March 26 (~7:30 – ~17:40)
Tentsite before Lake Morena – Kitchen Creek (13.1 mi / Total: 29.8 mi)
Weather: Warm and overcast
I wake up feeling a lot less pain than I’d expected. This is a good start. It’s overcast and continuing the climb up the mountain is so much easier in these lower temperatures than it was yesterday. It doesn’t take long before Speedy and I descend again, and then reach the first trail town of Lake Morena.
We walk to the Oak Shores general store and join all the other hikers on the porch. I thought I’d be overwhelmed by all these people but it’s okay, it’s nice to have other hikers around. Fifty PCT thruhiking permits have been granted every day, but less than thirty have started, and everyone spreads out on trail. There’s some leapfrogging but I mostly find myself walking along in solitude, which is what I love.
We stay at the general store for almost two hours. I buy a coffee even though it’s not the fancy sort – just a filter coffee that isn’t really worth the money. Speedy lends me her phone so I can live chat with Straight Talk once again to try and hopefully activate this SIM card. After at least an hour and a half of trying all sorts of things, it still doesn’t work. I end the chat. There’s nothing I can do. I may have just thrown over $300 down the drain, and I’m going to remain without a working phone for a while longer. I don’t even know if any of the towns near the trail would sell SIM cards. Just before we head off, my SIM card suddenly springs to live. Is it working? After all that, it’s suddenly working on its own? My euphory lasts for a few minutes only. It goes straight back to not working.
But before we leave I have another problem to deal with: my pack’s weight. I need to get rid of some food. I throw away my beans (sorry, mum) and I give away some slices of bread. There’s a hiker called Laura who carries the Gossimer Gear Mariposa pack and she lets me try it on. It’s a size too small but it’s significantly more comfortable than my pack. I put it on my mental list of possible packs to buy.
Finally Speedy and I continue the trail and it smoothly moves up yet another hill. It’s gorgeous. There are large rocks and at the top we break for some snacks. Speedy moves on before me, and she proclaims she is going for an amble. I realise it’s another perfect word for the PCT. It’s an amble.
I amble on myself after a short while. Somehow, my packs feels a little better. It still hurts, and every time I take it off and put it back on my bones cry out in pain, but it feels just that little lighter to make the slightest difference. I move down the mountain, pass big photogenic rocks and I wish I knew how to work the timer on my phone so I could take more pictures – I still haven’t been able to look into that yet.
I remind myself it’s okay. I have another 700 miles in the desert, and I have the time to learn. I’m telling myself to focus on the trail, and leave all those worries in the back of my head behind. I’m on the trail, there’s nothing I can do anyways. So I look at the path ahead of me, the road it closely follows for a while, the forest it moves through, but my mind is a mine field. It keeps going back to the phone, the backpack, the camera.
When I see a perfect tree in the shade I decide it’s time. I sit down and take out my phone. I downloaded the 599 page instruction manual for my camera onto it and I scroll down the contents and find the settings I’m looking for immediately. Within a few minutes I know how to use my camera. I’m ready to take pictures! One thing ticked off my list. I continue walking and try out my camera, using the timer and burst function I always use. I set it up with my tripod and it’s much faster than I’d expected. It’s such a relief to have this sorted.
I keep on going until I find Speedy sitting next to the trail. It’s still quite but the camping at Kitchen Creek looks ridiculously picturesque. There’s a steep climb down but the river is surrounded by boulders and there are quite a few people camping already. We both feel we could hike more but decide to go down anyways, to take advantage of such a nice campsite. We find camp spots a little further back, upstream by the river. We wash off the sweat and dust from our legs and arms from the past two days and enjoy the second night on the PCT.