Day 37 // 19.0 miles
PCT Mile 440.2
After getting up this morning, Kool Aid and I took some time to dry our stuff out before leaving. The sun was out, already bright and strong. I was glad that we had pushed up the hill last night - it meant we had some nice flat trail to start the day with. Kool-Aid is pretty talkative and extroverted, so I told him I was going to go ahead for a bit to have some quiet time this morning. The trail was beautiful, and it was nice to cruise for a while and hear the birds singing in the trees. I spent some time in prayer and enjoyed the views of the desert mountains.
I stopped at a stream around 4 miles in, and watched the brook babbling, hummingbirds darting, and butterflies dancing. So peaceful. Kool-Aid caught up and we hiked together for most of the day. He is a super interesting guy who never has a lack of stories and things to talk about. He's a ceramics teacher who has lived or visited seemingly everywhere, from Abu Dhabi to Italy to Indonesia. He grew up in California and has done a ton of backpacking in the Sierra as well.
Eventually, after a big descent, we found a campground to eat our lunch at. I'm still going strong on tortillas with summer sausage and cheese. I got a bit of service and saw that 3 Bean and Foxtail had gotten a ride from their fam at the fire station to stay a night with them, so they were behind. Cheer also messaged me and I realized that I had passed them somewhere on that rainy day.
We kept pushing on, and around 4:30 or 5 we reached a ranger station manned by ranger Todd. We saw he had water in jugs for us, and in his office he also had cold pop and chips available for a dollar. What a cool guy. Todd is originally from the Adirondack Mountains, but now he runs this place and lives in a house next to the station.
After downing a Dr. Pepper and some Cheetos, we went back out to the picnic tables, where I realized I had enough service to call my mom for Mother's Day! Always so good to talk with mom and dad. I was still hoping to make it to Maddox Canyon, so I headed out after the call, winding down the side of the mountain. In the evening, the trail was unbelievably beautiful. The wildflowers were bathed in golden sunlight, and butterflies fluttered by as I hiked... so magical. I enjoyed the evening and took so many photos.
There was a group already at the canyon by the stream when I got there, so I set up my tent and joined them for dinner. Kool-Aid and the crew from Tennessee were a few that were hanging out. I decided to make the Kale and White Bean Stew that I had gotten from 3 Bean and Foxtail (ended up being a big mistake for my digestive system... uh oh.) But all in all, this was a really nice day.
Day 38 // 14.3 miles (plus 1 mile roadwalk to Hiker Heaven)
PCT Mile 454.5
Today when I got up, everything was covered in condensation. I had only set up the mesh part of my tent, and sleeping so close to the stream had least everything covered in a thick layer of moisture. Ick.
I packed up and got moving, and after a nice bit of downhill, I made it to a picnic awning. I laid my stuff out to dry in the sun and had some snacks with KoolAid and the Tennesseans. Soon, Cheer came up too! It was good to see her.
We were all headed to Hiker Heaven, a sweet trail angel spot in Agua Dulce where we could shower, do laundry, and camp. After filtering water, we passed the completion point of the PCT then started a tough climb. The sun was hot, and I was struggling a bit.
Part of the way up the hill, we passed Stevie Wonder taking a break. We all enjoyed our snacks together at the top of the hill, and planned to stop for lunch near Vasquez Rocks. Cheer had hiked near the rocks since she's from Orange County, and knew there were some nice picnic tables.
We chatted as we headed down the mountain, dreaming of Mexican food in town and talking about the reactions we got from people when we told them about the trail. We made it down the mountain towards the highway, went through a creepy underpass tunnel, and stopped for a little snack break when we saw our friends.
Just after the tunnel was Vasquez rocks, a section of amazing sedimentary red rock formations. We took lots of photos and soon approached the spot famous for being an iconic sci-fi film spot.
We saw a film crew from afar as we approached, and made guesses on what it could be. After a lunch at the picnic tables, we headed towards the spot, though we weren't sure exactly where the trail was here. As we got closer, a guy with a walkie talkie came up and asked of we minded waiting a few minutes to walk through since they were about to start the next take. He was super nice and asked us if we had walked from Mexico. He couldn't come right out and tell us what was being filmed, but we could guess from the set and the clues he gave us that this was the new Star Trek series.
