I woke up in the abandoned campground and got my stuff ready, looking at my maps while I chewed on my broken poptarts. 24 miles to Agua Dulce. I’ve never done 24 miles before… so, why not? Let’s do it. I got my stuff together and made my way back to the PCT. Naturally it started to go uphill. Then it kept going. The PCT is basically a trail that just goes up and over every mountain it possibly can.
I made it to the top of the first mountain of the day and looked down. I think I can see Agua Dulce ahead? I dunno, all I know is that it’s going to be a long stretch of downhill. My first destination of the day was a ranger station to pick up some water, I could see it in the distance. I turned on my audiobook and hopped down to the ranger station. When I got there I asked a passing hiker where the water was, where I was informed that there was soda and Snickers ahead. Oh. My. Gyahd. I walked over to the ranger station and stood in front of a giant white cooler. Please let there be Coke. Please let there be…. I opened the lid.
OHMYGODITSCOKEOHMYGOD. I pulled the can out of the cooler, grabbed a snickers, threw a donation in their jar, and made my way over to a picnic table. I opened my can of amazing and took a sip. It tastes better than ever. I took a bite of the Snickers. I suddenly like Snickers now. I sat at the table in a state of sugary bliss for a while and let other hikers know of the magic up ahead. Some people came by and sat and talked with me for a while which was nice, but I had a big day ahead of me. I need to get going first off because there’s only so many hours in a day to hike, but it’s also probably going to get crazy hot pretty soon. I said goodbye and got going.
I continued on downhill and the sand went from usual sand to almost a white chalk totally caking me. I sat down and took a break on a flat campsite for a moment to let my knee have a second to recuperate. As I sat there the sun blared down on my skin, so I took a handful of the white sand and poured it over my exposed skin to provide a little protection while I took my break. It worked out pretty well actually. I sent a message to my dad and got a response: He’s leaving the trail angel business for a little while due to crazy back pain. He’s worried about me being alone out here but I mean.. I kinda planned on that being the case in the first place.
I got up and pushed on. I swear I didn’t think I’d ever get out of this mountain range. As I walked it just stretched on forever and the trail was taking the most indirect route to escape this city of intense heat and dust. As I walked my throat became increasingly dry no matter how much water I was drinking and soon my breathing became ragged, I couldn’t talk normally. I’m so hot, I’m so thirsty, I’m so ready to get out of this area. I pushed on for a while until I could make out the Acton KOA in the distance. I’ll probably stop there for water and grab some salty snacks.
I looked at my maps to determine how far it was and decided to take a look at Agua Dulce spur of the moment where I noticed there wasn’t any lodging. Um. Let me make something clear here, I don’t really care what kind of hotel it is. I don’t care if there’s no beds in there or any services, I just like to have my own space. I can stay at Hiker Haven, but then my only luxury I care about of having my own space to just chill for a moment is gone. I stopped walking and plopped down. What am I going to do? What if I can’t camp close to Agua Dulce and just do a nero? My mood took a turn for the worse. Hiker Haven is definitely going to be packed. I guess I can just cut my day short and stay at the Acton KOA.. I don’t want to do that but I’ll at least have my own space to take care of some town chores, then I can hike into Agua Dulce the next day to take care of groceries and leave.
I made my way down and finally started coming directly out of the mountains and soon found myself in a parking lot. I put my pack down and started to sit at a shaded picnic table when a man approached me. It’s CopperTone! Mobile Trail Angel!
“I’ve got shade and doughnuts over here” He announced.
“That sounds incredible.” I replied.
I picked my pack up, walked over to his mobile home, and sat under the shade on one of the many camp chairs provided. I cleaned my hands with supplied wet wipes and took a doughnut. It tasted incredible.
“Thank you so much” I said with a mouthful of doughnut.
We sat and talked for a while and out of curiosity I asked how many hikers came through the day previously. This might finalize my plans on where I’ll stay for the night.
He took a look through his register.
“Oh about 50 or so” he replied.
Yep, I’m not going to Hiker Haven.
“Well I guess I’ll just go take a look at the Acton KOA instead then” I said.
