The night wasn’t too cold. I got up at 5:30, made coffee, and ate my poptarts with it. Everyone else was in their tents. I was able to get on the trail by 6:20! The pretty views weren’t allowing me to get far, though, as I kept stopping to take pictures. I started to worry about the time this was costing me.
Again, the trail was full of obstacles to avoid in the form of sharp prickly bushes, poison oak, and poodle dog bush!
A fallen tree that I had to get over drew blood from the skin above my knee. I found some rocks to sit on and eat a power bar and some almond butter.
I had one mile to get to the ranger’s station, where the nice ranger, Todd, put out water for PCT hikers. I was surprised to find Elizabeth there! She had also camped at Messenger Flats, but not in the area I was in. I found the water in big, heavy water cooler jugs, and had a difficult time pouring some into my water bottles. I used the restroom and resumed hiking, feeling good and energetic. I hadn’t expected the views to be so beautiful!
As the morning wore on, it got sunnier and warmer, but not brutally hot, and a little breeze kept me comfortable. I passed Elizabeth feeling strong. After another mile, however, my stomach really started to hurt! I had no idea why! As I continued to walk, it felt more and more like the pain I had experienced when I had giardia after the AT. I kept thinking that I needed to get to Agua Dulce and find a watermelon with seeds in it! Ahead, I saw a guy shooting video from his hiking pole. He backtracked to do some filming. I hoped it was UB, but it turned out to be Craig. He told me that he started regretting his decision to hike on last night and nearly turned around, but then saw the most beautiful sunset that he had ever seen in his life and knew that is why he had gone on.
I had set a goal of walking five more miles before taking my next break, but couldn’t manage to make it with my hurting stomach. I sat down in a shady patch of brown grass on a hill and ate a bagel, some chocolate almond butter, and a Snickers bar. I knew my stomach probably wouldn’t like this food, but I needed energy. Elizabeth came by and wanted to join me as I ate my Snickers. I apologized for not being such great company due to my pain.
I moved on and felt my energy pick up, but my tummy continued to hurt. If it weren’t for the pain, it would have been an absolutely lovely day. I took so many pictures of the incredible scenery. The terrain was largely downhill, but it was interspersed with small climbs, which I appreciated. I climbed the spine of several mountains and wound around the rims of others as I made my way down toward the road.
When I arrived, I found an outhouse and a single shaded picnic table and trash can in a parking lot. I hadn’t planned on stopping there, but decided to take advantage of this perfect place to eat. It was now 12:20. I ate a packet of salmon and some whole grain crackers and then had a second Snickers bar. I went back and forth deciding whether or not to take the time to make a second cup of coffee for the day and eventually decided to have one with a miniature peppermint pattie and a couple of Starbursts.
I left the area at one, crossed the road, and then arrived at an eerie junkyard where the KOA was supposed to be! A boarded up RV with no wheels sat nearby. I passed through this spooky area and went through a short section that was very jungle-like before crossing over a set of railroad tracks.
It was now time to climb again! I decided to listen to some music to help me out. I listened to my “Dance” playlist on shuffle and felt my body starting to lighten and loosen up after having only performed one repetitive motion over the last month. I realized that the dancing part of myself had gone away. I found a makeshift bench, and as I listened to a particular song, I thought about three people in my life who all had similarly closed hearts, but still somehow remained connected to me. I hiked on with the music keeping me moving. I found that I didn’t need to stop as much to drink water with this distraction. I had five more miles to get to Agua Dulce and I danced my way down the mountain. Trucks drove by on the highway and I imagined being their entertainment.
I entered a new environment of canyons, in which wooden signs were set up to identify some of the flora in the area.
I took my last break and ate some candy, which made my already black hands sticky! Muk Muk texted me and I found out she was 31 miles behind me!
As I entered the Vasquez Rocks area, my battery ran out in my phone, which meant I could no longer use my GPS. I had only 2 and a half miles left and figured I could make it. However, I couldn’t find the trail after the picnic area! I heard voices in the distance but couldn’t see where the people were. After walking around hopelessly, I set my pack down and took everything out of it with my sticky hands to find my external adaptor to recharge my phone. I waited for it to charge a bit and then started searching out the trail- going this way and then that. I was wasting so much time, and after a very long day, my frustration was growing. Finally, I found the path, but soon got confused again! For the next mile and a half, I went backwards and forwards, losing more time and patience. I hated that area! Finally, I reached the road and began the walk into the farmland of Agua Dulce.
It went on and on… At some point, I saw a sign for Sweetwater Farms and then saw some bikes! I knew they were being used by PCT hikers! I was almost there! It was now 5:15. A lady in a car pulled over and asked me if she could shake my hand! I looked down at it and told her it was sticky. “From what?” she coiled back. Before I could say it was from candy, she said, “That’s okay. I’m about to eat dinner.” She wanted to take my picture and asked me why I was doing this and how old I was. She said that a lot of people did this kind of thing to get over a broken heart, or were trying to figure out how to make a job change.” I tried to summarize my story. She said that she thought what we were doing was great. “Why?” I asked.
She pointed out the restaurant across the street and said that there were trail angels in town who would let us sleep at their houses.
I headed over to the restaurant and looked at the menu. It said, “Cowboy Cafe” and I stared at it for a long time, wondering if I was in the wrong restaurant! Then the waitress gave me the regular menu. I order a California burger and a chocolate milkshake for dessert. A lady came over to me after she was finished eating and asked how many miles I had hiked today. I told her 24 and she said, “Wow! Are you tired?”
She told her husband that I had hiked a marathon today.
I went outside to collect my pack and started walking up the road. The Saufley’s, who welcomed PCT hikers to stay on their property for a night or two, lived a mile away. A man on a mule cart offered me a ride and I happily accepted! “Is this a golf cart?”
“No. It’s a mule cart.”
I opened the gate and saw someone I didn’t know sitting there. He welcomed me and offered to give me a tour. I followed him around, and grew more and more overwhelmed and confused. I didn’t know any of the hikers there and the place didn’t look like what I had seen in videos of this stop. I expected to sleep in a white canvas tent with 4 cots each, but I saw none of these tents- only a few smaller ones of different colors. It was almost dark by now and I didn’t know what to do. I found the last empty cot in a tent with two others and set my things down, then collected my dirty clothes to be washed. I was encouraged to take a shower first, change into some loaner clothes, and then give the guy my clothes that needed to be washed. I found a very small shirt and some very large pants to change into before I took my shower, and put my clothes in the bin I was instructed to put them in. I had to write down on a post-it note whether I had anything wool that couldn’t be put in the drier, so I wrote down, “wool.” Then, I took a shower, found my resupply box, and went to my cot to wait for my laundry. They weren’t able to dry my clothes before I went to bed however. When I saw the helper, he asked me if my name was wool. He wanted to know why I hadn’t written my name on the post-it or what article of clothing was made of wool… I guess I was too exhausted to understand the directions. I was also too exhausted to remember to pull out my sleeping bag liner, sleeping socks, or hat, so I shivered in my sleeping bag all night long.