I woke up at 0630 to birds chirping in the 30-degree air. The ground was wet from sporadic rain showers throughout the night. The “improved” USMC high cover I purchased in San Diego for $70 had kept me dry save for a pool of water which emptied onto my face around midnight. I departed from the night’s bivouac at 0700 in order to get some miles in before the mid-day sun has hikers searching for a bit of shade for the daily siesta.

Though 110-plus-degree temperatures are the norm in the desert this time of year, today was different. The mercury never rose about 50 degrees and rain came and went in short minutes-long bursts.

The morning was spent ascending 1,000-feet off the desert floor. By the time I reached peak altitude for the day, the chafing between my legs was annoying, but not quite show-stopping.

The first challenge PCT hikers are met with is a steep 1,000-foot descent into Hauser Creek Valley followed by an equally rigorous climb up and over Hauser Mountain into Morena. On my way down to the dry creek bed, the salt in my sweat was finding its way into my friction-induced hot spots. When I reached the bottom of the valley, I threw off my 45-pound pack, set up camp and tended to my wounds.

To the uninitiated, chafing is an expected side-effect of the first few days of a backpacking trip. While vaseline, body glide and even vagisil are designed to protect against these growing pains, I opted for hardship for nostalgia’s sake. Chafing is something I’ve grown accustom to in my previous hikes and it’s better to get it over with early on instead of avoiding what is naturally inevitable.

Start: 2.7
Finish: 15.4
Total: 12.7

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