PCT Journal: Days 31-40 (SoCal Pt. IV)

Day 31

Mile 398.7 to Mile 419.8

Daily mileage: 21.1

Total PCT mileage: 419.8

Today we hit 400 miles! And saw two (non-poisonous) snakes. 🙂 Similar to the last few days, we saw very few people, and any thru-hikers we came across, we didn’t recognize. We had the goal of making it to a fire station just off trail and we made good timing. By the time we got there though, a small storm was making its way toward us. Since it was windy, we posted up shop just outside of the bathroom to cook dinner. At this point in our thru-hiker lifestyle, we didn’t think twice about this scenario. We pointed out that in real life, this would be disgusting.

Afterward, we started a climb, but only camped a mile or so up the mountain. With the wind going at the rate it was, we were unsure if the tent poles would actually hold up. After a few minutes of playing with the pitch, we were successful. As the fog rolled in, we got into our sleeping bags and watched Everest. It was the perfect night for it!

Day 32

Mile 419.8 to KOA Campground/Acton

Daily mileage: 24.5

Total PCT mileage: 444.3

Steel Toe and I woke up to the cold fog and began hiking with a long day ahead of us. We knew it was roughly 16 miles to water and 24 miles to the campground we wanted to stay at. We hiked through a few obvious burn zones, and took a dirt road detour to stay away from the Poodle Dog Bush. Dirt roads can be a tad boring to walk long miles on, so we played the categories game to kill time. We also met a few volunteers doing trail maintenance.

The Ranger Station that we made it to toward the end of the day was closed due to recent fires, but a volunteer that lives nearby fills the water cache. Plus, there was a cooler of cold soda at a bargain donation of $1! We cooked dinner and moved on to push the remaining 8 miles to the campground. Hot showers, laundry, and pizza delivery were great motivators.

When we finally made it to the campground, we set up near the other thru-hikers and ordered a pizza right away. A large cheese pizza, 7up, and chips truly hit the spot. We were eating by headlamp but couldn’t be happier.

Day 33

KOA Campground/Acton, CA to Hiker Heaven/Agua Dulce, CA

Daily mileage: 10.2

Total PCT mileage: 454.5

Waking up this morning wasn’t the easiest, but Steel Toe and I were okay with sleeping in for a bit. We knew we only had about 10 miles to Agua Dulce, so we indulged in a lazy morning. We could hear kids already running around playing soccer near our tent, so eventually we decided it was best to start the day. A few other tents that belonged to thru-hikers were still up so we felt better about our slow morning.

I FaceTimed with my mom for Mother’s Day and saw the whole Breakfast Club crew. Then Steel Toe called his mom immediately after. We ate some breakfast, which consisted of a muffin and cheese danish between the two of us. While daydreaming about french toast and home fries, a woman walked over and offered to us her leftover home fry and cheese foil packets. So delicious!

On our way to Agua Dulce, we hiked through Vasquez Rocks Park and took our time. The sandstone rock reminded me of Southern Utah. We had some fun by dropping our packs and doing some bouldering. We met some locals who recommended playing on he main attraction, Vasquez Rock, so we took their recommendation and had a blast!

We knew we eventually had to get to Hiker Heaven so we finished up the few miles left and were welcomed by the town of Agua Dulce. The trail goes right through it on a road walk, so before turning off trail to head to the Saufley’s we stopped at Sweetwater Cafe for dinner. I ate way too much and of course made myself feel a bit sick, but I blame it on my eyes being bigger than my stomach.

A mile down the road, we walked into Hiker Heaven, a residence owned by trail angels known as the Saufley’s, where thru-hikers are taken great care of. Showers, laundry, mail services, space to pitch a tent, a kitchen and living room to lounge and watch Netflix – it truly can’t get much better. The only caveat was Cornelius, a feisty rooster who walks around the yard like he owns the place. Dogs, chickens, horses, and thru-hikers made up their entire back yard. We were happy to see familiar faces like Trash Mule, Cookie, and Irish.

Day 34

Hiker Heaven/Agua Dulce, CA to Mile 457.9

Daily mileage: 7 in town + 3.4 PCT

Total PCT mileage: 457.9

We woke up early to the sound of roosters crowing and horses galloping. From where our tent was located, we could clearly hear the animals. It was comical to say the least.

Also, did I mention it’s Steel Toe’s birthday? We took an Uber down to Santa Clarita so that he could do some work-related tasks. A fellow thru-hiker from Oregon, Simon Says, joined us for the trip. We went to the library and glanced around at REI, where I bought a small zip bag for toiletries and first aid stuff, and a short sleeve shirt to replace my long sleeve desert shirt. Steel Toe picked up a few tent stakes, a headlamp, and a new shirt as well.

When we returned to Agua Dulce, we couldn’t help but stop in at Sweetwater Cafe again. Between the friendly server and the delicious food, it wasn’t even a discussion. The server chatted with us about the trail, gave us a milkshake on the house for Steel Toe’s birthday, and even took a photograph for us.

