2002 Days on Trail: 3
Destination:  Long Canyon Creek Ford Today's Miles:  17.6
Starting Location:  Lake Morena Campground Total Miles:  37.8
 I was awake in my sleeping bag by 4:00am. I heard the first hiker leave at 4:30 and my competitive juices started up. At 5:00 I showered … packed up, and helped unwrap bacon packages for Bill Person who was cooking breakfast. I had some eggs, potatoes and bacon, and then Kevin got up. He is so fast at getting ready. My systems for packing up are not working. I take forever. It seems I pack up, then forget something, and have to do it all over again.

Kevin and I left camp at 6:45am. The day looked promising weather-wise. The sun felt great when it came up over the mountains. I was surprised I wasn’t sore. We were passed by over 15 other hikers. (It’s difficult remembering all the trail names. Hikers are given trail names, but some of the names I remember are Chaz, Dilo, Bonnie, Yogi, Kim, Pam, and Harriett.) Throughout the day we’d pass each other after stopping for breaks. But by the end of the day the faster hikers got to camp way before Kevin and I. Kevin walks at a slower pace to begin the day, but as he warms up later in the morning, he keeps up a pace much faster than I do. He would walk ahead and wait for me. Kevin is a good navigator, which pleases me.

The day was sunny and warm, not hot, with the temperature around 75 degrees. Occasionally, we even had a breeze in the higher altitudes. My watch said our highest altitude today was 5,200 feet. We started at 3,065 feet. Kevin won’t let me tell him anything my watch indicates. He doesn’t want to know the time or anything else. He suggested that maybe I might not want to wear a watch. NOT! Ray gave me my Titanium Suunto and I love how it entertains me throughout the day.

Today, for the first time, I feel like I’m hiking the PCT for real. I enjoyed today’s hike. We met “Coach”, Larry, on the trail. He’d been in the food line the night before. I’d introduced myself to him and he said he’d been looking for me. He’d read my website and couldn’t believe how similar our situations are. He’s 57 and married. He has a website too, it’s Larry’s hiking partner, “Dew” (he only drinks Mountain Dew on the trail) arrived at San Diego airport … but his luggage, backpack and contents didn’t. He went to REI and spent $800+ to replace all the gear that was lost.

Today I saw many of the hikers I’d talked to at the ADZPCTKOP. Cupcake and Dan Maguire, the hikers I have had email communication with before the trip, passed me a couple of times today.

Our 17.6 mile, mostly uphill day, ended at 3:30pm at Long Canyon Creek Ford. I was very happy to end the hiking day. My right foot, the plantar tendon, was beginning to feel sore 2 miles before I stopped. Many of the faster hikers were there resting, bathing, or eating. Everyone formed their own comfortable area to hang out. Already people are forming friendships and hanging out together while they hike or meet at rest stops.

Over the next couple of hours most of the hikers stopped at this water source and made dinner. Many later hiked on another couple of miles. Kevin and I stayed for the night with some others. The next town, Mt. Laguna, where I’ll mail my journal pages, has a Post Office, but it doesn’t open until noon tomorrow. We are only 6 miles from the town, so this is causing many of us to have to wait around and waste valuable hiking time. We have to get our re-supply packages of food and other supplies there too.

It’s 8:35pm and I’m tired.

Duh … I finally realized what HYOH stands for … Hike Your Own Hike. Now I appreciate the meaning of hiking my own hike. Had Kevin not stopped and waited for me, he would have finished the day a couple hours earlier. I can’t hike with faster through-hikers. I walk much slower uphill than I do on flat or down hill.

I think I’m hiking with “Coach” and “Dew” tomorrow. Coach received his name at the ADZPCTKOP the morning of the 28th when he left for Lake Morena. Over breakfast, Strider gave him his name when Larry mentioned that we was a High School Coach. Coach is strong and fast but he thinks I am too. We will see!

Mon. April 29, 2002 Days on Trail:  4
Destination:  3 -1/2 miles past Pioneer Mail Trail Head Today's Miles:  18.7
Starting Location:  Long Canyon Creek Ford Total Miles:  56.6
 I hope I remember not to sleep in a canyon by water again. We woke up to frost all over our backpacks. Water left outside of the tent had ice in it. I was cold all night even though I slept in all my clothes, including my Patagonia Puffball. I hope you are reading this Tina. For your John Muir Trail Trip, I’d certainly reconsider your gear and clothing. I’m going to have Ray bring my 0 degree dryloft Feathered Friends sleeping bag. My Marmot 15 degree isn’t keeping me warm even in a tent. The weather this year on the PCT is much different than I’d expected from all the journals I’d read.

Today’s hiking was ideal. We have not had hot desert conditions. It was quite windy most of the day too.

