mile 498.2-about 529.7
Today was going to be a big day! I had 19.4 miles to get to a place called “Hikertown”, which I had heard was creepy and wasn’t recommended to stay at. I planned on picking up my resupply box and finding a tree to lie down under for a couple of hours and then night hiking the start of the Mojave Desert (where it could easily be 115 degrees during the day). I never get up really early, so I was surprised to see that I was the first one to head out in the morning! I noticed the clouds hanging in the sky and realized what a rare sight that was out here!
In less than 2 miles, I reached the 500 mile point. Bean had said she was excited to reach this milestone, but I didn’t feel the same way. I knew we still had the entire length of the Appalachian Trail to hike and over a month less to do it in! 500 miles didn’t seem like such a great achievement. (But I realized that if I were hiking the Colorado Trail, my hike would now be over, and I was so happy that I still had a long way to go! The thought of only being out here for four more months made me feel sad!). No one was around when I passed the marker, so I took a picture and moved on.
I could see Cattywampus and Iceman ahead. Soon, I caught and passed them. Iceman said he was happy I passed them so I could be the one to get the spider webs in my face and not him. (Nice…)
I could see the soft green folds in the distant mountains. When I reached a dirt round, I found a rock to sit on and snacked before the trail took me back into the trees, and eventually wound down the side of a mountain.
I came to a tank of water that was put there by the owner of Hikertown. After collecting some water in my squeeze bags, I looked around for a shaded spot, which didn’t seem to exist. So, I opened my umbrella (for the third time on the hike) and shaded my legs as I squeezed the water through the filter. Chief, Iceman, and Cattywampus came along and found a tree to sit under nearby. Chief commented that the only shade in the area was under my umbrella.
I got going, excited to maintain the lead position as I crossed over the Angeles National Forest Boundary. (I had essentially hiked from San Diego to Los Angeles by now!).
Trees gave way to shrub as we dropped in elevation, and the real desert came more and more into view. It was stunning to see this dry expansive brown plateau that we would soon be walking across!
Eventually, I dropped low enough to see some buildings in the distance. I wondered which one was Hikertown!
I passed by a random junkyard area of old, unwanted electronics, and a sign warning me to stay on the trail. I was now on a dusty road and felt like it was taking forever to reach the end of it!
Finally, I reached a paved road and located Hikertown, diagonally across the street. I made my way over to the entrance, opened the gate, and found some firemen there. One of them asked me who I was. I told him that I was hiking the PCT from Mexico to Canada and he said that he had never heard of such a thing until the owner was just telling him about it. He thought I was incredible to be doing that and asked me a couple of questions about it. A lady who worked there told me where I could hang out and I asked her for my resupply box. I followed her to the room containing the boxes and started looking through them (they were not arranged in any order). I knew what the box looked like, so I was able to narrow the search, but I didn’t see it anywhere! I looked a second and third time and my heart sank. I figured someone must have stolen my box! Cattywampus and Iceman came in and quickly retrieved their boxes while I texted my resupply people to ask when they had sent it. I started to wonder if the other hikers might be able to give me a little of their extra food. A bunch of hikers were hanging out in the tiny building labeled “City Hall”, while others were in the room attached to the kitchen. I brought my pack over to the kitchen area and found some plugs to start charging my electronics. My external adaptor takes four hours to charge and uses the same plug that I need to charge my iphone with, so those had to be charged separately. Brian had meanwhile found a tracking number for my package, but wasn’t able to get any information on when it was delivered. Then, he informed me that he had just mailed it 2 days ago! At least there was still hope that it could arrive today. The mail came after 4pm and I didn’t feel like I could afford to sit around here and wait an entire other day for it. Somehow, I needed to get enough food to make it the 40 miles through the Mojave desert! I had hoped to be the first to use the outdoor shower, since I was the first person to arrive, but Iceman had jumped in while I was looking for my package. Cattywampus said she was going to use it after him… So, I had to wait. When my turn came, no water was coming out! I asked some hikers for help, but they said I could figure it out. Finally, I asked SunDog if he could try it out. He couldn’t get it to work either, so I sought out one of the workers. The tank needed to be refilled. Finally, I was able to take a shower, which felt really good. I was starting to get used to showering outside!
