Weeks 5 & 6: Play Before Fear

By on Jun 4, 2017 in All, Gear, Town Life, Trail Life | 3 comments

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Day 35 – 37: Agua Dulce to Green Valley

Miles 454.5 – 478.2

I always find leaving the comforts of town difficult.  From chili cheese fries to cartons of ice cream, I love to gorge myself with loads of calorie dense fast food. While I love the trail, I need to mentally prepare for the physical journey ahead. Leaving Agua Dulce, was made easier with the knowledge that the next town I’d stop in was only 24 miles away and the home of another legendary trail family, The Anderson’s.

I got a late start at 8 AM and headed out of town. I walked by a woman watering the church lawn at the edge of town and waved hello. I was greeted with a smile and asked if I wanted food. I’d already resuppplied and didn’t really want to carry more weight. I was also eager to begin the days climb, but when she mentioned she had a significant amount of fresh produce I had to check it out.

I was shown into a church classroom and saw tables full of fruits, vegetables, breads, etc. I grabbed a banana and a handful of strawberries and was told the food was donated by Trader Joe’s. She led me to a stocked refrigerator full of salads asking if I’d like one. I spotted a salad with edamame, feta cheese, green beans, and broccoli and gladly accepted. I’d have a rare healthy lunch later that afternoon.

I left the church and began the days ascent. It would be a blistering hot day and I was thankful I had my umbrella for some much needed shade. During the course of the 20 mile day, my ankle began flaring up again. I’d noticed it hurting the day prior to arriving in Agua Dulce. I’ve spoken to a doctor over the phone and it appears I have Achilles tendonitis, a common over-use injury. This may be an injury I need to manage for the foreseeable future.

My daily regimen of ibuprofen and a German horse steroid cream seems to be making the stiffness and pain bearable. I joke that the cream is a German steroid due to the inability to buy it in America. The active ingredient is diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory.

Casa de Luna

I reached Casa de Luna, home of the Anderson’s the next morning just in time for their pancake breakfast. Every morning they serve pancakes and every evening they serve a different dinner. That night would be Tuesday and I’d be in for a treat, their legendary taco salad.

Hiker Heaven and Casa de Luna are like yin and yang.  Hiker Heaven is a model of efficiency servicing everything from rides to the L.A. REI to mailing packages while Casa de Luna is more of a hippie commune. In addition to food, Casa de Luna provides rock painting allowing hikers to place their art throughout the camping area, fingernail painting which was a hit with many of the guys and a community marijuana bowl which was also very popular. Another Anderson tradition involves the PCT class bandana, a beautifully designed bandana used to hitchhike with the words “To Town” and “To Trail” written along the sides. To earn your bandana, you’re required to dance for Mrs. Anderson.

Rock painting

The Swiss do each other’s nails

One of the biggest differences I witnessed between Hiker Heaven and Casa de Luna is that Mrs. Anderson seems to want to interact with the hikers more whereas Mrs. Saufley allows hikers to stay but is a bit more removed. Mrs. Anderson has also developed a reputation as a butt grabber, something I experienced firsthand. I love both places for different reasons. Thank you for being so amazing!!!

I arrived at the Anderson’s the day after Memorial Day and there were still several bands hanging around from the show they’d played the previous night. They’d play an encore show for us that evening. Good times all around.

Day 37 – 39: Green Valley to Hikertown

Miles 478.2 – 517.6

I got 5 on it

I’d leave the Anderson’s the next afternoon and begin the last 40 mile section before arriving at Hikertown in the Mojave Desert. The section was fairly uneventful. However, this was a buggy section with biting flies that drew blood. I’d hit the 500 mile marker, on a merciless hot day. Seeking shelter in the shade resulted in being swarmed by dozens of annoying flies. I’d also camp at a site inhabited by 100’s of spiders which discouraged cowboy camping on an extremely windy night.

The hot temperatures were encouraging hiking earlier and later separated by longer siestas. I’d complete my 10 by 10 (10 miles by 10 AM) arriving at Hikertown with the temperature already pushing 90.

Hikertown

Hikertown is a hostil at the edge of Lancaster, CA marking the start of the Mojave Desert. It also has a bit of a reputation of being creepy. Hikertown is a western themed lot hosting bunk houses in the shapes of saloons, banks, sheriff’s office, etc. I didn’t spend much time there but heard from other hikers that the place was filthy.

