Day three of the PCT and it’s already time for a nero! What’s that mean? It means we are hiking nearly zero miles today. It seems the desert is full of surprises- after suffering through two 20-mile days in blisteringly hot temperatures, we woke up to find that two inches of snow had fallen!
The weather had turned on us overnight from dry heat to strong winds and snow. Two nights on the PCT and we’ve already seen both ends of the weather spectrum! I guess now we’re ready for anything.
Considering that the storm was still going strong, we were sore and blistered from the previous days of hiking, and (maybe most importantly) we were only a quarter-mile from a town which promised hot meals and resupply options, we decided to take it easy and only hike a few miles. It was a good opportunity to wait out the storm while stocking up on food and letting ourselves heal up a little.
We awoke at the leisurely hour of 8am, as opposed to the usual 6 o’clock (which has never been an hour that should even be considered for setting an alarm) and slowly made our way to the local cafe. We stuffed our faces with eggs, bacon, coffee, and sat by the fire warming our soaking feet. A waitress was quick to remind us that it was illegal to sit in a restaurant barefoot in the state of California, though she was probably more worried about the smell than breaking the law.
We eventually broke down camp and hiked 7 miles along a ridge to Laguna Campground. The snow/sleet/hail combination aiming to drown our tents and emotions finally let up enough for us to see the trail beneath our feet, although the relentless wind nearly knocked us sideways as we meandered through several burned vegetation areas. Upon arriving at camp and setting up our water laden tent, drying our clothes, and stretching our muscles from the short hike, we noticed a group of men ushering us towards their campsite.
The North Country Rough Riders, a group of 55-70 year old men who were loosely connected through mountain biking, had gathered in Mount Laguna to celebrate the 70th (!) birthday of one of their members. They offered us a feast of vegetables, homemade bread, tri-tip streak, and potato salad along with many kinds of beer and whiskey. We sat around a fire listening to hour of stories, hilarious adventures while mountain biking, and even a few tales from their days in ‘Nam. Our first encounter with trail angels, if your can call these hairy outlaws angels, was delicious to say the least. If either of us are alive and walking at 70 (let alone mountain biking and pounding whiskey from a bottle) we’ll be surprised.