Last time I wrote I had arrived at Agua Dulce. I stayed one night there at the Saufley's. Everybody stays there at least one night.
Donna Saufley does your laundry. She does it like everything there is done. First you go to the pavilion where a couple of racks of loaner clothes are available. You select your outfit then pick up a towel and a laundry basket. You write your name on a post-it and stick it to your laundry basket. Then you go to the shower.
You take your shower, put all your clothes in the basket, put on your loaner clothes and set your laundry in the garage. A few hours or so later, your clean clothes are ready for you on the porch of the guest house.
Everything works like that. It's very organized and makes for a smooth stay. One thing that's truly amazing is that there are loaner cars and you can drive them in to Los Angeles to do some shopping. That is what I did. I went to REI in Northridge and bought a new backpack, an Osprey Aura 65. I can truly say now with a few days of hiking with 5 liters in my pack that it's a miracle. It weighs a pound or two more than my old pack but it makes the 5 liters of water feel like the day before a resupply. Ultralight doesn't always work.
While at the Saufley's I read some of my mail. Looks like I caused a stir on the PCT-L list when I said I didn't have rain gear to endure the weather in Wrightwood. People were calling me a neophyte and stupid for not having proper equipment. One of those people was Mrs. Saufley. I felt a little uncomfortable being there. In my defense, I did have something for rain, just not for heavy rain and certainly not for a combination of rain and snow so deep I couldn't set up my tent. Nobody expected that storm, not even the people of Wrightwood who had to save their newly planted gardens from the unexpected winter weather.
So after a night at the Saufley's I headed out of Agua Dulce with a man named Graybeard. You have to walk the roads for several miles to get back to trail tread again. The roads are the trail. The actual trail began on a hot chaparral mountain called Sierra Pelona. The climbing was not very pleasant but not terribly steep. I started around noon so by about 5pm or so I reached a nice spot with a little spring and that's where I camped. It is called Bear Spring.
I filtered water from the spring and cooked some dinner. Graybeard is like a lot of the other hikers. He brings only chemicals and no filter so if the water doesn't look clean or isn't deep enough to fill a bottle he either waits for better water or relies upon a water cache. A lot of hikers rely on the caches. I'm starting to feel like I'm walking in a sea of discarded plastic bottles. The caches are beginning to get on my nerves. I'm sure I'll see less of them soon.
There is a little meadow there so I set up my tent in the long grass. The ground was a bit lumpy but soft and the lumps seemed to be in strategic places for good sleep. My quilt kept me warm enough and I slept well.
In the morning (May 30 and exactly one month now since I began), Graybeard took off quickly. I lingered in the nice meadow and ate my breakfast. Then I sauntered on my way. The next stop would be the Casa de Luna.
I felt great with my new pack and was hiking in the groove. I met Graybeard sitting on the trail resting. He started hiking with me again. The trail was still in chaparral and the weather was nice.
At some point in the morning we came upon a little nook carved into the chaparral filled with lawn chairs and skeletons and pink flamingos and a blow-up monkey and several bottles of water and a big cooler that had once held cactus coolers, beer and soda. I took the last 7-Up and sat on the lounge chair. What a wonderful place!
I rested there with Graybeard and two other guys. We took pictures of the place and enjoyed our rest. The spot is called the Oasis and is stocked by the Andersons, who own Casa de Luna.
Some time around noon we reached the Green Valley ranger station and had lunch with Beautiful and Gorgeous. I really wanted to go to Casa de Luna to see what it was all about, so Graybeard came with me. We made a feeble attempt at hitchhiking and failed and ended up walking the 2 miles to the place.
Casa de Luna is the Anderson's house. It is hard to describe. There were a bunch of chairs around a burning fire and a futon in the driveway. People were lounging and napping. There were coolers in the driveway full of beer, soda and water. There was a lot of junk all around, much of it interesting, and backpacks everywhere. Most people seemed to be in a state of either intoxication or its aftermath. The house was in a shady place under oak trees in this tiny little town and on the garage door was a huge cloth banner with the words Casa de Luna and everybody hiking the PCT this year had signed it.
Out in back you could walk for at least 1/4 mile into a forest of manzanita and select a site to sleep. I selected one next to a large wooly blue curls plant in full bloom. It reminded me some of Figueroa Mountain campground.
At night Mrs. Anderson fixed taco salad. Dozens of hikers appeared to eat it and seconds and thirds. After dinner, which was served pretty late at 8:30, I went to bed.
In the middle of the night I was awakened by the sound of people hooting and cheering. Much debauchery was happening. I later saw pictures of oil wrestling. I wished I hadn't seen them. I think I have scars on my retinas now.
In the morning tequila bottles and beer cans were strewn about and I pretty much figured the pancake breakfast would really be lunch so I packed up and headed out for a stop at the little Heart and Soul cafe.
