Yesterday had been a good day in every way possible. I had met new friends, the hiking was easy, and I felt strong.
I didn’t begin today with expectations that this day could be any better, but I soon discovered it was. Even then, I didn’t realize how significant the day would become.
I had no way to know that today would be the start of lasting bonds of friendship.
|Date||Tuesday, March 26, 2019|
|Weather||Warming to the 70s with an occasional breeze, clear skies|
|Trail Conditions||Descent to and from Hauser Creek was rocky, otherwise easy, sandy trail|
The air last night had cooled to a comfortable temperature and I slept well.
Tengo and I were up first. Bookworm was a little slower to get moving, probably still feeling the effects of a two-day bus ride before starting his hike.
Sarah must have also needed more recovery time. She was even slower to wake up and was still in her tent when Tengo and I left at 7:45.
We walked up the road a little more than a half mile to where the trail split from the road. From there the trail began a long descent of 500 feet to Hauser Creek.
The trail was littered with rocks, but this was nothing like rocky sections of the Appalachian Trail. It wasn't difficult to step over or around most of the rocks.
The canyon was broad and the trail down wasn’t especially steep. There were only three switchbacks.
We had intended to camp last night at this creek, but that was before we decided we had gone far enough. Many of the hikers who started with us yesterday from Campo had stopped here, but most were gone by the time we arrived.
Tengo and I stopped to remove our jackets, as the sun was now hitting the bottom of the canyon and the air was warmer. We then collected and filtered water for the climb out of the canyon before leaving at 8:45 a.m.
Again, the climb was not steep, but the distance going up was much longer because the elevation at the top of this side of the canyon was higher.
For the next 2.6 miles we would climb about 1,200 feet. Again there were rocks on the trail, but not enough to cause difficulties.
The canyon reminded me of scenes in the opening sequence of the TV show M*A*S*H. Though the series was actually shot about 200 miles north of here at Malibu Creek State Park, I was not the only person who noticed the similarity.
On the way up there were more rock outcroppings like the ones we passed yesterday. Much as you might have done as a child when looking at clouds, when I saw these rocks I sometimes said to myself something like, “That rock looks like a gargoyle” or “That one looks like a bear reading a book.”
Once we reached the top of the long climb, the trail continued over rolling hills, which were sometimes covered in trees. This was easy walking, and Tengo and I cruised along at a good pace.
On this section we found Andrea and MJ taking a break at some boulders. MJ told us that Andrea now had a trail name: The Hulk.
Andrea had not heard of The Hulk, or at least had not been able to translate the name to German, so she wasn’t sure this was a name she wanted to be stuck with. For now, though, she seemed to go along with it.
She was less good natured about her feet, which she said were hurting a lot because of blisters. She was certain she had made a poor choice of shoes and needed to somehow find a new pair.
The four of us continued to hike together, but Andrea was struggling to keep up. I decided to hold back and walk with her, and tried to give her some encouragement.
She was hobbled by the pain from her blisters, so we went very slowly. I knew, though, we weren’t far from Lake Morena. A malt shop was located there, and all of the hikers would be hanging out there. We didn't need to rush to keep up with them.
Along the way, we saw Dan. As he had been yesterday, he was sitting in the shade, taking a break.
When Lake Morena came into view we were a little more than a mile away. The lake was created in 1912 by damming Cottonwood Creek, and it is the site of a remarkable story.
Just three years after its completion, a severe drought rendered the reservoir nearly empty. The county council agreed to pay a man named Charles Hatfield $10,000 to refill the lake by making rain. Hatfield and his brother erected four 12-foot towers about 50 feet apart, then placed a secret chemical solution at the top of the towers.
Within days a heavy rain began to fall, so Hatfield went back to the council to collect. When the councilors refused to pay, Hatfield returned to his towers and applied more of his secret solution. Soon, creeks overflowed and earthen embankments broke.
Catastrophic flooding impacted the entire area, and 20 people were killed when Lower Otay Dam burst without warning. The Hatfield brothers had to make an escape using an assumed name.
When Hatfield tried to collect his money, the county slapped him with a bill to pay for the flood damage. Twenty years of legal fights ensued, but the notoriety of the flood made Hatfield famous. In fact, his story inspired a 1956 Hollywood film starring Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn.
