Day 1: Campo to Lake Moreno, 19.5 miles
Every big trip seems to start with butterflies; at least in the days and hours leading up to it. And this year’s start at Campo was no exception. Would it be too hot; would I have enough water; and so on and so on. Second guessing should be my middle name. But once I get the pack strapped on ad start walking, all that goes away.
My wife, my own personal trail angel, dropped me off at the monument, took a few pictures; looked through the fence into Mexico, and then set out. The goal that first day was to make it to Lake Moreno and water. If at all possible, I will try to camp at water every night.
The trail from Campo to Moreno was generally pretty mellow, apart from the 800 foot climb out of Houser Canyon in the heat of a 90 degree day. The trail did seem to follow a pretty winding path; at one point, after walking about 6 miles, I could see the Mexico fence in the distance nearly ahead of me.
The first day was also a boost for my ego. I passed 11 people along the way, most of them only going to Houser Canyon, and was not passed myself. And lots of the hikers at Moreno were complaining about the heat and the big climb. I kept assuring them that the heat and climbs would both get worse, not welcome news.
Saw lots of lizards, a squirrel and what appeared to be a coyote off in the distance, plus a lot of buzzards circling overhead. Happy to say that I disappointed them
The night at Moreno was interesting; being my first night camped with a bunch of thru hikers. There was probably 15-18 of us there that night and I got to meet a few of them.
I am normally a hammock sleeper so was somewhat apprehensive about shifting to sleeping on the ground for this section of the trail. This was an all new sleep system that I was anxious to test out, with a Hexamid Solo+ tent and a 0 degree BA bag with a 3.5 inch Quad Core pad. For most this would be overkill, but I sleep pretty cold and find the ground to be extremely uncomfortable. Fell asleep listening to the dogs and coyotes serenading each other all night, along with a neighborhood turkey and a drunken hiker puking all night. The night was long, but not too uncomfortable, so this arrangement may work out OK.
Day 2: Lake Moreno to Long Canyon Creek Ford – 18.5 miles, 38 miles total
Up with the sun and out of camp shortly after 6:30. The first few miles of the trail were pretty gentle and easy to walk. Stopped and had lunch at Bolder Oak with a few others who became frequent companions during the day: Hog, Drea, Early Bird, Squirrel, Martin, Acorn, and a guy whose name I cannot remember, but it was the name of a Florida Estuary.
After leaving Bolder Oak the trail started to ascend to Laguna, nearly 3000 feet above us. But the grade was gentle and the miles dropped away. Along the way I passed a couple that was probably close to my age who were out for a 100 day adventure. Not traveling very far each day, but just enjoying themselves as they mosied along; no worries and no hurries.
Stopped at Kitchen Creek and dropped down the 100 feet to the creek. There was not a lot of water, but there was a pool deep enough to soak in, which three of us did. Felt pretty good.
A few miles further up the trail I ran into Louis, an overweight and out of shape gentleman a few years older than my 61 years. He was attempting a thru, but had taken a week to get where I was on the second day. He was planning on camping at the same spot as me, so I bid a temporary goodbye and charged on up the trail.
The creek that flows through Long Canyon was about a foot across at the time, but the water was cool, a welcome change from the hot water left in my bottles. The first order of business was to filter a gallon of water, then setup camp. It was only about 3:30 but this was my goal for the day and knew I was only 15 miles from the rendezvous point the next day with my wife. So this seemed like a good place to chill for a while.
I visited with a number of the hikers from the Bolder Oak crew as they passed through, and then spent a couple of hours talking with Louis. He had not hiked in over 15 years and read Ray Jardine’s first book. So he decided to set out as a Ray Way guy. And it was not working out so well for him. He was freezing every night and unable to carry enough food and water because of his slow pace. Hopefully I was able to offer him some valid advice to help him on his way.
Had another pleasant night, although did have to put in earplugs to quiet the snoring coming from the other side of the bush. Was awakened about 10 PM when a pair of hikers charged through camp with headlamps blazing. The moon was out bright at the time, so I guess they could see OK, but that would not be my idea of fun. The temp dropped down to 32 during the night but I stayed comfortable in my Storm King.
Day 3: Long Canyon to Pioneer Mail – 14 miles, 52 miles total
Up about 6 and on the trail before 7. The rest of the ascent to Laguna was pleasant, especially the opportunity to hike through a pine forest for a while. Not exactly like home, but close.
Stopped at Desert View for breakfast and then headed on toward Pioneer Mail. A significant portion of this stretch had recently burned, and the wildflowers were the best I had seen so far. It always amazes me how quickly a burn can recover, at least the understory stuff; trees take much longer.
There was some very nice views from here of the surrounding countryside, some of which I will likely get to wander through tomorrow as the trail descends back toward 2000 feet. It looks pretty barren down there and is apparently pretty dry. It’s been nice not having to carry more than 3 liters of water yesterday and today, but that will change back to 7 liters tomorrow for the long trip to Scissors Crossing. There should be a couple of water caches along the way, but I would rather not depend on them.
Ended the day at Pioneer Mail with the gang from Bolder Oak plus Cash, Uke and a couple others. They were going on for another 6-8 miles today, so it is likely I will not see many of them again. Sue picked me up from there and we drove back to the lodge and got a room, a shower, dinner and resupply. And back on the trail first thing in the morning.