Peter and Owen slept soundly last night. It took me a while but I eventually got some shut eye as well. We got up at 3am this morning and arrived at Campo shortly after 5am. It was still dark out. 50F. Cool and windy.
Scott took copious amounts of photos of us at the southern terminus monument. We signed the registry just below two guys from NC. I tried to strike up a conversation with them but didn’t get any response. You can tell these guys were on a mission, young, fit, light packs, one wearing shorts and t-shirt. One second they were standing at the monument and the next second they were gone. There are usually two kinds of hikers starting this late in the season: the trail runners and the clueless stragglers. Not sure if we belong in either camp.
We hurried to get a sweatshirt on Owen, put him in our homemade carrier and wrapped him up in our homemade cover to shelter him from the cold wind. I had wanted to bring him out for a family photo at the monument but I couldn’t expose him to the cold. Instead he stayed in a big green bundle. We took our time to say goodbye to Scott. I gave him two thumbs up as he finally drove away.
We had read on FB group that a 71-year-old guy from Hong Kong started the trail a couple of weeks ago and kept getting lost before Mount Laguna. We laughed at his meticulous notes on precisely where he lost the trail. Now that it is our turn we couldn’t even figure out where to get on the trail. Sure there is the monument, which wasn’t that easy to find without Google map, but that’s not exactly where the trail starts. There’s no sign pointing to the trailhead. We had to break out our GPS just to be sure.
Once we got on the trail all my fears, worries and anxieties went away. A rare moment of contentment. All we need is here. We were both pleasantly surprised at the scenery. I was picturing more of a desolate border land with dirt and dusty weeds, instead the landscape was green and bursting with flowers. Bunnies were everywhere, hopping around with short white tails. We admire at everything. Peter said, “my pack doesn’t feel heavy at all.” “Just wait for a few miles,” I replied.
A tally of things: Peter is carrying 27 pounds of dry weight with seven liters of water, roughly 15 pounds. 42+ pounds all together. I’m carrying Owen, he weighed 12 pounds and 8 ounces when we left home. My pack include 17 pounds dry weight and 5.5 liters of water. All together tipping over 40 pounds as well. That’s a third of my body weight (122.5 pounds).
Another young guy passed us not long after we started. This guy was more friendly than the first two. He introduced himself and said he’ll see us up the road. I thought to myself, “yeah I doubt it, we’ll be hiking slow and taking breaks often.” To my surprise he did run into him again a bit later. I sped up to match his pace with nearly a slow jog. You’ve got to take advantage of a speedy lead. We talked a bit about hikes Peter and I had done before.
We took a break at the first seasonal stream while the guy moved on. Peter held Owen to pee in the bushes. We had only budgeted five diapers a day for the hike. Normally at home we use up to 15 a day but that number has gotten lower since we started to have him go in a bucket. Now he’s getting it down pretty well. I noticed he rarely pees during a nap and almost never poops. We could work with five diapers as long as we are disciplined enough to take him out of the carrier to relieve himself.
Going to the bathroom for me is a whole other story. I had read about devices that allow women to per standing up but never had an occasion where I really needed such thing. When it became real that we’re hitting the trail I jumped on the chance to get a pstyle. There is no way I could get down with a full pack on my back and Owen on the front. Getting him in and out of the carrier is not only complicated but would also wake him up from his nap. I practiced at home a few times and used the device exclusively on the hike. It’s a lot easier to not have to aim into the toilet. I can’t think of too many women who pee standing up while nursing a baby. I don’t know if Peter has adapted any new bathroom techniques lately. You’ll have to ask him yourself.
There’s a time in every hike where I start to wonder why I’m out here. I start to doubt if I can actually do this. And now I start to worry if Owen is going to be ok. For this hike these thoughts started at mile six. Is this fun? Can anyone have fun carrying 40lbs and hike under the sun? This is what long distance hiker calls type two fun: not fun to do but fun to tell. I can’t stand this. I can’t stand to sit at home either.
The heat started to catch up with us even before noon. By early afternoon I felt physically and mentally tired. Wouldn’t it be easier just to call Scott to come take us back to Ocean Beach? Why can’t we just sit on the beach and have some fish tacos? This heat is awful and no amount of water can help my thirst. Somewhere between mile 12 to 13 I had an accident with pstyle and pee all over myself. Fantastic. You try peeing like that with a baby in front. A few more steps sent me to the verge of a breakdown. Peter is not a big talker so we for the most part hike in silence. This time I turned back and looked at him with desperation. “Why can’t you say something? Something encouraging! This is hard!” I demanded. Obligingly, he said, “yeah it’s hard. You’re doing well.” I was too tired to express frustration. Besides, I’m the one who talked him into doing this. I have no one to blame.
Our goal for the day is Hauser Creek, the only semi reliable water source between Campo and Lake Morena. For some reason I thought it was at mile 14.7. When Peter told me it’s actually 15.4 I nearly started crying. I asked for mileage update constantly, something I don’t like doing on normal hikes but today I just need to know I’m getting close.
The final mile is a steep descend to the valley. Nothing difficult for any other day except this isn’t any other day. I don’t carry 40 pounds and walk 15 miles any other day. Owen, who had slept through most of the hike, started to fuss in the afternoon. It sent me into mom anxiety mode fearing he’s suffering because of my foolish decision. I was exhausted but I knew I had to focus on every step to get down safely with Owen. The camp always show up just before I need to call it quit. The San Diego guy with 70 pound pack we saw on the way was there already. We struck up a short conversation. He looked sad seeing us with Owen while being away from his kids. I felt sad for him as well. I’m with Owen 24/7 and can’t imagine being without him. That week at the hospital nearly killed me.
We relieved Owen. Peter quickly sat up our tent for me to get in with Owen. I desperately wanted to lay down but I couldn’t. It’s 6pm, already pass Owens bedtime according to EST. He cried and screamed. I was again in near panic mode. I tried hard to shield him from the sun but his cheeks were still red. There’s a cut on his right cheek from a bush encounter when Peter took him peeing. My heart aches. I held and sang to him. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine… It took a few minutes but he eventually fell asleep. Peter did all the camp chores, filtering water and making dinner. We were done by 8pm and ready to hit the sack. It was a long and hard day. As people say, don’t quit on a bad day. Tomorrow we try again.