“It’ll be crowded there too, it’s Memorial Day weekend”
“Well, I’m going to go check it out. Thank you so much for the food, do you take donations or..?” I asked.
“Nah, I put out a bucket a while ago and I have enough to get by” He replied.
Fuck anyone who says people Trail Angel for money. I’ve heard it suggested in the past by some hikers. These people are genuinely amazing.
“I suppose I’ll see you in a week or so!” I said waving goodbye. CopperTone jumps ahead on trail and stays there for a week then moves on. I’ll certainly see him again at some point.
I made my way down to the road where I saw a familiar face. I walked up for a closer look. Yep, I definitely know this guy. Plastered on a billboard was a hiker named Mac who’s blog I read incessantly before hitting the PCT. The KOA is using one of his images to advertise to PCT hikers. I laughed, took a picture, and moved on downhill for the hiker access to the KOA. When I finally got there my heart dropped. It’s RV city here. Tents everywhere. Music blaring from every direction, shouting and noises all over the place. Exactly why I like having my own space. I guess I’ll look around and see what’s going on at least, maybe there will be a more isolated corner of the park I can camp? At the very least I’ll grab some snacks and maybe take a shower here.
I worked my way through the park and found the little store, bought a Coke, V8, Munchies, Ruffles, and an ice cream sandwich. I asked the cashier if there’s any spots open for another tent and was informed that the whole place was booked up. Fuck. Ah well, I have snacks right? And I can still use the showers I’m sure. I sat on the porch and ate my snacks trying to ignore the noise around me, but the noise eventually won out. I threw away my trash, grabbed my pack, and made my way to the showers. Totally full. Okay well fuck everything about this place. I started to feel a little pissed off, I need to get out of here. I left as fast as I possibly could.
I made my way through the brush outside the KOA, crossed some railroad tracks, and found myself at the foot of another mountain range. Normally I don’t care about elevation gain, but I was annoyed. I grumbled at the trail as I made my way up the hill. It’s so fucking hot out here, if I weren’t trying to make it to Agua Dulce for reasons unknown to me at this point I’d take a break. Just then all my little annoyances with the day accumulated and weighed me down. I need to just stop walking for a minute to chill out. I slowed down and looked behind me to make sure I didn’t need to let someone pass. Someone was behind me. I stepped off trail to let them by, but they just stopped walking.
I sat there for a minute. Are… are you going to go by or..? Okay then. I pressed on for a ways. Maybe they just didn’t want to pass me on a narrow portion of the trail, I dunno. I stopped again to let them by. They stopped when I did. Would you just fucking-Oh my god just go by. They didn’t budge. I desperately need a minute alone to sort through whatever’s dragging me down and just get on with my day. So I took off and pushed it as fast as I could up the first mountain and hopped back down in my usual Jackrabbit fashion. The insanity that being alone can be difficult on the PCT sometimes got under my skin and I really boiled over. I’m hot, I’m thirsty, I don’t know what to do about my camping situation for the night. I took inventory of my water.
Oh. Well shit I didn’t refill my bottles at the KOA. I was in such a hurry to leave that I totally forgot. I have enough to make it to Agua Dulce but forget about doing a nearo at this point. Now I’m really stuck. I think what the Sauffleys do at Hiker Haven is so incredibly cool, I just don’t want to be there. But I don’t have a choice at this point I guess, I have to stop in Agua Dulce to resupply. I hiked on still slightly annoyed, but I took my frustration and turned it into hiking energy to get over this mountain range. It worked wonderfully and I eventually found myself at the top of the last hill overlooking Vazquez Rocks and Agua Dulce. More importantly a very strong breeze blew by and cooled me off immediately. Yeah I’m taking a break here. I went off trail, walked along the ridge stepping over plants, and plopped down at a tentsite to sit in the breeze for a while.
Why was I so mad? The heat doesn’t help.. at all. But moreover I’ve been through worse things on the trail and I just push on. This is just such a small inconvenience that doesn’t really amount to anything at all. I was looking forward to having a moment to chill alone, it didn’t happen, big deal. I laughed a little bit, it was actually kind of childish. But so it goes, I’m ultimately just happy to be out here. I’ll do whatever I can to stay on trail. I made a mental note not to get all irritated if something like this happens again, there’s always a slight amount of guilt that goes along with bad moods out here for me. How can I possibly be in a bad mood when I’m out here hiking? I can sleep virtually anywhere, I have the gear for it. My only problem is water, but I’ll figure that out later.
