Hi! This week instead of an article I am going to write about our camping trip last weekend.
Over the last weekend John and I went camping up in Mount Laguna. It was really fun. We found a great spot nestled in the forest under some oak and pine trees. We were the only ones camped in that neck of the woods. We actually camped for free! It is legal to camp for free on National Forest land, you just can’t care about having a toilet, shower, or running water. Which we don’t mind.
The first evening we got there just before dusk and set up camp, then we made chili dogs in the dark and went for a walk down a dirt road and took in the amazing stars. We slept in our tent with the rain fly off because there was no danger of rain and we could see the stars better from our sleeping bags.
The next morning we got up and had nectarines. There was an abundance of bird activity and we spotted some humming birds of which type we haven’t yet identified, a whole bunch of pygmy nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos, and more. There were also great animal tracks all over the soft dirt road we were camped off of, quail, juncos, squirrels, lizards. We decided to go for a little walk South from where we camped, along part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). There were quite a few small flies buzzing around which were a bit annoying, but it was lovely walking through the forest. We saw a lot of colorful wild flowers including some bright red, coral, and orange indian paintbrush, some scarlet buglers, bright yellow mariposa lilies, and another one that looked similar to the scarlet bugler. One of my favorites were the seed heads that look like giant dandelions. I delighted in blowing the seeds on their opened-too-far-umbrellas and watching them float through the air. I LOVED THEM! Further on down the trail it opened up and became more chapparal than forest. But it was early in the day so it wasn’t too hot yet. We shortly after turned around and headed back to camp. We did about 3 miles.
At camp we had chopped veggies (including carrots from our garden) and hummus, filled up our waters, and from inside our car watched a man on horseback with a second horse loaded down with supplies pass us. Then we drove to another area to do a longer hike. All over the campsite and the new hiking spot we encountered dreadful spiky seedpods that would work their way into our socks and shoes by the handful. Evil little buggers. About as evil as the pesky flies in our faces. We hiked along and I spotted and American Robin on the trail! I had heard we have them in San Diego County, it shows them on the maps in my bird books as being here, they are pretty much everywhere in the U.S., but I had never seen one here before. And my mom, who is also into birds, had never seen one here and she’s lived here almost 60 years. It confirmed what I had seen earlier while looking at the animal tracks on the dirt road, I thought I had seen robin tracks because they looked like the right size and shape, and showed the short run and then stop with two feet together that they like to do. I had been puzzled at the tracks and dismissed them as some other type of bird. But now I was seeing one on the forest floor, with its orange belly, the white around it’s eye, it’s yellow beak, and its chin up. I looked through my binoculars and felt over-joyed! It flew into the tree above us and John was able to see it. Right then along came that same man on horseback we had seen before, with the second horse following behind. We spoke to him this time, said we saw him back by our camp. He had seen us too. He said he had been camping not far from us for the last couple of weeks, and that he was getting picked up later that day. He said he lives in Ramona, which isn’t too far, just on the other side of Julian and Santa Isabel. We took a different trail than him. We hiked through the forest a bit and it eventually led us out to the Laguna meadow where there was very little shade. We saw horsetail growing out there in an area that looked like it was probably a bit swampy for part of the year. I was excited to see horsetail in San Diego County, I haven’t seen it in the wild since we moved from Washington. I get really excited to see plant and animal species here that I got to know up there, the wild there will always hold a special place in my heart. After we got to the sunny hot meadow we decided to turn back because we were hungry and we determined we had walked far enough. Between the two hikes that day we ended up going about 7 or 8 miles. On the way back we ran into two men, one in the military and one training him in land navigation. We talked to them for the last section of the trail until we got back to our car.
We drove up to the Laguna market and grabbed some Sierra Nevada beer and headed back to camp. At our camp we set up our stove in front of our car and I chopped vegetables, bell pepper, mushrooms, and onions. We then made fajitas with them, black beans, cheese, avocado and salsa. Unfortunately it turned out that pretty much our entire pack of tortillas were moldy. We found a couple that seemed to be ok so we used them. But halfway through I got a bite that tasted like dirt and I new that it had mold on it that I couldn’t see. I tried another bite and got the same taste, so I tossed the tortilla and ate everything else with a fork. We just hung out after that. John read a book about brewing, I drew for my upcoming coloring book, and mostly we talked. We played a game of washers with some big washers John got at work that were going to be thrown out and a plastic gallon water bottle that he cut the top off of. I had a good start but then he kicked my butt. When it got dark we made some hot dogs and went to bed early.
Sunday morning we got up around 7 or something. Around 7:30 or 8:00 John headed out for a long run, North on the PCT. I left about 20 minutes later, hiking, also North on the PCT. Usually I don’t like to hike by myself, mostly in case of mountain lions, or creepy people, and a little less so in case of rattlesnakes. But I was feeling brave because there were other hikers every now and then on the same trail since it was a beautiful Sunday, and because it is so dry there isn’t any water where I was hiking and I figured the lions would need water, and also because a lot of the trail isn’t very far from the Sunrise Highway. The first chunk of the trail was absolutely beautiful–gorgeous areas of forest I had no idea existed in these mountains. There were some giant oaks, I think valley or canyon oaks, I’m not sure, I’ll have to look them up, and some big incense cedars, as well as pines. So much beautiful forest, and flowers. I harvested a bit of yarrow all along the hike so I can make a tincture.
Eventually the forest opened up a bit and I could see out across to the nearby mountains, some covered in the forest I had just walked through and some covered in chapparal. I saw a big rock outcropping at the top of one of them.
Soon it really opened up more and it was getting pretty hot. I had been following what I had determined must be John’s tracks. At about 2 and a half miles I reached a drinking fountain and a water spigot on the trail near a legitimate campground. I saw John’s tracks leading to them. I was happy to see water because we didn’t have that much water before we set out and I thought he would need more than he had for such a long run. He was planning to do about 15 miles. At the drinking fountain I saw a little family with a toddler and a girl about 9, and a dog, filling up on water. They had hiked the other way on the trail and said it was hot and no shade. They asked about the direction I came from and I told them that after the open area it was forested and shady. They appeared to be staying at the campground. That’s where I was headed after filling up my bottle. The older of their two children asked me if I had seen any rattle snakes, and I told her no. We parted ways and I headed up the open chapparal hill. I had a big view of the desert and some nearby green hillsides.
It was definitely getting hot. I had originally planned to do a 5 mile hike which would have meant to turn back then, but I decided to go for 6 miles, then 7, then 9. The open area lasted a for a short while, mostly up hill, and then I came to more forest, which lasted until my turn around point at 4.5 miles, two hours in. When I stopped to turn back I started hearing the sound of someone running, I wondered if it might be John. It was. How funny I ran into him right where I was turning back. He ran on ahead back to camp and I hike the two hours back.
When I got close-ish to our campsite I spotted another robin on the ground! There are definitely robins in these parts! I finished up the hike. John was cleaning up camp. I felt very proud to hike almost double what I had set out to do, and that I had hiked alone for 4 hours and didn’t get too freaked out along the way that I would be eaten. I had a few moments of mild mountain lion fear, but nothing like I have had on other solo hikes. I was also very excited that my bad knee never hurt the whole time; it was the longest hike I have done since the backpacking trip 3 years ago where I realized my previously injured knee was still injured and that it would likely hold me back from all of the hiking and backpacking I was hoping to do in my life. Once I returned to camp we pulled our chairs back out of the car and had a beer and the end of an opened bottle of cider to celebrate our hike/run and first camping trip in the Lagunas. We headed back home to relax for the rest of the day. It was an excellent, excellent weekend 🙂
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