I returned to my things and found that Mark and Chip had come in. Everyone seemed to be planning on spending the night and waking up around 3 to start the desert hike. I preferred to hike during the late night and sleep in the morning. My box did end up arriving, which I was extremely thankful for- especially when I discovered that they had put my second pair of shoes in there! I had asked for them to be put in the Mojave box since these ones still had some miles left in them. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to walk away from that box!
I sorted through my food and other resupply items, re-organizing for the next stretch of trail. Chip, Mark, and the Chief had decided to order some lunch and I figured I might as well have some real food, too, rather than eat my disgusting backpacking food. I hadn’t planned on spending the money, but for $10, you could get salad, a meal, and ice cream. When I cut into my chicken, I discovered it was still raw and wondered what to do. I returned it to the lady who had cooked it and waited for her to cook it some more. It definitely wasn’t the greatest meal!
I returned to the couch and rested my head on my pack, as I needed to get in a little nap. Cattywampus walked past me and loudly said, “Did she fall asleep right here?”. One of the employees noticed that this wasn’t the best place for me to sleep and asked if I wanted a place to nap for a little while. I nodded. This room was too loud. He took me to his room, with the TV blaring and said I was welcome to hang out there, pointing to the bed. I told myself in my tired state that “this is normal…”. (“Normal” takes on a different meaning when you are a tired traveler at the mercy of others). I was about to step into the room when he said that wasn’t what he had in mind, unless I was thinking otherwise. It was now getting weirder! He then took me to another room with no TV and said I could sleep there unless I got lonely. I asked if I could bring his dog in with me. I lied down on top of the bed, but I wasn’t feeling comfortable enough to actually fall asleep. And the dog wanted to go back outside. I stayed there for about an hour, and then headed back to sort through my things. I was made fun of by some of the hikers for my nap. (?). By this time, the owner had come in, and had a captive audience listening to his stories on how this place came to be a haven for PCT hikers. The sun was starting to set and I needed to be on my way. “But he’s telling really interesting stories!” someone said.
The moon was full and the night air was pretty as I headed out along the road and across a field. Soon, the sun disappeared and darkness took over. I had my headlamp ready. I got very confused at the road crossing and went back and forth looking for the trail and then, I was finally on my way! I reached the LA aqueduct, which at this point was an open canal. As I looked back at a bridge crossing the water, I felt like I could be in Paris right now! I followed the water, checking my GPS often to make sure I was on the right course.
Then, I came to the big metal pipe, routing the water underground, which felt a bit more eerie. I realized that the moon was bright enough that I didn’t need to use my headlamp, for the most part. As I passed by some tiny houses and horses, I felt so happy. It was just me, my new kicks, the crickets chirping, the stars overhead, and the moon illuminating my path. I could smell my clean hair, which felt nice against my skin when it was blown by the wind. I was almost surprised at how at ease I felt night hiking alone!
I passed by a bunch of white concrete blocks and was suddenly startled to find a person in a sleeping bag behind one of them! I calmed my shock by telling myself he was someone just like me, finding a flat spot to sleep (although I wouldn’t have chosen that place!). We are all vagrants.
At one intersection that I had continued straight ahead on, I decided to double-check my GPS and make sure I was still on track. I wasn’t! I went back and took the right hand turn, wondering how many people had made this same mistake, especially in the dark! There were a couple more intersections ahead and I took my time making sure I was following the PCT. I would stop and pee and rest my shoulders and snack, as usual, and for the most part, my energy remained pretty strong. But then, I started feeling tired.
At 1:30, I found a little sandy area in between some Joshua trees that looked like it would be a perfect place to sleep. I set up my bed and closed my eyes after having hiked over 30 miles for the first time in my life!