Day 2: Hauser Creek to Kitchen Creek Rd – 14.3 miles
Dan and I woke up feeling a bit groggy from our first night’s sleep on trail. We had to get used to sharing the small confines of the tent and had to figure out how to streamline our routine as we got dressed and packed everything away. Deep in the canyon as we were, we got to enjoy the cool morning shade as we headed out.
Our first mile and a half had us climb over 1000 feet out of the canyon to reach the shoulder of Morena Butte. We had purposely spent the night in Hauser Canyon so we’d complete this tough climb in the cool morning air. The next couple of miles were much more relaxed as we wandered through a landscape of yucca, manzanita shrubs, large boulders and granite slabs. We enjoyed a gradual descent to the Morena reservoir built over a hundred years ago to help maintain San Diego’s water supply.
We took a well-earned break at the Lake Morena Campground where we enjoyed some shade, a snack, and the luxury of clean running water and flush toilets. There was also a large flock of turkeys hanging around which gave me the giggles when I heard them gobbling.
After our break we had a short climb up and over a hill to reach Cottonwood Creek. We took advantage of the cottonwood’s shade to have our lunch before wandering alongside the creek for a a couple miles. There were some large old oaks in the valley nearby, kept alive by yearly flooding of the flats.
Our next break was at an empty forest service campground. This would be our last source for water until the next evening and we had to fill up all of our water bladders – well over a gallon’s worth of water. Thankfully there was running water at the campground but it came with a boil advisory so we made sure to feed it through our filter.
Feeling much much heavier, we teetered our way alongside a road before turning to cross under Interstate 8 to enter the Laguna Mountain foothills. While we had been within the limits of Cleveland National Forest our entire day, we had still been alongside roads and within sight of homes and buildings. Thankfully our next fifteen miles would take us out of the inhabited valleys and up to the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area.
When I say up, I mean 2,800 feet up. Our highest point for this section would be near the summit of Mount Laguna at around 6,000 feet. But first we had to finish up our second day on trail with a three-mile, eight-hundred foot climb. I will tell you that those three miles felt like a lot more. My feet and legs were feeling the long miles of our first couple of days and it was frustrating to have a much heavier pack, instead of it getting lighter every day. This would be the biggest challenge of our week in the desert.
We rolled into camp just before sunset and tucked our tent among the manzanita. We enjoyed an incredible sunset and even stayed out to see the first constellations appear. Then it was time to tuck in and dream of a running creek.