At the speed Andrea and I were walking, it took us about 45 minutes to reach a road near the lake where we could walk down to the malt shop. At the road, Andrea met a friend, so I continued on to catch up with Tengo and the other hikers at Oak Shores Malt Shop
It may have been called a malt shop, but in reality it was part general store, part liquor store and part diner.
As I approached the shop, Luis shouted at me, booming out a loud “Woo hoo!” He had been fairly quiet when I was with him at Scout and Frodo’s house, so I was a little startled by this enthusiasm.
I wasn’t the only person he “woo-hoo’d” at. He seemed to do that to every hiker arriving at the malt shop.
After greeting the hikers sitting outside, I went inside to buy a burger, fries and a shake. I then met a hiker named Jason. He told me that the malt shop owner had helped him by fixing his broken belt. The owner found a small piece of wire and twisted it to repair the belt.
Jason decided that Steel Belted would be a fitting trail name.
When I returned outside, all of the hikers were still there. No one seemed to be in a hurry to get back to the trail. I was glad for that because it took a while before my meal was ready.
The food was good, but it was much too early in my hike to have hiker hunger. That’s the condition long distance hikers get when they never seem to get enough food.
Andrea eventually arrived at the malt shop. She said she had decided to stay at the campground at the lake.
After I finished my meal and refilled my water bottle, Tengo and Bookworm were the only hikers still at the shop.
We returned to the trail together. The trail was wide, flat and easy, but also hot. There were a few spots along the way where we could feel a light breeze from the lake, but those were not a plentiful enough.
Perhaps it was the heat or the big meal, or maybe it was the sandy trail, but I felt sluggish, as though I was walking at half speed.
I was apparently not as slow as I thought, though, because I caught up to most of the hikers who left the malt shop ahead of me. A group was gathered around a small rock arch.
I discovered that Luis was giving each of the hikers a trail name. The hikers were performing a sort of knighting ceremony using their trekking poles.
Robert became Captain and Carla was now Gilligan or Gilly. Anna took the name Outlier and Thelmaleta became Deva (not Diva).
Luis was ready to give everyone a name, and seemed even insistent about it. He then tried to give Bookworm, Tengo and me trail names, and that’s where we drew the line. We had trail names, we told him, and didn’t need new ones.
That’s not the way it works, I thought. I’m Gravity and being on a new trail doesn’t change that.
Oddly, Luis was reluctant to accept a trail name for himself when we suggested some. One suggested name was Woohoo, which seemed perfect considering how may times he said that today, but he didn’t want it for his name.
From there on we mostly stuck together for the rest of the day. We had been making a gradual climb up a ridge, then continued across it for about a mile.
The trail then made a quick drop of about 300 feet down to Cottonwood Creek at Buckman Springs Road.
The creek was shallow here, so we stopped to refill water bottles and soak our feet.
Since starting yesterday, I have occasionally heard or seen a helicopter flying overhead. The bridge must have been near a border patrol landing field because several flew by while we were there.
We stayed more than 45 minutes at the creek, guzzling water and cooling down. We then decided to continue just 1.9 miles to Boulder Oaks Campground.
Getting to the campground was easy because the trail was mostly flat.
The campground was operated by the U.S. Forest Service, and had picnic tables and privies. We were joined by a couple more hikers, including one from South Korea. Luis wanted to call him Crazy Boy, but I wasn’t sure why.
In all, there were nine tents set up in the campground.
Later, the hosts who met us yesterday at the Campo trailhead, 3-Guy and Glow in the Dark, arrived in a van. They were in search of a hiker who had left some medication at the trailhead.
Fortunately, none of us were missing any medication, but I thought that was very caring of 3-Guy and Glow in the Dark to drive around looking for hikers.
Then again, hikers who care about other hikers is something you see a lot of on the trail. That includes the group of hikers I was camped with.
I decided tonight that if this group sticks together, I’d like to stay with them.
This is the night of the expanding man
I take one last drag
As I approach the stand
I cried when I wrote this song
Sue me if I play too long
This brother is free
I'll be what I want to be