…and I would walk 500 more.
I had to do it, sorry.
Day 35 (mile 444 – 465)
Today was the day I’d get back on trail. First I needed to resupply which I did at Trader Joe’s so I knew I’d be eating great for the next week (one of the perks of reaupplying in a big city).
After this we headed back to the trail. I was eager to get back to hiking, especially since I’d left my hiking poles behind and a friend brought them to a hostel just a few miles ahead.
I started hiking from Vasquez Rocks, a famous filming location (Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, etc). This would be the first time really hiking alone since the beginning so I was definitely a little anxious. Even just three days off and I felt a little rusty hiking.
I headed into the town of Agua Dulce just a mile or so down the road to the hostel “Hiker Heaven”. I didn’t plan on staying the night since it was only noon but I needed to pick my hiking poles up and I wanted to check the place out.
I didn’t stay long but it looked like a really cool place – well run too. You can see all the hiker tents set up in the backyard. I got my poles which were thankfully there in storage and headed back onto the trail.
The trail wound up through the hills and I could tell there was some weather beginning to form. At the top of the hills there were some pretty cool grassy fields. It reminded me a lot of some of the pictures I’ve seen of the Appalachian Trail.
I was feeling good hiking so I kept going farther than I had originally planned. The goal was to stop at one of the tent sites marked on my map but when I got there all the spots were taken. So I had to keep walking. But the weather was getting worse and worse as the fog moved in, plus it was getting dark. So I found a somewhat flat patch of ground off the trail and pitched my tent. It was rocky and exposed but I needed to set up camp before dark.
Day 36 (mile 465 – 481)
I woke up several times throughout the night to my tent violently flapping in the wind. The storms had moved in alright. And I had pitched my tent in an exposed spot meaning I’d have to endure the full force of the wind. There was also plenty of rain – thankfully my tent held up and I stayed dry.
Getting packed up and moving was especially difficult because my tent was soaking wet and my hands were freezing. I don’t think it ever got out of the 40s all day. Combined with the wind and rain and this was probably my worst day of hiking so far. I don’t like to complain but I was definitely feeling low and it took a lot for me to make the miles I wanted. Being alone probably wasn’t helping.
Eventually, late in the day, I got some glimpses of the sun. And then just when I thought the day would turn in my favor it hailed for 30 minutes straight. No pictures of it because I was too cold and frustrated to take my phone out of my pocket.
I hiked a little ways more and found a great single tent spot sheltered from the wind with some great views. At least the day ended alright.
Day 37 (mile 481 – 501)
It was another windy, rainy night so my tent never really had a chance to ever dry out which was unfortunate. But it looked like today things might clear up a little more so I was hopeful.
It was still super cold though, despite being late May, so I had to bundle up a bit to hike.
But I could tell today was going to be much better than yesterday at least. The clouds weren’t as heavy and the sun seemed to be breaking them up. I pretty much had to go up all day today so better weather would definitely be a morale boost. Check out this weird fruit/seed thing I found.
Also found a cave you could go way far back in. This would be my emergency shelter if the weather turned bad again.
All the clouds behind me were clearing out but of course the one ugly spot of weather was hanging our right where I was headed.
Thankfully as I continued along the trail into the seemingly bad weather the sun came through and burned all the clouds off. In just a matter of minutes the sky was almost completely sunny and the views were gorgeous. I still hadn’t gotten used to how quickly things changed out here.
And would you believe it, I found this magical table at the top of one of the mountains in this beautiful grassy forest area. They don’t call me Tables for nothing – of course I ate my lunch here.
The one good thing about all the rain was everything was brilliantly green. It was almost summer in the desert and I honestly felt like I was somewhere in the Eastern US.With the sun shining and all the green surrounding me I was feeling pretty good. Much better than the day before. And I passed the 500 mile mark (hence the title of the post)!
Day 38 (mile 501 – 518)
Today I’d be heading into Hikertown, an infamous hostel right off the PCT before the equally infamous LA aqueduct section of trail. Hikertown has such a mixed reputation on trail but I saw that the weather was going to get bad again soon so I just wanted to get somewhere where I could stay dry. The hike to Hikertown was beautiful and the day was actually super clear.
Sometimes you have to get your water from a rainwater collector using a makeshift Gatorade bottle scoop. It worked pretty well actually! Good tasting water too.
The hike down to Hikertown was great and the weather was perfect.
As I got close, I started to descend rapidly to the desert floor below. The next section after Hikertown was the La aqueduct section. The trail follows the LA aqueduct for about 20 miles straight through the Mojave desert, one of the hottest and driest places in the country.
Those mountains way off in the distance is where I’d be headed in the following days. Before the mountains is the Mojave desert which I’d have to cross soon.
After following a dirt road for a bit I arrived in Hikertown.
This place is basically just a hostel for PCT hikers modeled after an old west town. It was actually really well done if just a bit run down. The caretakers were so nice and got me set up with a room right away. The room was tiny but for 10 bucks a night can you really complain? Anything just to stay dry really.
I was in the middle one.
Now when I met the owner of Hikertown things got interesting. To be honest, there’s too much to say about him and the history of Hikertown in this post but I just can’t so I’ll give you some highlights. You could do a whole mini-series on this place.