We watched as the filming began and the set went quiet until a woman and a bald man made their exit from the scene. One of the guys realized it was Patrick Stewart. Pretty awesome! We then were able to walk through the set, the Hollywood team looking at us as inquisitively as we looked at them. Haha. Such a juxtaposition - shiny Hollywood and dirty thruhikers. Classic.
We found the trail again and headed into town. The trail went straight through Agua Dulce, so we road walked until we saw the road leading to the Saufley's house. Unfortunately, it was an extra mile, and no one stopped to give us a ride there. But on arrival, we knew it was so worth it.
Opening the gate, we saw an amazing operation going on at their place. A volunteer gave us the basic rundown of rules and info. Cheer and I headed to the laundry tent to bag up our clothes to be washed, then set up tents, showered in the outdoor shower stall, and I mailed my microspikes to Kennedy Meadows. I also picked up a sweet care package from my friends Megan and Rachel!
It was hilarious and encouraging, full of hiker food, notes, new socks, toiletries, and a pair of lil hands. So awesome. Thanks guys! The Saufleys have been hosting hikers for years, and they have it down to a science now. I wasn't planning to take a zero there, but I decided it was too good to pass up.
There was a shuttle (aka a pickup truck) to town at 6pm, so I went with KoolAid, Cheer, and Stevie Wonder to the Mexican place in town. We stuffed ourselves with too much food and yummy margaritas before heading back.
We sat around the fire talking with other hikers, and again, I was reminded of how special this experience is. How often do you find yourself conversing around a fire with people you just met, hosted by the kindness of strangers in a small town you'd never heard of? I love that the trail brings us all together.
Day 39 // 0 miles PCT Mile 454.5
After a great night of sleep at Hiker Heaven, I headed to town with my friends for breakfast. I had amazing Strawberry Crepes with eggs and bacon. The stuff food dreams are made of on trail. YUM.
Cheer, Songbird, and Stevie Wonder were planning to get an Uber to the Burbank REI, and I decided to join since the local market was slim pickings for resupply and there was a Walmart near the REI. After our shopping excursion, we got some sushi for lunch and Ubered back to Agua Dulce. I got my food organized, then saw 3 Bean and Foxtail who had arrived. They had gotten my trekking pole replacement tips in their Amazon order, so I decided to work on replacing those since mine had already worn down. I looked like a mad scientist boiling the pole tips in water and trying to pry them off with pliers. Eventually, I had to resort to cutting the plastic since there was some heavy duty adhesive keeping the old ones on. But eventually I got the old ones off and new ones installed.
I love my Costco poles, but the Black Diamond tips I ordered are better quality and should hopefully last me longer. The rest of the evening was spent around the fire, making dinner, eating sour patch kids, and planning out my next stretch of hiking.
Day 40 // 16.9 miles
PCT Mile 471.4
I woke up to the sound of the roosters crowing and other hikers packing up at Hiker Heaven. I pulled myself out of bed at 6:30 to use the bathroom and started to get organized and pack up. After most of my stuff was ready to go, I went over to the guest house to check out the coffee situation and clean my pot/spoon. Thankfully there was still some left, so I enjoyed breakfast out on the porch. I talked to Cheer (Carol), and she was going to wait a bit longer to leave so Grit could join us. I decided to do the same. It was nice to have a chill morning at Hiker Heaven :) I sat on the porch talking to Steve, Kool-Aid, David, and Grit. I also decided to order my next pair of shoes and get them delivered to Tehachapi, and I had time to blog as well. At 10, we jumped in the back of the truck again to get shuttled to town. I felt like I had enough breakfast to start hiking, so I headed out while the others got breakfast or picked up a few things in town. The first part of today was a roadwalk, which is aqalways kind of a bummer. The road headed towards the mountains, and after two miles or so, I was back on real trail.
The trail here was lined with dark green brush and a few wildflowers. Another different ecosystem. I also traveled down through yellowed grassy fields.
I met a girl named Julie (Juicy J) and a bit later, Steve Songbird, Cheer, and Grit came up as I had my lunch. We finished up and started a long climb. I turned on some music and gaot into a good rhythm, so I went ahead of the group and powered up the hill. The wind was blowing the tall grasses and it was a new kind of beauty.
