The trail to Burnt Rancheria Campground (5,970 ft) in Mt. Laguna transitioned to pine forest, with tall shady pine trees and soft, needle-covered earth. We reached the campground shortly after 10, and decided to continue on to Desert View Picnic Area to meet my parents and resupply. There we met Diane, an ultra-runner who was in the area training. She shared her last slice of rhubarb pie from Mom's in Julien. Delicious! Thanks Diane!
The trail continued through the Laguna Mountains, alternating through arid land covered with drought resistant shrubs and cactus and grassy meadows lined with Jeffrey Pines and Black Oak trees. After our lengthy break to resupply, our pace slowed considerably. We continued to make slow, steady progress throughout the afternoon, aided in equal measure by the audio books on our iPods and the need to make it to the next water source before we camped for night night.
We arrived at the Pioneer Mail Trailhead picnic area late in the day. Several tents and multiple picnic tables dotted the grassy hillside. "Plenty of room for more," welcomed a hiker, as he directed us to a cache of drinking water next to the non-potable water in the horse trough. We saw several other familiar hikers, including Jason, who remembered meeting us on the JMT!