– Hikertown and the convenience store down the road are owned by a very wealthy oil guy who apparently also produced movies and was almost ambassador to the Philippines. Also knows Donald Trump.
– There’s another store farther down the road that also caters to hikers, bit the rich guy doesn’t like this competition. Says that this store is dangerous and that everyone nearby are meth heads so avoid at all costs.
– Hikers go there anyways, rich guy doesn’t like this. Gives me a ride to his store in his Ferarri and asks me to be the PR guy for his store. You know, spread the word to the other hikers that this is the place to be and that other store is no good.
– Thing is, everyone I know going to the other store says it’s just fine and the people are friendly.
– Decide I want to stay out of this feud and instead just observe the hilarious small town drama.
There’s a whole lot more going on here like how the rich guy doesn’t even like his own store that much but his wife does and so he keeps it going to keep her happy. Apparently his wife felt bad for the homeless looking hikers. To top it all off, the rich guy owns the whole area and town of Neenach (where this all takes place, pop. 860). Apparently he has big plans for the space although he was unfortunately vague about the details.
I did some digging and I think this is the plan, which if completed would be huge. It would also threaten both stores and probably ruin Hikertown.
So it looks like this guy is trying to build a city from the ground up in the middle of nowhere. Oh yeah, here he is passing out ice cream to us hikers. Nice guy, definitely a little strange.
Here’s all his awards and photos with important people.
If I was a journalist I’d come back here and do a proper story on this whole bizarre situation. But anyways, back to me.
The beautiful clear day turned into rain and everyone gathered into the few sheltered spots. We did have a nice barbecue for dinner so everyone was thrilled to get a hot meal.
Day 39 (n/a)
I decided to take a full zero day to let the weather pass. That’s about it.
Day 40 (mile 518 – 542)
With the weather somewhat cleared up I headed out in the morning. The storm that had passed overnight looked beautiful in the morning light.
Today was the big day, I’d be hiking 23 miles through the Mojave desert along the LA aqueduct which brings water to the city. Normally temperatures would be pushing 100 but today it hardly got over 50. I guess this was the upside of having to put up with all the rain.
Early on in the section you follow the aqueduct for a little ways as it flows above ground in a kind of canal.
Then you turn off onto a very large pipe which seems to extend forever. I think this pipe was piping water to the aqueduct bit I’m not 100% sure. Regardless, it made for some great views.
The trail was literally this pipe for a few miles and then it just transitioned into a dirt road that cut straight through the desert for miles.
There was no water or shade this whole 23 mile stretch which was ok because of the cool temperatures. I couldn’t imagine doing this when it’s over 100. Behind me the clouds looked stormy and ominous – thankfully they were moving the other direction. I had sun pretty much all day.
Eventually, after walking nearly 15 miles by noon, I entered the wind farm which I had been seeing for miles. It was here that I saw my first bobcat but it was too skittish and it darted off before I could take a picture.
And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I entered the wind farm it got incredibly windy. Who’s surprised? You probably can’t tell but those mountains in the distance all have snow on top. The storms which passed through dusted those mountains with snow but the clouds make it pretty much impossible to see. Crazy to think the desert was getting snow almost in June.
I walked through the wind farm for a few more miles then climbed up a ways into a little creek canyon where I’d camp for the night. There was plenty of water and shelter from the wind (or so I thought).
This was probably one of my favorite days. Even though it was cool all day it really felt like I was in the desert proper. Everything was so wide open and I barely saw anyone all day so it was a really special experience.
Day 41 (mile 542 – 558)
All night I laid awake willing my tent to stay standing through the absolutely insane wind coming through the valley. I had never felt wind like this before and my poor tent was getting an absolute beating. But she held fast and we made it through the night, even if I only slept maybe 1 hour total.
The day was mostly clear though, to start at least.
What you can’t see in these pictures is that same wind from the night before only stronger. There were points where I honestly couldn’t take a step forward because the wind was just that strong. Several times it blew me off the trail so thankfully there were no steep sections. Seriously, I can’t emphasize enough how strong this wind was. Maybe a picture will help.
Normally this is a spot for trail magic and hikers to just sit around and hang out away from the sun.
Well everything was completely blown over and strewn all about the place. On top of the crazy wind we had temperatures in the 40s so I was freezing the minute I stopped hiking. At least it was sunny and not raining, right?
Wrong. It was sunny for the morning. But then the weather went south as was tradition on this trail it seemed.
Heavy clouds with fog and rain moved in. And as you can see I was in a wind farm again so, yes, it was still insanely windy on top of everything else. At this point my hands and fingers were far colder than I liked and I was getting sick of hearing the wind whipping in my ears and knocking me all over the place so I hiked quickly to the road. Apparently it was easy to hitchhike into town from this road but I didn’t even have the chance to find out. As soon as I walked up, a car pulled into the dirt pull-off and asked if anyone needed a ride into town. I guess he saw a bunch of cold, wet, and tired hikers and felt bad for us.
It felt great to arrive in town and get a room where I could be dry and out of that crazy wind.
I’d be staying here for a while as more bad weather was moving through and I still had plenty of time to kill before I could safely enter the mountains in 150 miles.