We woke up at 3:30 and took our time packing up by the campfire. Dan shared some of this powdered aspirin/caffeine mixture which I took with two ibuprofen and some dehydrated chicken. We hit the trail around 5:30, crossing under a highway overpass and into the contouring hills.
We all kept a steady pace and I soon felt my muscle stiffness begin to disappear. Hiking in the cool early morning was a relief.
After two miles we connected to another road where a Washington man and his grown son had just packed up camp. They said they were going to roadwalk for a while to bypass a mile or two of uphill hiking on the trail. We walked with them for the two miles or so, filed up our water at a campground, and began the long climb up Mount Laguna. James, completely undeterred by inclines, powered on ahead. We wouldn’t see him again until town.
For Dan and I – but especially me – the 3000 foot climb was long and brutal. I didn’t carry much water, not wanting to weigh myself down more than necessary. The switchbacks in the hot sun were grueling. I stopped at every opportunity for shade, hugging boulders to draw out my body heat. Swarms of bees buzzed back and forth across the trail.
Eventually I was on my own; Dan had fallen behind. I came to a shaded grove with two other solo hikers: Daydreamer and Danielle. Like me, Danielle was just passing through. Daydreamer had an inflamed tendon and had been there for an entire day. He was going to wait it out. The hiker couple that I cowboy camped with the first night showed up. We all talked about gear and blisters and watched Daydreamer chop up fresh onions and garlic for his lunch.
Dan caught up an hour and a half later. He had fallen asleep in the middle of the trail on his way up. I joked that his trail name should be Speedbump. We dipped our hats in a small stream to keep cool, and continued on uphill.
At the top of the mountain we reached a beautiful forest with lush green grass and tall pine trees that shed massive pinecones. It was cooler and the smells and sounds were wonderful.
At Mount Laguna town I had a huge dinner with James, Dan, and Danielle. We met up with Rachel and Katie and set up camp at the campground, where we were disappointed to learn that the showers and bathrooms wouldn’t be open until Monday.
Another hiker showed up to socialize. Josh was skipping sections and yo-yoing the PCT. He carried a giant umbrella, smoked a lot of hash, and had an endless repertoire of off-color jokes. He called himself a hiker tourist. He didn’t care if he got to Canada, as long as he had a good time. He was 115lbs and had the best giggle I’d ever heard. I found him fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable.
“I learned hypnotism just to prove that it’s bullshit,” he told us, “but it’s REAL, man!”
Before long the darkness set in and we all said goodnight, too tired to set up a campfire.