I made it up and over to a spring where some other girls were resting, and my friends weren't far behind. Cheer, Grit and I kept hiking together, hoping to make it to a spot about 7 miles from Casa De Luna, another trail angel in this stretch.
We were all starting to get pretty tired as we made the last climb - Grit's arches we're hurting badly, and my feet were starting to feel numb from the pounding. Eventually, we found our spot for the night near a few others. We were tucked in a little tree alcove near Songbird and another girl, Trash Panda. My spot was super slanted, but I was just glad to have gotten set up before it rained.
We knew from the forecast that the rain was headed our way. California is getting hit with some late season storms right now - the Sierra is getting two more feet of snow, and the weather north of there isn't great either. Kind of helps me feel okay about taking zero days, knowing that the snow needs more time to melt :/ I settled in, enjoyed some salt and vinegar chips and my Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy from Megan for dinner. Not sure why today felt so tough, but I was thankful to be able to hike with my friends today. Day 41 // 6.8 miles PCT mile 478.2
I woke up at 6:30 to rain on the tent as expected. I wasn't sure how long it would last, but I didn't want to get out of my tent and hike in it. I decided to sleep in and see if it would let up. I woke up again at 8:30 to more rain and decided to eat breakfast. I got another hour or so of sleep, and the rain continued. I listened to music for awhile, caught up on my journalling, and decided to check the weather on my inReach. I only had 7 miles to go to get to Casa De Luna, so I wasn't in a rush to leave if I could avoid getting soaked. The forecast looked like the rain would let up around 1pm, so I decided to wait until then to pack up. Around 11:15, I heard someone stop by the tent. It was Kool-Aid, trying to get some shelter from the rain in our alcove of trees. I heard Cheer greet him, and realized she had decided to wait out the rain too. We both decided to hike out together around 1. KoolAid ate his snacks and kept going to keep warm.
Finally, the rain did start to let up, and Cheer and I started our 7 mile walk to the road to Green Valley. It was a pretty nice section of trail, and it went pretty fast. We did get rained on some, but it was a lighter drizzle so we weren't soaked.
The mountains were so green, and it was weird to think that we're still in the desert. This year has definitely been wetter than most, but I'm thankful for that, even if it means more rain. The wildflowers and frequent water sources have been awesome. We made it down to the road at the same time as a German brother-sister duo. After a few minutes of waiting, we were able to get a hitch to the market in Green Valley, not far from Casa De Luna. After picking up some snacks, we headed that way.
Hikers were hanging out everywhere, and a few showed us where we could camp in the back. The Anderson's have an amazing trail through the woods behind their house, with spots to camp tucked in every corner. So cool.
They also have a rock painting station, so the whole place has painted rocks all around.
We had taco salad for dinner, prepared by our awesome hosts, and then were given a sweet Class of 2019 PCT bandana after dancing our way over to Terrie. Haha. Such a fun place.
I whipped out my tiny hands, and Songbird and I were having a blast with them. We got so many double takes from other hikers.
I walked back down to the market for ice cream, and ended a pretty great day with a pint of Cappuccino Crunch.
Day 42 // 14.7 miles PCT mile 492.9 I woke up in the "Magical Manzanita Forest" at Casa de Luna and headed towards the house for some breakfast. They had made us pancakes and coffee, and I sat on a couch and enjoyed it while I charged my phone. So nice. The weather forecast looked good for the day, and I knew I wanted to head out that morning. A lot of hikers took off for the trailhead, so it was a quiet morning with my friends :) I finished painting my rocks too!
I saw 3 Bean and Foxtail roll up - they had hiked 7 miles in and planned to hike out again in the afternoon. They danced for their bandanas, and I called mom to catch up and plan out my box for Kennedy Meadows. I caught up with everyone and we painted our nails as we waited for the next ride to the trail. It was so nice!
We ended up heading out around 10ish, and one of the Casa de Luna volunteers dropped us off.
I hugged Terrie and started back up the trail with the crew. The weather was really nice for hiking, cool and a bit windy, but sunny. I listened to some music and made my way up the hill.
Stopping for lunch, I made a tortilla wrap a with summer sausage, cheese, and ChicFilA sauce thanks to the condiments Megan sent me. Yay! I ate with Kool aid, Stevie Wonder, Cheer, and Growler. After a few more miles, we saw some small caves off the trail. Kind of a fun interesting thing to break up the day!