Instead, I caught a ride 8 miles down the road to the Wee Ville Market, possibly my favorite convenient store all-time. The Wee Ville Market is extremely hiker friendly providing a grass camping area adjoining the store. They provide showers, rides to and from trail, and fantastic food for a good price. I highly recommend stopping by. The only negative was we were warned their well water and all the others in the area contained arsenic but we’d be fine since we weren’t drinking much. Ok…

The next section involved hiking a 17 mile waterless stretch across the Mojave Desert and a hiker named Splinter decided that wasn’t a big enough challenge. Instead she wanted to complete the 24/24/24 challenge. There are several PCT challenges including a pancake eating challenge, hiking across Oregon in 14 days (which requires hiking 30+ miles/ day), hiking 50+ miles in Oregon over a single day and the 24/24/24 challenge which is typically attempted between Hiker Heaven and Casa de Luna. The challenge requires drinking 24 beers in 24 hours while hiking 24 miles.

While still stupid, completing the challenge after Hiker Heaven gives a person a chance to recover at Casa de Luna. Completing the challenge in the Mojave could be potentially deadly. Despite many hikers discouraging Splinter she was adamant and finished 13 beers before the group was heading out at 7:30 PM.

Day 39 – 41: Hikertown to Tehachapi

Miles 517.6 – 558.5

L.A. Aqueduct

I’d rested most of the day and tried to sleep despite the miserably dry heat. I’d hiked 10 miles that morning and the plan was to hike at least 20 more that evening to get through the waterless section avoiding the hot midday temperatures. The hike would run along the L.A. Aqueduct before turning into a wind farm. My body felt good but the thought of a 30 mile day and hiking until the early morning hours was daunting.

About a mile into my night hike, I broke my trekking pole. I use collapsible Black Diamond poles I’ve had for years. Earlier in the day I’d collapsed the poles during my hitch. Re-extending them, there was no tension in my pole and the 3 sections were dangling limply. A bad start. After fumbling with the pole for a minute, I folded it up and attached it to my pack. I’d only have 1 pole for the remainder of the evening. A passing hiker named Pika suggested I change my name to Equipment Malfunction.

The buried L.A. Aqueduct

The Aqueduct begins in an open channel but quickly transitions underground to a steel pipe. Further on, it would again transition into a flat cement slab and darkness would descend. The moonlit night would offer only the shadows of sparsely placed Joshua trees and the hike became monotonous. I passed what appeared to be an eerily abandoned RV park that looked like the backdrop of your classic horror movie. Fighting off images of shadow people, I fought to keep my eyes open. I’d walked 12 miles by midnight before deciding I was too tired to make the water pump.

Falling short of my mileage goal left a long hot 11 mile morning hike to my predetermined siesta location near a stream. After arriving, I’d take a nap for several hours before heading out for another night hike. That day my other trekking pole would suffer a similar malfunction. I’d had those poles for years and used them for nearly 1,000 miles. I’d duct tape a solution and continue on. Waking for sunrise, I’d hike 12 more miles by noon and catch a hitch into Tehachapi.

Hiker takeover

How many people can we fit in a room?

Tehachapi is a fine town for resupply and I’d spend 2 nights at the Best Western crammed into a room with 6 other hikers. I decided to slackpack 8 miles of the trail the next day meaning I could leave my pack at the motel and just carry water.

The most challenging part of this town was the other hikers. We’re about 8 days away from Kennedy Meadows and a fear has descended on the community. The upcoming water crossings will be brutal not only because they’ll require crossing freezing water from snow melt but also because they’re potentially deadly. They are not to be underestimated. The next month will be the biggest challenge yet and many hikers are skipping the Sierras for safety.

I’m going through. At least I’m going to attempt to go through. I’ve invested too much time, money, and energy to derail my trip due to warnings on Facebook forums from people I don’t know. Honestly, I’m scared. However, some people are getting through. I didn’t embark on this quest because I thought it would be easy. I have to give it my best, and if it’s impassable I’ll figure out an alternative.

Misc:

3 Comments

  1. Mike Cushing

    June 11, 2017

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    You can listen to Stephen King’s Under the Dome — 35 hours long! Looks like you’re having a great time man. Stay safe!

  2. Claire

    June 12, 2017

    Post a Reply

    Hi, David. I had to leave the trail at Cajon Pass. I’ve now been going back and reading fellow hikers’ experiences and impressions of the trail from the start, and following your/their future progress. Please, please be careful. Making good decisions requires unaltered mental status; The fine-line transition from thinking clearly to being *unable to recognize* that you aren’t can creep up on you. Avoid things that can cause mental changes like hyperthermia, hypothermia, electrolyte imbalance, dehydration. Wishing you safe travels.

  3. Rich

    June 12, 2017

    Post a Reply

    Love reading your words David. Stay strong through the next stretch. One book series I’ve been listening to on tape is The Expanse series. It’s sci fi more on the hard sci fi side. I think it offers an interesting possible glimpse into the near future. Good luck on your next miles!

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