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Miles 0.5–15.4 Hauser Creek (14.9 miles)
I learned this reflection tool this winter: Rose, bud, thorn. Rose was your favorite part of the day, thorn was your least favorite, bud was what you’re looking forward to.
Rose: afternoon naps in the shade & a gentle breeze Thorn: the pressure & posturing to go faster & farther Bud: 2630 miles to explore, a strawberry milkshake in Lake Morena tomorrow
Legend made pancake breakfast down at the hostel. I was first out of camp at around 5:15. In the pre-dawn darkness, I almost immediately lost the newly beaten path to the hostel through the rodeo grounds and ended up bushwhacking a little and calling for directions. I did hear a rather vocal owl though.
More advice was given and I got back to camp to pack up a little later than I wanted. I relish the cool mornings before the heat of the day sets in. I know that’s the only way I’ll make it through the desert heat.
Quarter to seven I was on trail, which follows the road into Campo before veering off into the bush. Despite it being a desert, the plant life is so diverse: all sorts of different bushes, flowers, scrubs, cactus, Yuccas. I think I found wild rosemary. I narrowly avoided poison oak. All of these plants, however, did not offer any relief from the sun by midday.
This stretch is dry and hot. The only water sources are miles 4.5 and 15 then a 1000’ up and 5 miles to Lake Morena. Most of the hikers that I have met along trail (as they pass me or I walk up on them taking a break) plan to camp at mile 15 Hauser Creek or push on to Lake Morena. I always thought I would be that person too, but I am not in hiker shape yet. Work, moving, and spring snow storms kept me from doing as much physical prep as I ought to have done. So despite my ego telling me, “you’re a Ranger, you can hike farther,” I’m determined to only hike 10–12 miles the first few days. Many friends and trail angels have advised starting slow: my friend Trevor’s plantar fasciitis started at mile 30 of his AT hike. My feet aren’t used to the pounding. It’s a tough battle between the heart and mind, but I want to be smart about the trail. It’s a marathon afterall.
By 11am, I wanted to find a rock and hide underneath it. It’s hot, but not as hot as it can get. Thankfully, the projected high today is only 87*F. Reading deep into the comments on the Far Out app, I found a note about a meadow with cottonwoods off trail. It’s a welcome respite from the glaring sun. The wind is constant too. On trail, it’s welcome relief from the sun. In the shade, it’s ever so slightly chilly and the constant sound it creates in the tall grass is both comforting and foreboding. I have read the wind is constant in this section of trail.
Another benefit of this spot is that it’s out of sight of the trail. I have liked all the hikers I have met, but I also don’t want to be judged by going so easy this early on.
I will rest here during the heat of the day and resume hiking around 4 or 5. I have a good book, I’ve eaten lunch, and I may take a longer nap. I only need to do 1–2 more hours of hiking this evening to get to my planned spot for the night.
Well I pushed myself to mile 15 Hauser Creek. The temperatures and shade were much improved after my siesta, which made for easier walking. I eeked in right at twilight and set up camp before losing all the light. There’s about eight others here. We’ll see how my body feels tomorrow.