I climbed up the hill and listened to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The wind was picking up as I neares the top of the ridge and it got chillier. Cheer, Steve, and KoolAid came up behind me after a break, and we made the last push to the camp site together. I was glad for that, as there were some huge paw prints on the trail. I wasn't sure if they were mountain lion prints, and I didn't want to find out.
Turns out, they were canine - we think they might be from a guy hiking with his huge German Shepherd. Haha. But we had also heard of bear activity in the area, so we wanted to be cautious. We made it into camp, and thankfully there were some trees to protect us from the wind. It was freezing, but we ate away from our tents to keep the scent away. I devoured my Backpackers Pantry Pad Thai - spicy but yummy - and got into my tent for a restful night after hanging my food. Hopefully the bears will stay away!
Day 43 // 18.0 miles PCT mile 510.9
I got up to go to the bathroom this morning and admired the beautiful sunrise that greeted me. My food was happily udisturbed by bears, so I got it down for some breakfast of a squashed Swiss cake roll. Oof. I need to remember not to pack those again. Way too sweet and SO messy. We all got packed up and headed to the cistern by our tentsite for some water. Cheer and I had been cracking up about the comments on Guthook's for this one - someone had left a water review as if it was a wine tasting review.
"A bottle of the 2019 Maxwell Camp Guzzler? Excellent choice, my friend! Aged in a concrete cistern in the hills of Southern California, this full-bodied yet highly-quaffable selection is reminiscent of stale rooibos tea with rich earthy overtones and subtle hints of tobacco, manure, and drowned rat." - beaver0316 The yellow color of the water definitely didn't bode well for the taste - thankfully, I had taken extra from the previous stream, so I ended up being okay on water. I did take half a liter, just in case.
We hiked together for a while, then I continued on ahead until I rounded the corner and saw a beautiful sight. The 500 mile marker! We all congregated there and had a dance party to the Proclaimers song. SO funny. It's so unbelievable to think how far my body has carried me... I'm so thankful. You really never know what you're capable of unless you try.
We kept going towards the next water source, two cisterns that were close together. One of them had reports of a dead bear inside, and the other looked completely brown. We all decided we could last until the next cistern, which was reportedly clear and tasted okay. It's crazy to think that some years, the dead bear water may have been the only option! All the rain this year has made it easier water-wise. We had our lunch and I dug out my avocado I had forgotten about! It was perfectly ripe, such a treat on the trail. Eventually, we reached the good cistern, which had a stick lasted to a Gatorade bottle for us to retrieve our H2O. There were holes in the bottom of the Gatorade bottle, so we struggled to quickly fill our bottles and laughed at each other struggling to master the technique. I put on my Narnia book again, cruising down the hills and eventually donning my rain jacket when it began to drizzle. The wet overgrown brush got me wetter than the rain, but eventually I made it down to the campsites by the water source.
I set up just as it started to rain harder, bit managed to keep all my important stuff dry.
The past couple days have been sort of so-so - hiking in the rain can be a drag, and there have been some seemingly pointless ups and downs. But the company has been super nice, and I'm also realizing that the trail is a lot like life - some days will be great, others will be hard, and some just okay. But I'm still doing what I set out to do, even on the meh days and hard days. I'm still moving ever closer to Canada, and every day I get to soak in more of this journey.
Day 44 // 6.7 miles Mile 517.6 It was raining lightly when I woke up this morning, so I waited until around 8am to pack up, since it had almost stopped. Cheer and I camped in the same spot, and we had decided to head to Hikertown but stay at the Wee Vill Market where we could camp for free. We had heard some funky things about Hikertown and weren't too sure about staying there. It's sort of a hostel type place styled as a Wild West Town in the middle of nowhere. There are two different markets down the road, Nenatch and Wee Vill, with some limited resupply options and cafes at both. I filtered my water for the day and hit the trail, bumping into KoolAid and Stevie Wonder again who had camped a bit back from us. They were hoping to avoid the rain coming later as well, since we saw it was going to storm. It did sprinkle on us a bit, but for the most part, it was a nice morning! The clouds billowed overhead, but there was a good patch of blue sky above us, and the sun was shining. I looked down to the valley below - it was a beautiful sight.