At the cafe I ordered a soy cafe latte and a donut. The latte was very good. As I was chatting with the owner, Graybeard and Data appeared saying that Chuck Norris (or is it Chuck Snorris, I'm not sure) would be giving rides to the trailhead. So when he showed up we all jumped in and back to the trail we went.
It was now May 31. I set out as quickly as possible. I felt like hiking alone without chit-chat. The trail was again in chaparral, kind of uninspiring but not too hot so it was nice. I could see Lake Hughes in the distance but opted not to make a stop.
By mid-day it was pretty hot so I stopped at a place with pine trees that sort of looked like a campground in the making and made a call to Tony just to chat. I reached him and we had a nice chat. He's buying more lumber.
I continued on and the trail went on forever in and out of little ravines paralelling a road the entire time. At one spot I passed a bunch of piles of cut branches and trees each with a piece of plastic sheeting tangled within the pile. How strange.
After I passed that, the trail turned suddenly very pretty. I walked through shade cast by the prettiest oak trees and big cone spruce trees. Every one of my favorite wildflowers seemed to be in bloom. It was the prettiest trail yet.
After 20 miles I stopped at Sawmill Camp. A few others stopped as well. Data, 1000 Canadian Snow Kittens (Darren's new trail name) and Lil' Wrangler. Also Kirsten and Adrien who now go by Danger Prone and Hawkeye, and Steve who Tony met the other day.
It seemed really warm even though it was windy. My quilt was very toasty. It really does seem to work best with the straps around the pad rather than around your body. The little micro-breezes don't get in that way. I also experimented with my tent and added a couple of guy lines to the back so I can pull it away from me. When it's windy the back bows in toward my face. Now it'll stay away from me, hopefully.
In the morning, June 1, I got up very early and got started at 6AM, which I like to do. Nobody else was up yet. I headed down the trail. It continued to be as pretty as yesterday but there were less flowers. I could tell there had been carpets of them earlier in the season in some places.
At one spot there supposedly was a water source so I went to check it out. Despite being in a 30 mile no-water section, there was indeed plenty of water in the source. I filtered a liter grateful I am smart enough to carry a filter. You can get water out of difficult places with a filter. The source was a fiberglass tank designed so that small animals can get inside to get water. The surface is rough so they won't slip and drown. I'm not a small animal but my filter could reach.
The trail descended out of the pretty forest. After I rested at a nice picnic table along the way, the trail dropped into the San Andreas Rift Valley on Pine Mountain Road. I passed a sag pond, which is a pond formed in the fault in low-lying spots. There were red-winged blackbirds and ducks enjoying the pond. Shortly afterwards was a little creek. I stopped and washed my two shirts and my pits and brushed my hair and teeth. It's hard to waste water in a 30 mile no-water zone on teeth brushing so it felt nice to do it. Now I was ready for town.
But first I had to endure trail that the book described as "annoying". Annoying is right. The trail seemed to be designed by the Tejon Ranch specifically to say to you "We are the Mighty Tejon Ranch and that'll teach you to tread anywhere near our private property." The trail went in and out and up and down headed in the opposite direction I had been plodding all morning. What a waste! I should have chosen a dirt road out of Bear Camp and just walked straight down rather than endure all that.
The trail deposited me at the Pear Blossom Highway in the Antelope Valley next to a place called Hikertown. You can come here and get shade and water and even sleep over and use the Internet if you like. A bunch of people are here thinking they will sleep a little in the afternoon and then start night-hiking across the valley. I'm feeling peer pressure to do the same, but this really was my final goal for the day. 20 miles and my feet are pretty tired. I did 20 miles yesterday, too, and it's 40 to Tehachapi so that's two more 20 mile days. I think that's good enough for me.
I got a ride to Gil's Country Store down the street where there were meager provisions, unless you need Mexican spices and then there were plenty. I bought a few things. I'm not very good at estimating my food needs and I was sort of running out of the little extras like dried fruit. I bought raisins in a Mexican spice bag. I guess they're a Mexican spice. I also bought some food to eat right away. I drank a cranberry juice, a naked juice, ate a bag of sunchips and half a chicken pesto sandwhich plus a cup of ice cream that Data begged me to help him eat. That ought to tide me over until tomorrow. Or until I eat the other half of that sandwhich.
Well, that's my update for today. Next I'll make my way across the Antelope Valley along the LA Aqueduct toward Tehachapi. I hope I can get a ride into Tehachapi. It's too far to walk.
Here's a poem I wrote in honor of reaching (and passing) the 500 mile mark:
There's puss in my sock, there's puss in my sock
It came from the blister with the big blood clot
There's puss in my shoe, there's puss in my shoe
500 miles, what more can I do?
In the morning the trail tread tilted to the left
From 2pm to supper time it tilted to the right
My pinky toes look like meat, it gives me quite a fright
If I get more hungry, I might just take a bite
With 2100 miles left to go it's useless to complain
My feet will have to learn to endure the endless pain
Onward I go, my pinky toes too
500 miles, what more can I do?