Elated to see the end of this last mountain range I hopped downhill and found myself beneath the freeway. I wound my way along the trail and stood in front of a large tunnel. Probably the most famous tunnel of the PCT, I’ve seen it in pictures and videos all over the place. I made my way through enjoying the shade and got a message from my dad. I told him I wasn’t sure where I was staying for the night as there was no lodging. He was still in the area and would come get me. I had a few pieces of gear in his truck still that I’d need for the Sierra, so this worked out pretty well. I gave him the okay and he went on his way.
The tunnel spit me out near Vazuquez Rocks. I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve been looking forward to this for a very long time. I love crazy rock formations, it reminds me of childhood trips to Southern Utah for backpacking, hiking, etc. This is exactly the kind of end I needed to the day. All my concerns about water and everything else that bothered me about the day completely melted away. I don’t care what happens, because I’m right here right now in this amazing place.
When I made it to the most famous rock of them all as seen in all kinds of movies, I got another message from my dad. His back took a turn for the worse. An ambulance is on the way to come get him and take him to the hospital. Well then. I downloaded the Uber app and signed up. I’ll just Uber my way down to Victorville.. an hour and a half away. It’s getting dark so there’s no way I’m hitchiking my way down.
I made my way through the rocky park and got lost an immeasurable amount of times, which was fine by me. This place is incredible, an excuse to explore a bit more was welcome. The sun was setting and set fire to the rocks around me. The air was the kind of cool summer air you think of when you were coming home late from another day of adventures as a kid while on break. Yeah, a good way to end the day despite all the negative events.
I miraculously found my way out of the park and onto the road leading to the city center of Agua Dulce. I’d call for a ride there as I was sure to have better cellphone reception. As I made my way down the road I got a call from my dad. The ambulance arrived just to tell him that there was no room in the hospital and they refused to help him in any way. Why the hell did they even come out then? Since he was already stuck in his car due to back pain, he’d come get me anyways and I could help him out. He’d be here in an hour or so.
I made my way to the downtown complex with it’s 6 destinations and sat on a patch of dirt outside of the parking lot. I could smell the food in the air. Food. Fooooooood. I wanted to go and eat but restaraunts generally don’t allow hikers to take their packs in. And I smell exceptionally horrible right now. And I don’t know how long it will take for my food to be ready. I’ll eat later. I sat in the dirt for about an hour just watching the sun go down, abundantly aware of passersby staring at me, some of them stopping their cars to take a glance. I don’t even know what I look like right now, but it must be pretty bad. Most people assume anyone with a backpack is a hiker, most people are aware of the PCT. Not tonight I guess.
The sun was down for a good while when my dad pulled into the parking lot. I made my way over to his truck, threw my pack in, and sat down for the hour drive into Victorville. My brother’s flying down and will drive my dad to a surgeon for his back problems. I haven’t seen my brother in a long time, so I’m going to take some time off to help out as much as I can and to hang out with my family. When I get back to the trail I’m going to hike harder than I ever have before. My body feels great, after my 24 mile day I really wasn’t all that fatigued. I’m ready to do high mile days. I’m ready to hit the next phase of the PCT experience. I’m ready for the Sierra. It’s so close. But before I get to that, I have the hottest stretch of the desert ahead of me. It’s also the driest. Challenge accepted.
I went over the events of the day one more time to reason through them. I came out here to forego instant rewards and living easily. I came out here to find myself in situations like this. I just came out here to hike at the end of the day. It’s hard to live up to past expectations you place on yourself sometimes, but I’m living the experience I wanted to live. It can be hard sometimes, but things always work out in the end out here so long as you accept whatever solution comes your way.
Bonus image of the day: The sun is literally baking me slowly.
Tehachapi is my last town stop in the desert, then I’ll be in the Sierra! I don’t know when you guys will hear from me again, but it’ll definitely happen in some capacity.