Parts of the trail were lined with tall dry grasses that danced in the wind. I ran my fingers through the blades and felt the breeze. What a beautiful gift it is to be out here.
I went up and down over hills, and I eventually caught up to the guys, who had passed me up while I was taking a break. We headed down towards the road, past some farmland. I got there and waited for the others to come up behind me so we could make a game plan. Hikertown was across the street, and looked intriguing to say the least. Cheer was about to call the Wee Vill Market for a free ride when we saw a red Prius turn onto the road, then back up to the trail and honk at us. The guy was from Hikertown, and had stuff in his car for a barbecue. We didn't plan to stay there, but trying to be polite we followed him over to the place. We also wanted to check it out. It was definitely kinda run down, but Kool Aid decided he'd like a roof over his head since it looked like the rain would come. The Hikertown guy said that we could use the van to drive to the market (meaning the Nenatch one) if we needed to.
Steve, Cheer, and I decided we wanted to still go to Wee Vill though. As soon as we said that, the whole vibe changed. "Oh no, you can't go there," he said, proceeding to tell us it was horrible, and telling us all sorts of bad things that had supposedly happened there, like people's packs being stolen. We were feeling awkwardly pressured though and definitely wanted to leave. He told us that if we went there we wouldn't be welcome back. Okay, byeee Felicia. We walked over to the road and called Wee Vill. Another hiker came over to us from Hikertown, and said that the guy asked him to convince us to stay. So weird. The guy from Wee Vill picked us up in 5 minutes and we loaded stuff into the van. He was super friendly, and when we mentioned the weird encounter at the other place, he sort of chuckled but didn't say anything bad about them. We definitely got the impression that there was a turf war going on over the hikers, since Wee Vill's free services were probably cutting into Hikertown's business. We got there and saw a nice shaded area with picnic tables and an enclosed area where we could set up our tents. There was also a trailer park behind the building with restrooms we could use. And the market was great - after my tent was set up, I got an omelette from the grill.
It was super nice to hang out there as the weather turned worse outside. I shopped for my resupply, got my stuff organized, then headed back in for a burger for dinner. We were able to wait out the rain inside. It was a bit of a windy night, but thankfully it actually didn't rain once we had to be back outside. Heading into the next stretch, the Mojave/LA Aqueduct, it was crazy to see how cold, cloudy, and windy the weather was going to be. Normally, this is perhaps the hottest, driest stretch of trail. People hike it at night to escape the heat! But I guess that isn't an issue for us this year...
Day 45 // 22.8 miles PCT mile 540.3 I had breakfast this morning at the market with Stevie Wonder, Cheer, and a guy named Pierre that I met a while back. After the French Toast, I packed up my stuff and loaded up with water, as this is a pretty long dry stretch. I couldn't find one of my camp shoes anywhere, so I decided to check by the road where we got picked up by the Wee Vill shuttle. Victor, the driver, showed up around 8am, so we loaded up our stuff and got a ride back to the trail. Thankfully I was able to find my other sandal! We new today would be pretty flat, since we pretty much had to just follow the LA Aqueduct most of the day. The first few miles was just walking on a dirt road until we reached it.
We bumped into 3 Bean and Foxtail too - I was excited to have friends to talk to today!
Aqueduct pt. 1 almost looked like a canal, with the water flowing swiftly down.
Aqueduct part 2 was a large metal pipe next to a dirt road - eventually we pretty much just decided to walk on the road, although some Super Mario moments happened on the aqueduct too :) There were Joshua Trees all over the place here too, which was pretty amazing!
Aquaduct pt. 3 was just a flat slab of concrete next to the road again. I put my headphones in for a while as we got closer to the wind farm and the faucet nearby.
I had some really interesting conversations with my friends today too. We walked and talked about how we haven't been keeping up with the news much, except for major stuff. It's been pretty nice actually to disconnect from the constant stream of negativity. We also talked about things we might want to do after the trail. I learned that Cheer has a side business making vegan and gluten free baked goods for coffee shops that she's interested in growing. Eventually, after 18 miles, we made it to the wind farm and filled up on water. I was hoping to camp at the next water source, 24 miles from where we had started.
