Day 3: Fred Canyon to Pioneer Mail (20.8 miles)
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
May 10, 2016 - Woke up to some cold weather, must have been in the 30s as I could see my breath. Had another good night sleep, about 9 hours. There were 8 other hikers at the campsite, some were louder than others. One guy was clearly a rookie as he decided to cook his dinner on an open flame directly on the ground and not in a fire ring. Several of us jumped up to correct his mistake to let him know not to build a fire like that as it could easily start a forest fire which in this type of area is very bad as everything is so dry.
Campsite was great as under trees but lacked a water source but haven’t come across too many natural water sources yet which is why you really have to plan your hike and know where all the reliable water sources are located. So far in 50+ miles I’ve only seen one natural water source. The trail has stayed pretty close to civilization it seems which makes sense with the lack of water sources, everyone lives near where there is water in desert.
Got an early start and was first out of camp again, around 6am. Its important to get an early start and get in as many miles as possible in the cool morning air. Once that sun rises too far it heats everything up quickly. It was still pretty cold that first mile out, had to wear a jacket. I knew it was going to be all uphill, 10 miles, to Mt Laguna but wasn’t too bad because of the cool air coming out of the canyon. As I was climbing out of the canyon I would look back and see the area filled with clouds, was like looking at the ocean. You could see the top of the mountains peaking through the clouds looking like islands on the ocean.
As I was getting closer to Mt Laguna I entered a giant pine forest which was a complete contrast to what I had been hiking in before, I had actually shade. Then after a few miles of hiking in the woods the trees opened up and got my first view of the desert. I knew soon I would been down there but for now was enjoying the smell of pine and taking advantage of the shade.
Soon after the desert view I came to a road that went to Mt Laguna General Store. It was an easy quarter of a mile hike to the store where I did a quick food resupply, enough to get me the 3 days to Warner Springs. The owner of the store was trying to get me to buy extra supplies to ship to myself at Warner Springs as he said it was a bad place to resupply. My research I did before I left home said otherwise, he was just trying to get some extra money out of me. After filling up on water I hiked back to the trail. Before continuing my hike north I ate lunch at the picnic area right on trail.
Once back on trail I had planned to hike just 5 miles for the day to take me to Mt Laguna Campground. I knew that would put at an early stop for the day so I thought about maybe moving farther north if I was still feeling good. While hiking towards camp I turned the corner to this huge opening and got an awesome view of desert floor and surrounding mountains.
Got to the road crossing that would take me to the campground which was a mile off trail, always hate to have to hike that far off trail but was low on water and camping options weren’t great the next several miles.
Made it to the campground around 2pm and that was just too early to stopped so I decided to hang out for an hour or 2 to relax in the shade and take a shower. The shower felt so great, I felt like a new person. There was one other guy hanging out, this had been his 3rd day there. He was nursing a knee injury and hoped to be back hiking tomorrow. I could tell he was bored and wanting someone to talk with because he was really excited when I said I was staying awhile.
Around 4pm I made my way back on trail to hike the 8 miles to the next campsite. I wanted to stop earlier but I was on a section that didn’t allow camping. When I got to the end of the no camping zone I was at a picnic area where there were others camping out. I was pretty sure that that area was also in the no camping zone so I decided to keep moving after eating dinner and filling up on water. The water source was this giant water tank and the water wasn’t the cleanest. I filtered and used some of my chlorine tablets. Another good reason to move on was that it was right next to the road and could have lots of traffic.
It was another 3 miles to the next campsite but thought there had to be some small spot I could set up camp. So I walked up the trail which appeared to be an old abandoned road on the side the mountain. Then about a quarter of a mile past the picnic area I found the perfect spot. It was getting close to sunset so I set up camp as fast as I could and tried to get to a spot to see the sunset. However I was on the wrong side of the mountain so I really didn’t get to see much but I do have a nice view of the desert floor. I should get a great night show when all the stars appear.