Sunday, April 3, 2016

Cottonwood Creek to Lake Morena

Camping at Lake Morena campground. Warm shower and a burger at the town store. Beautiful sunset behind a mountain.


Met a few other hikers in Lake Morena. This is the first organized campground along the PCT, and it mostly serves car campers, but with a designated area for hikers.
Two guys camped in the tent area with me had already been here for a couple days. I can't remember their names, but one of them was from Australia and was already sidelined with bad blisters. This is only 20 miles into the trail. I don't recall seeing him again, but hopefully his hike didn't come to an end here at Lake Morena.

My first night on the trail I spent on a rock next to a creek about a mile and a half off the PCT.
The good part was this as my morning view.

A little use of the stove for breakfast, with the tracker in the background hopefully sending and receiving messages.

Walking up the side of a steep valley in the sun I found this little cave. Had to stop for a while to enjoy the cool shade.

Most of the day was spent hiking without shade. It's something that is just a part of the PCT. People think it's a hike in the woods, but the reality is that there just aren't that many canopy trees in Southern California. We have lots of chaparral though.

Nice sunset for the second day of my hike.
2021 Update:

Woke up after my first night on the PCT to beautiful blue skies. But it's Southern California, what else would one expect?

I don't remember what I had for breakfast, I must have had some oatmeal or something, since I have a photo of my stove set up this morning.

I'm not a particularly early riser, and especially when I'm getting up from sleeping on a couple inch thick air mattress under a couple inches of down wrapped in nylon fabric nearly thin enough to see through, I'm not too quick to get moving in the morning.

On this morning though, it didn't matter. I had plenty of water available, and I knew that in seven moles or so, I'd be at my objective for the day, Lake Morena.

So, back to cooking...
There are lots of different things that people on the trail do for food.
Some people eat everything cold, no stoves. Some carry things that don't need cooking, and some rehydrate their food while they are still walking at the end of the day.
Some people bring enough cooking gear to equip a kitchen, they can simmer and create a gourmet meal every evening.
I chose to use my stove only to heat water, thus eliminating the need to clean its pot. The stove I have is pretty specifically designed to boil water, heck, it's even called "JetBoil"

So, boil water, then what?

Well, I took a disposable leftover storage jar, one of those things that are sold in grocery stores in three packs and have a screw-on lid and hold a quart or so, and I created, with bubble wrap pieces from a windshield reflector and duct tape, a coozy with lid to keep the thing warm.

It's called coozy cooking.
Basically, you put your meal that don't need extended boiling into the coozy wrapped container.
This limits you to things like: Instant rice, cous-cous, some noodles, instant mashed potatoes.
Then you add the appropriate amount of water that just boiled in the stove.
Then seal the lid and put the top of the coozy on, and let the thing sit for ten to fifteen minutes, then open it up and stir up the ingredients and there you have your meal.

The problem is that in a grocery store, or gas station, or whatever you've got available to shop at on the trail, there are a limited number of choices that fit with this cooking style.

Certainly this would be perfect if you were carrying freeze dried meals, and this is sort of the image of backpackers, isn't it? But, I met very few thru hikers that actually relied on freeze dried foods for a significant number of their meals.

Well, except for one guy who bought a whole pallet of meals from Mountain House, one of the big freeze dried food companies. His trail name, predictably, became Mountain House, we'll meet him down the trail a bit.

But back to that grocery store.
You could put all the easily prepared, coozy cooking compatible, food into a very small section of the store. Knorr noodle or rice dishes (mostly noodle, most rices needs too much simmering), Instant mashed potatoes (Idahoan in all their flavor varieties), cous-cous.
Plus, you need some protein. What to do about that? Mostly I carried tuna in foil pouch packaging. I'm not sure what my plan was at the beginning of the trail, but Mighty Mouse was doing tuna, so that's what I settled on after a while.

I did make a couple bulk purchases of meals that had been designed with coozy cooking and backpacking in mind. And those were great, but they also cost more, and to tell the truth, at some points it was more about just getting enough calories in some form that was just edible enough to be able to eat quickly before falling asleep.

I did carry olive oil, salt and pepper and some ground chili pepper to flavor things a bit. Later in the hike I'd add extra olive oil to things, just to get more calories.

So, back to the hiking...

I got up, ate while waiting for the bivy to dry off (it was wet from dew on the outside, and condensation on the inside), then packed up and headed out.

The route today headed up the first decent climb of the PCT. It's nothing compared to what would come later, but this was just the second day for me.

Again, it was hot, and since this is in the chaparral part of Southern California, shape is at a premium.

Part way up the climb I found a small rock overhang to sit in for a bit, but that was about it for shade until I was up and over the top of the climb and looking down at Lake Morena.

I did actually stop and take a break within sight of the park. Just sat under a big tree and rested before walking the last couple hundred yards to the camp office.

So, at the office I was able to quickly pay to camp in the hiker section. There's an area of the camping that they designate for hikers, no cars, but further from the bathrooms, and basically free form, set up your tent where ever you like.

I met a couple other hikers who were either in their tens or lounging at the picnic table nearest my tent. I can't remember names at this point and I don't think many people yet have their memorable trail names this close to the start of the trail. My closest neighbor was an Australian who already had bad blisters and had been at the campground for a couple days already. I hope he was able to eventually get moving again, but I don't recall seeing him again, so who knows.

I eventually got my tent set up and then walked down to the store in town for a burger and to buy some snacks and some gatorade.

Mostly the afternoon was spent relaxing and rehydrating.

I did briefly talk with a woman who had set up her tent not too far away. She had covered the first twenty miles that day, I never saw her again either, and I'd guess that she probably finished the trail a month ahead of me since she was that fast at the start of the trail. Everyone has their own speed on the trail.

I did notice with amusement, in the car camping area just across from where I pitched my tent, two women and a man who had set up an enormous tent, and then inflated a queen size air mattress outside the tent and were wrestling with the thing to get it into the tent.

Had a nice sunset, then went to bed.
Got up several times in the night thanks to earlier hydration routine. It was quite cold.
Lesson learned, hydrate earlier in the day so you don't have to get out of your warm sleeping bag in the middle of the night.


Photos from today:

Amusingly, I saw these three crazy people inflating a big queen size air mattress and then wrestling it into their large car camping tent. Little did I know then...

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