We started hiking at 7:00am. Getting out of my sleeping bag was difficult considering how cold it was outside. Kevin and I walked the 6 miles into the town of Mt. Laguna. I had to pick up my re-supply box and Melissa, Kevin’s girlfriend, was picking Kevin up. We arrived at 9:30 and had to wait for the Post Office to open at noon.

I couldn’t believe how many hikers (30) there were outside the General Store and Post Office by the time the bare-footed Postmaster arrived to open up. I got my re-supply box and two surprise letters. Thanks Milly and Debbie A.

We all spent the time before the P.O. opened hanging out on the wooden steps in front sorting out unwanted gear to send home, having coffee and muffins, or other junk food from the store, signing the PCT register, filling water bottles, calling home, bathing with the water in the fountain outside or the small sink in the smaller bathroom. Wet sleeping bags that had been packed up were now being layed out in the sun to dry.

I can’t tell you how many times I went into my bag trying to generate order. After a hug goodbye to Kevin and Melissa, Coach and I started hiking. Everyone was very concerned about the lack of water on the trail, they are called “water alert areas”. Starman, the BEST new trail angel (he hiked the PCT last year) was at the store giving us current water reports of where the water was stashed. He worked all day buying and supplying water to various places on the trail. He even carried hiker’s water for them and dropped it off up trail. There is a term called “slack packing” which means the hiker walks a pre-arranged distance without his pack while his pack is shuttled up ahead for him to pick up at the end of the specified distance. Starman helped some hikers with this service. As part of a deal with myself, I said from the beginning, that I wouldn’t slack pack.

Coach is a strong hiker. He is also very competitive. Something I totally relate to. He likes to hike fast and long. This was my hiking partner today. We covered a lot of ground and the pace was a good one. I may be home in 4 months if I keep hiking with him! He is a very nice man. Everyone loves him, I can tell. The young boys/men are somewhat in awe of him. His friend, Rick, is a very interesting man, very knowledgeable about many things.

I’ve got to find some way to shorten my journal entries. It’s getting late – 9:35pm – and my neck is getting a cramp in it from laying in my sleeping bag, propped on my elbows.

I’ll end with this … I had a great day hiking … the scenery was magnificent … and I feel full!

Tues. April 30, 2002 Days on Trail:  5
Destination:  Scissors Crossing Today's Miles:  23
Starting Location: 3-1/2 miles past Pioneer Mail Trail Head Total Miles:  79.6
My journal writing is becoming a burden. I’ve not written anything since April 29th. I’m at Warner Springs now, May 3rd, 7:35am, trying to catch up on the last 3 days of travel and experience. Not good Linda! Especially with my memory … but here goes --

Last night (April 29th) it was so windy and cold. I hardly slept because of the noise my tarp tent was making in the wind. Rick, who I’d been walking with before we camped, helped me find one of the few sheltered sites on the narrow trail. He camped further up and I think right on the trail. Coach went off trail about 30 yards.

The morning was foggy. As I was packing up around 6:00am, the sun came up in the east over some lower mountains, breaking through the fog briefly. I took about 3 pictures of the rosy dramatic sky.

Hiking today was long, very long. I can’t believe I’m doing the kind of mileage I am. I have a variety of body pains that worry me somewhat, but find the next day they are gone and I have a new pain that causes me concern. My left ankle, maybe where the Achilles tendon attaches, was causing me much concern. It’s better now. I keep crossing my fingers that my body will hold up.

I’m not going to write about the trail today except to say we had lots of elevation gain throughout the day. The weather has been consistently windy and cool. We haven’t needed to consume as much water as others in years past have had to drink. In all the journals I had read prior to this trip, the temperature was in the 100’s and water was always a concern. I’ve carried so much water that I finally am learning that when it’s cool I need less. One day I carried 7 liters. Ugh. Then the next couple of days I got it down to 4 liters. Still too much. I’m fearful because when Kevin and I hiked the 28th of April, I ran low on water. Kevin had to walk down a rocky trail-less slope to a creek, I think Kitchen Creek, to get us some more water.

Not long after hiking this day we ran across a water stash close to the road left by some incredibly caring people. We turned the bend on a trail only to see 2 wooden chairs, inscribed with “Congratulations Class 2002”, surrounded by many water jugs. I’m surprised by the kindness of the volunteers who have provided water and advice on water consistently.

I’m also surprised to find the trail is so well marked.

We have been a group of about 25 PCTers who started out together and have been leap frogging each other from the start. We camp together at night, most nights anyway. Bill, called Geezer, is the oldest hiker at 66 years of age. He is slow but keeps up with everyone by day’s end. It’s always fun to see him come into camp after everyone has been settled for a while.

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