Saturday, April 5, 2014
So there was a surprise this morning when my mom and I woke up to rain. Mother Nature is definitely proving to be fickle. The terrible drought throughout this winter is one of the things we most worried about before we began, as many of the usual water sources on the trail would be non-existent this year, as well as not being able to count on grazing for the horses.
With the surprise rain in the morning, we decided to alter our “best-laid plans,” which had called for me to ride 33.miles, swapping horses at the Mount Laguna Lodge, and then for us to camp in a parking lot at the Sunrise Trail Head—the closest place where horses were permitted overnight, after we were told that the Mount Laguna campground didn’t allow them. But instead we decided to stay another night at Boulder Oaks, to save the work of breaking camp and setting up again, and because the horse pens here are easier than high-lining them in the parking lot. The revised plan was to switch horses after about 16 miles, then ride the second horse about another 10 miles, shortening today’s miles and making the next day (which was only going to be about 18 miles) a little longer, so it’s more even. We’re figuring out that a little flexibility is a good (and necessary) thing.
Anyhow the first 16 miles with Shyla went pretty smoothly even with the rain, which thankfully ceased after the first 4 miles. Those 16 miles were mainly a steady increase in elevation as we got to over 5,000 feet in order to climb over Mt Laguna. There were even a few patches of snow waiting for us at the top. Around 1pm I switched horses, though it took me a while to find the meeting spot at Laguna Mountain Lodge and we had to walk (very quickly) down a small bit of highway.
Shortly after getting back on the trail with Takoda, we passed a hiker, who I’ll call Mr. Tattoos. He was a pretty fast hiker and kept pace with Takoda and I. My knees were sore around mile 20 so I dismounted and led Takoda while continuing to chat with Tattoos. At some point around mile 21 we missed a switchback in the trail and continued on another trail/dirt road that was still covered with hiker footprints. This side trail quickly became overgrown with fallen trees and Takoda was having some trouble getting through it all. After a quarter mile or so the trail disappeared into what looked like an old landslide that continued quite a ways down the steep hillside. Tattoos and I thought we saw the trail continue on down below so naturally we proceed to slide down the steep hillside with Takoda loyally following us. After decending about 30 ft we all realized this was not the best idea, checked our gps and maps, and saw that we had missed the trail which was far above us on top of the ridge. So we now had to scramble our way back up. The dirt was very deep and soft and was littered with large rocks. Getting down wasn’t too bad because we simply slid down, going up was much harder. It was like climbing up a VERY steep sand dune with rocks in it. While scrambling up, I was having a hard time holding onto Takoda and keeping my balance, so about half way up I just let Takoda go had he quickly hopped (that’s really the only word for it) to the top. Tattoos was able to catch him and hold on to Takoda while I finished my climb.
So that was an interesting off-trail adventure and thankfully we all made out okay, if not very tired and a little shaken up. Lessoned learned, check maps before doing anything difficult incase you are totaling off-trail. The rest of our five miles were uneventful and Tattoos and I eventually ran into my mom. My mom and I spent out 3rd and last night at Boulder Oaks, as we will move camp to Cuyamaca the next day. So day two and 52 miles down!