18 Mar, 2020

Day 2 – Snow in the desert

Written by: Russ

South Downs Way

Distance:

miles

Time:

hours

Elevation gain:

feet

Day 2 route overview

From camp at Lake Morena, it’s a flat and windy trek to Boulder Oaks campsite and a quick slip under Interstate 8. Once passed the interstate, it’s a long ascent to Mount Laguna and during my hike, snow made the trail difficult to walk on and microspikes came in handy when the snow froze over the higher I got.

Elevation

The ascent after the interstate consists of many short hills connected with flatter stretches of trail along the sides of the mountains. You begin to gain elevation quickly on the route, although the weather blocked out the views of the vast wilderness which surrounded the trail.

Over the M3

My first PCT morning

Waking up in my tent I could hear the rain patting the walls of my tent. I didn’t expect there to be this much rain on the trail, even though it was early in the season I’d been told that an unusual cold-front was coming in for the time of year. The weather back home was actually better than the southern Californian desert. It didn’t bother me though, I was used to camping in all conditions back home on my trips in Wales and Scotland.

I swiftly packed up camp and began hiking north for the second day on trail toward Mount Laguna.

After wet and chilly morning hiking I’d reached Boulder Oaks campground where I’d car-camped a few nights before and asked a hiker about starting the trail early, this hiker would actually come to be the hiker who gave me my trail name.

After crossing the road and continuing under interstate 8, I gained significant elevation, the temperature suddenly dropped and snow began to fall quickly and intensely.

Over the M3
Over the M3
Over the M3

A brief moment in the Arctic

Boom! The trail was coated in a thick blanket of snow. The temperature got so low that the snow froze shortly after settling on the trail and I had to don my microspikes. It was only day 2! Further up the trail, I caught up with some hikers using their umbrellas while also hiking in shorts. I knew I was in for a ride through this cold-front coming in and the higher I got the worse the weather turned.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the wind and snow stopped and there was a break in the clouds. The heat from the sun that far south was still powerful enough to warm up the air in an instant and while I was surrounded by snow-covered hills and shrubs, my legs, hands and face were warm. I’d never been in such an environment. The climate in the Himalayas was way more predictable.

Over the M3
Over the M3

I made it to Mount Laguna

After the steep, silent and arduous hike up to timberline, the trail was so peaceful. The pine forest I passed through was mysterious and magical and only the sound of snow melting off the branches and hitting the ground echoed along the trail. As I turned off the trail to head to the Mount Laguna lodge I was tempted to save money and just camp somewhere, but after browsing the shop near the lodges I was asked by a fellow hiker named Sven if I’d like to split the cost with him and two others in a lodge which only came to about $25 each and we were able to cook a meal, dry out wet gear and rest up for the night.

What an incredible and unpredictable second-day on-trail.

Over the M3
Over the M3

Gallery

Overview

  • Views and vista 70% 70%
  • Difficulty 80% 80%
  • Elevation gain 90% 90%

Start time:

07:00

Camp time:

18:00

Accommodation

Lodges

Laguna Mountain Lodge

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