April 18,2016: Wild turkeys gobbling loudly and a truck doing wheelies around the campground meant little sleep for us. Woke to ice on our tents and everyone needed something hot to get going. Lorian and I started our hike out of Lake Morena to a beautiful day nonetheless and a deceptively easy hike through lush meadow lands into the Boulder Oaks campground near Cottonwood Creek.
Eddie and Alicia already there and lunching and we stayed for a while to dry out our tents on the horse corrals. The campgound was closed to actual overnight camping, however, as it is apparently toad mating season…
Alicia and I set out after lunch with the goal of reaching the Fred Canyon campsite. The hike again started in lush meadows crossing Interstate 8, but then turned to a steep climb up a mostly exposed, rocky ridgeline 100 feet anove Kitchen Creek.
During this climb, I had my first encounter with a rattlesnake. As I put my trekking pole down preparing to walk through a narrow opening between the rock wall and the rocks and brush on the ledge, the viper warned me quite loudly that he was present underneath one of the rocks. I stopped, backed up about 10 feet, and felt the little pangs of panic setting in. I had no choice but to walk within inches of whichever rock he was under. Perhaps I could avoid this fate if only I knew which rock! Even after tossing rocks toward the ominous rattle, he would not reveal his stealthy location.
So, I waited once the rattling of both viper and my nerves subsided, I did what any brave PCT Hiker would do – I hugged the rock wall and chimmied sideways trying to get the farthest away from Mr. Rattles home while still moving as quickly as I could. I then hiked on at an incredible pace due to my heart pounding at a rather punk rock rhythm, until finally I stopped shaky. About 15 minutes later – I caught up to Alicia. The rattler did not appear to have been interested or awake when she passed!
We continued hiking through the heat of the day and arrived at the Fred Canyon campsite rather dispirited. The campsite,while shady under the growing treeline, was also buggy and waterless. We had to press on – and did so to the Cibbets Flat Campground in the Cleveland National Forest.
We met up with Jeffrey – “Pine” as his trail name goes, and several more hikers there, Lorian and Eddie coming along after I was tucked into my tent. Alicia, Pine and I decided before turning in that we would leave in the dark by headlamp the next morning to avoid the heat of the day as we would have more climbing to do than even we did today.
Elevation gained/lost: 2193/-860ft