Total Miles: 59.5
We awoke this morning tucked on the edge of a meadow along with Rich, XC, and Gazelle. Three short miles up the trail was our first resupply at Mt. Laguna, and also an opportunity to address a couple of nagging problems, namely Emily's blisters and our failing pack frames.
The morning miles were gentle and we arrived in Mt. Laguna an hour before anything would open. A small collection of buildings, Mt. Laguna is merely a post office, a small general store, and an outfitter that has to have the most dense array of top notch backpacking gear I've ever seen.
In a space that would pass for a large bedroom, there's gear hanging from every imaginable place and all of it from manufacturers that specialize in ultralight, high quality gear. Feathered Friends down bags? Check. Montbell Ex Light jackets? Check. Gossamer Gear and Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpacks? Um, yeah. Up until today, I didn't even know that you could buy the latter two from anywhere other than direct from the manufacturer.
We managed to solve Emily's pack frame problem by swapping the valve on my pad for hers. That left my frame, which still would not stay inflated for any length of time. Given the previous description of the outfitter, you might guess where this is headed...
Yup, that's me with a new pack—a Hyperlite Mt. Gear Windrider 2400 (very few people reading this blog not named Jason Repko will probably care about that detail). As it turns out, the name of that pack would provide a bit of foreshadowing to the afternoon.
After taking care of those gear needs and tending to our resupply, we set off down the trail from Mt. Laguna at 11am, hoping to get in as many miles as we could. Traversing wide open ridges yet again, we saw our first snake—a baby rattle snake not a foot long and only a thumb in width stretched across the trail sunning itself. But the sun soon gave way to a marine layer gliding in from the west that not only brought shade, but fierce wind as well. My new Windrider pack got to live up to its name as we walked in a sustained 30-40 mph wind with gusts even worse. Combined with the cold, it was quite a contrast to the unrelenting heat of the past two days. A trail of extremes, indeed.
None of that detracted from the incredible scenery, though, as we looked 5000 feet down to the Anza-Borrego desert below following what was once the original route taken to deliver mail over these mountains. Formally known as the Pioneer Mail route, it was nicknamed the Jack-ass Mail route. Whether that's an assessment of the general idea of delivering mail on this route at all or the fact that it was carried via mule is anyone's guess.
Speaking of nicknames, two new trail names were bestowed today, upon both Rich and Emily. Oddly enough, each came up with the idea for the other's name. Emily dubbed Rich "Proton", in light of his ever-positive outlook, and Rich dubbed Emily "ACE" (short for Apple Core Eater) after hearing the story of Emily's knack for doing exactly that.