I grew up on coffee and cigarettes for breakfast. Then I quit smoking when I turned 30, and grew to enjoy some toast or cereal (And coffee. Always with the coffee.) when I wake up. Nowadays, if I don’t eat breakfast, I feel nauseous on my morning walk. Not so backpacking. I can barely get the Nutter Butters down. My stomach growls but I can’t eat. I watch Aaron wolf down his meager trail breakfast. The dude can eat anywhere, anytime. He is an inner fatty. A rotund guy in a skinny suit. I can cut calories from my diet and still gain weight. Grrrrr. Damn you, genetics!
It’s a cool morning; I’m looking forward to climbing Hauser with shade instead of in the heat of day like I did last year. The climb is psychologically long; especially after you get up the first 2 miles and realize there is 3 more scrubby, meandering, uphill miles to get to Lake Morena. It feels like it’s supposed to go down after those steep switchbacks. I feel sluggish, but I expected this and try not to let it bother me too much.
The campground is empty and I lay down at the fist picnic table, but a ranger mowing the lawn asks us to move to the PCT backpackers area. So, after picking up some chicken strips, we head over there and sit in the sun and pick apart what the first 20 miles was like for each of us. There is a guy camping by the gazebo; I guess someone on his team got hurt when she came out of Hauser Creek. He says he’s camping here for a few days, waiting for friends. Later I read her post about having 6 liters of water but running out on their way to Morena, then pushing so hard she injured herself. Aaron and I started with 4 liters each, and did fine. It’s all about meting it out, sipping instead of gulping. We’ll see if my system holds out in the miles to come.
We meet Alberto, a friendly guy with a smile for everyone. He’s resupplying here so will stay the night. We consider staying, too, but after a few hours lounging in the shade and trading dumb jokes about crude scenarios, we decide to head out to Boulder Oaks Campground. As we leave, the guy waiting for his friends stares intensely at me. “Be careful,” he says in a low, ominous voice, noting my weight. I know I don’t look like a typical thru hiker, but I’m no greenhorn. I’ve earned a few stripes. I understand that people’s first judgments about me will probably be doubtful. Hopefully, once they meet me, they will reconsider.
We skim around the meadow that was once the lake, passing a tree with a bee hive. The trail heads up to a small, hilly, rocky range, and it feels much hotter than it is. Then down to the underpass, where we eat Slim Jims and make fun of the graffiti. I ponder why I am out here for the hundredth time. Aaron is patient; tells me he’s not coming back to Campo, and that I will be obsessed with this damn trail until I complete it. I know he wants me to come home, so it’s admirable that he encourages me on.
We stroll into the campground, empty as usual. I have unusual chaffing in unusual places. While I take care of it, a lady drives up and shouts, “Are you thru hikers? Can I take your picture?” She talks for a while with Aaron and I stay hidden in the tent. She finally drives off, and we settle down for some Ramen and Fritos. A Border Patrol guy drives up and parks for fifteen minutes, for no obvious reason that I can see. “He’s probably…you know….” I make a crude gesture. “You think every guy parked and alone in a car is doing that,” Aaron says. “It’s a thing,” I inform him.
When we get to bed, I suddenly remember how cold it got here last year. Same with tonight. There’s just something about Boulder Oaks Campground that is slightly unpleasant. It’s gonna be a long night. Tomorrow we will start the 15 mile mostly upward climb to Mt. Laguna.