We then walked the mile to Hiker Heaven and gathered our stuff to head out. We organized our resupply, sent the necessary gear home, and said goodbye to everyone. As we were leaving, we ran into Alyssa, Rocket, and Kevin.

We hiked on the road, which was the trail for a few miles, and then as it got dark we decided to set up camp just a few miles into the hills.

Day 35

Mile 457.9 to Casa de Luna

Daily mileage: 20.3

Total PCT mileage: 478.2

Yet again, Steel Toe and I became lazy in the morning and didn’t wake up to the alarm. Since we were already behind our self-made schedule, we took our time to break down camp as we made breakfast and listened to music. Our food bags are filled with 6 days of food plus extra inevitably, so for each meal we plan on stuffing our faces.

We had a few climbs in the morning, but once we accomplished those after 5 miles we were good for the day. At the peak, we had an amazing view of the valley and resevoir below, so we lounged and had some snacks as we laid our sleeping bags out to dry from the condensation that rolled through the night before.

We noticed on the map that there was a road that paralleled the trail, but eliminated the need to walk a mile out of the way to get to Casa de Luna and ran near the edge of the resevoir, so we gave it a shot. We were happy with our choice aside from the resevoir being fenced in, but there were a few minutes when we were hiking on the side of the road which winded around the edge of the mountain that we questioned our judgment. We survived though and walked ourselves into the famous Casa de Luna.

Steel Toe and I, as well as a few others that just arrived, were greeted by Hustler as she gave us a quick tour and motioned for us to read the guidelines. Casa de Luna is owned by the Anderson’s, two generous trail angels who allow PCT hikers to camp on their property, relax in their yard, and indulge in taco salad for dinner and pancakes for breakfast. Their home immediately reminded me of my mother’s home decor- it looks magical, with painted stones and decorations everywhere you look.

We threw on a Hawaiian shirt because that’s rule #2 and headed into the manzanita forest to find a spot to camp. Seeing this little forest for the first time was truly an experience. We wound through a trail that took us through the manzanita trees. Painted rocks and tent sites were scattered throughout. We walked for a few minutes and found the perfect spot to pitch the tent and hang up my prayer flags.

Before dinner, we walked to the convenience store to grab sodas and a pint of pistachio ice cream. Do it for the calories, right? When we returned, I started painting a stone and chatting with Bolo who plays the ukulele on trail, Flora, and Cheerios, as Steel Toe caught up with Irish and Simon Says.

When we lined up for taco salad, Terrie, one of the trail angels, laid out the rules. Steel Toe didn’t follow her rule of not putting his plate over the food so she spanked him with a wooden spoon. It was quite the sight! Afterward, she put on some music as we all danced in front of everyone to get our class of 2018 PCT bandanas that they make every year. Before heading back to the forest, Steel Toe and I chatted with Sarah and 12 Pack, a couple that hiked 900 miles of the PCT last year.

Day 36

Casa de Luna to Mile 490

Daily mileage: 11.8

Total PCT mileage: 490

It was difficult to wake up early at Casa de Luna. The manzanita forest was so peaceful, so Steel Toe and I decided the night prior against setting an alarm. When we finally got up the energy to leave, we made our way to Heart and Soul Cafe just down the road and ordered a delicious breakfast. We took advantage of the WiFi to order a few pieces of gear for the next stops ahead.

Terrie, the owner of Casa de Luna, drove by and took us to the trailhead. She snapped our photo and off we went.

It was 11 am by the time we were back on trail, so the sun was hot, but the wind kept us going strong. We tackled the climb ahead and had the chance to check out some neat caves. After we stopped at a seasonal spring for water, we only hiked a few more miles before setting up camp. The scenery has changed a bit as the last few miles have been very green with lush vegetation. We’re camping near a ridge tonight and even before dark, I can hear owls hooting in the distance.

Day 37

Mile 490 to Mile 514.7

Daily mileage: 24.7

Total PCT mileage: 514.7

Today was our longest day yet. We thought getting to bed early would help to wake up in the morning, but I might have hit snooze a few times. Either way though, we ate breakfast, which consisted of oatmeal and cereal bars, and made some instant coffee, then were on our way.

It wasn’t long before we hit the 500 mile mark! We took a celebratory photo and kept moving. The trail was filled with greenery and in the distance to our west we could see beautiful large mountains with rock slabs.

The two main water sources we stopped at today were large underground tanks. One of them was surrounded by bees and we needed to use a stick with a half water bottle attached to reach the water, so Steel Toe volunteered with his long arms. We only saw three other thru-hikers today, Misfit and two other women. We came to the conclusion that we must be between two bubbles of thru-hikers, but we’re happy with that.

We hit 20 miles and knew that Hikertown was only 7 away, so we kept going a little further because we felt pretty good. We were hiking at a good pace downhill, and as I spotted a small snake I came to a quick halt. Steel Toe knew the drill and quickly realized there must have been a snake in front of me. We enticed it off the trail and continued on.