The wind was picking up and the trail began to climb uphill as we walked towards the windmills. It was a beautiful evening though. The long shadows of the windmill blades filtered across the golden hills.
I caught up with Cheer and we ended up deciding to camp a bit short of the next camp site, since it seemed like it might have more wind protection.
I got set up and fired up my stove, but I had forgotten that I used a lot of fuel to boil my trekking pole tips off. So I ran out and ended up eating cold mashed potatoes for dinner :/ I nodded off to the sound of the wind whipping my tent. Day 46 // 18.2 miles PCT mile 558.5 I woke up a few times during the night from strong winds blowing my tent. Unfortunately, there was a super strong crosswind blowing the ridge of my tent so hard that it was basically collapsing on me, but it kept popping back up, so I figured I could ride it out. Once I realized that the tent wasn't going to fully collapse, I was able to get some sleep. But in the morning I was pretty tired and ended up sleeping in. I could hear a few others leaving, and eventually I got up to go to the bathroom. Cheer, 3 Bean, and Foxtail were gone, but I noticed the crew from Tennessee had rolled in late and were cowboy camping. The wind was getting worse and was still whipping my tent like crazy - I was a little nervous that it might tear or that the poles would be permanently bent. I crawled back inside, ate my breakfast, and started to get ready. I realized that yet again I needed to re-sew the top in my pants - glad I ordered a new pair to Kennedy Meadows! I heard the Tennesseans talking to Songbird who had hiked up, and I started packing everything up. At one point, the wind blew my sleeping mat and ziplocs with my contacts down the trail, and I chased after them like a madwoman to make sure they didn't blow away. Fun start to the morning. I finally got to hiking. I began up the hill with a mile to get to Tylerhorse Canyon, the last water source before 17 miles to town. I couldn't believe how strong the winds were. I fought my way forward into a headwind, and as the trail curved, it would push me from different directions. I felt completely off balance. I had to pause with my back to the wind on several occasions just to catch my breath.
I began heading down towards the canyon, which helped a bit with the wind. I sat and rested and ate a snack. I could tell it would be an exhausting day. Songbird and the Tennessee crew came up and joined me as I filtered water. Soon after, I started an uphill section, again pushed around by the wind. It also started to rain a bit. I put on an audiobook biography of Mr. Rogers and kept pushing my way forward. It was pretty rough, and it kept getting worse as I would climb.
I stopped at a trail register, and one cool thing that I saw was a small notebook log with Starburst's signature. She is a hiker and YouTube vlogger I followed from last year.
I chuckled at a few of the comments left about the wind and kept going.
The next descent was okay, but the climb afterwards was completely miserable. It was getting closer to lunchtime, but I had ascended enough that there wasn't really anything to block the wind. On half of the switchbacks, I was walking directly into a headwind with some gusts that had to be at least 60 mph. And on the other swichbacks, the wind either made me feel unbalanced or blew me sideways into the trail so that I had to do Matrix parkour against the side of the trail to not stumble. I finally just decided to take a short lunch break, but stopping for too long was freezing. Eventually after lunch, I found a spot pretty well shielded from the wind and reuinted with the group behind me. The clouds we're moving so fast overhead, and honestly it really was beautiful.
We hiked onward for a while together after our long break, and I switched to upbeat dance music to try to lift my spirits. The wind kept fighting us, but we carried on.
We started heading down towards another huge wind farm. I was feeling really exhausted, bit I knew town wasn't too far. After winding down the mountain, still fighting the crazy winds, I had some service and was able to check my texts. Cheer and KoolAid were already in town and had space in their hotel room, so I decided to go for that.
I walked towards the road, and a truck pulled up just as I got to the trailhead. They were picking up another hiker who needed a ride to Tehachapi. Perfect timing! They dropped me at the hotel, and what a relief it was to see my friends, sit down, and to be out of the wind. This had definitely been my least favorite hiking day of the whole trail. KoolAid ordered pizza and I had a chance to shower and rest a bit. It was also kind of nice to realize that this day had sucked for all of us - it wasn't just me. Some days on trail are just hard and that's okay. The storm system moving through California right now has been pretty intense - new feet of snow are dumping in the Sierra, which isn't great since I'm less than 150 miles away. Cheer and I plan to stay with a trail angel hosting lots of hikers for the next few days to hopefully wait it out.