We found a spot just 3 miles shy of Hikertown, and ate three dinners and a Snicker’s between the two of us. We relaxed in the tent and listened to music as we had a perfect view of the night sky.

Day 38

Mile 514.7 to Mile 533.4

Daily mileage: 18.7

Total PCT mileage: 533.4

Steel Toe and I woke up early to get into Hikertown in time for breakfast. This place has a Hollywood feel, with various small theatrical buildings like a School House and City Hall where thru-hikers can stay the night, shower, and do bucket laundry. Bob, the caretaker of the place who makes his residence in the School House, motioned for us to help ourselves to the shower and relax for as long as we’d like.

After getting a few chores done, we hopped in a van with a few others to be shuttled down to the Neenach Cafe and Market. We ordered breakfast and coffees while we perused the market. Flour tortillas, plantain chips, cheese sticks, sodas, a banana, and wet wipes were purchased between the two of us.

We were shuttled back to Hikertown and relaxed in the heat of the day while our clothes dried on the line. We chatted with Twenty Prime, Stormtrooper, and Snuggles before heading back out. It was 2 pm and the sun was still hot, but the terrain was supposed to be mild.

We walked next to and on the Los Angeles Aqueduct the majority of the time. The sun began to set but we kept moving to attempt to get to the water source 17 miles from Hikertown. The wind was incredibly strong and the trail was essentially a dirt road walk, so we didn’t have the most fun. We came across a note in the sand from Snuggles that read, This Sucks. My acid reflux was acting up and Steel Toe’s blisters weren’t doing so hot, so we decided to camp just 1.5 miles short of the water, sheltered behind a tree to block some of the wind. We were, after all, right next to a wind farm.

Day 39

Mile 533.4 to Mile 551.7

Daily mileage: 18.3

Total PCT mileage: 551.7

Since Steel Toe and I set up camp and fell asleep in the dark last night, I kept waking up forgetting if it was night or morning, and where I was. It seems the more days that go on in a stretch, the more tired I become. Waking up was difficult again, but when we did make it to the water source, we were happy we camped where we did. Being right within the wind farm, we were dealing with strong gusts of wind for the majority of the day. Joshua trees were scattered throughout this area, so that was a neat sight.

Miles and hours later, we headed back into the mountains where the wind dissipated a bit. Without it though, the day became super hot. I could feel myself fighting off dehydration as a headache kept creeping in. Nuun electrolyte tablets have been my go-to, and today was no exception.

We eventually made it up our last climb of the day and miraculously came across trail magic! Two trail angels that live nearby in the mountains keep lawn chairs and an umbrella at this spot, and come by daily to fill the water cache and provide fresh fruit and cookies. We were lucky enough to be around when they made their stop so we were able to thank them for their amazing support.

We only hiked for a few miles further since I was getting pretty tired, Steel Toe developed a new blister, and another wind farm was in our near future. We camped just before to avoid the high winds and plan to head in to Tehachapi tomorrow.

Day 40

Mile 551.7 to Mile 558.5/Hitch to Tehachapi, CA

Daily mileage: 6.8

Total PCT mileage: 558.5

When it was finally light outside I knew it was time to wake up. We weren’t in a tremendous rush to get going, but we did want to get into Tehachapi early. Steel Toe and I hiked through the wind farm and stopped at the road where we were about to attempt to hitch. Just in time, a woman pulled into the lot to drop off a thru-hiker and offered us a ride into town.

When we arrived in Tehachapi, we joined Hitch, Dingo, and Tank in a room at the Best Western. The lobby and pool area were filled with thru-hikers. Our first order of business was to shower, and it felt amazing per usual.

We decided to get most of our chores done today, which included gathering our resupply. Even though Steel Toe’s blisters on the bottom of his foot were still raw, we walked a mile to get to the local plazas. Burger King, ATM, Vietnamese, dollar store resupply, McDonald’s, Albertson’s for snacks, and Walgreens, in that order. We ran into Flora, Cheerios, and Ice Bear at the McDonald’s and since they had a ride back to the hotel, they took our bags for us. Then on our way back, a trail angel pulled over and offered us a ride.

When we returned to the hotel, we did laundry and caught up with Mama Duck who was staying a few rooms over. The trail angel who picked us up from the trail in the morning mentioned a local brewery nearby, so I was intrigued and wanted to scout out the IPAs. We headed over and indulged in a few beers while listening to a band playing for open mic night. We saw that same trail angel and chatted with her for a bit about our journey thus far. I was in my happy place having delicious New England style IPAs.

Hunger took over on our walk back and a convenience store sub for dinner was not out of the question. Steel Toe, Hitch, and I eventually jumped in the hot tub for a bit while Dingo, Tank, and Crayola hung around and chatted with us. We talked about the trail, the people, and everything in between. It’s always great catching up with friends.

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