Just making it through

Miles 545.1-566

The moon was so bright all night and it causes a panic that it’s time to wake up and when I check my phone I still have several hours of sleep. I was up bright and early feeling extra motivated by getting into town. Peaks and Rocky were running a bit behind due an air mattress puncture in the middle of the night so I set off on my own.  


First off I had to tackle the 4 mile climb. As I was hiking up I felt so happy I didn’t do this last night. At the top there was a lovely cache of water and fresh fruit. The kindness and generosity of absolute strangers is overwhelming yet so humbling.   To experience such kindness and not know who to thank makes me want to pay it forward even more.  I did enjoyed these wonderful treats before setting off again but this time with my gratitude tank full. 


I all too soon found myself among the wind turbines again. I understand that this region is know for its wind and they are definitely harvesting their resources. However, it’s just the most unnatural object too date in this hike and I had the pleasure of spending over several hundred thousand footsteps with them in 2 days…perhaps an exaggeration but pretty darn close. I tried to find the beauty around me on this dry and mechanized portion of the trail. Thankfully there were some wildflower and Joshua Trees. 


It started to warm up and I was not feeling very Poppy about the trail at this point. I put my head down while chanting ice cream, hot tub, bed to myself and despite sore feet and hot sun, I practically ran the last 8 miles, maintaining just over 3.5 mph pace. I didn’t see another hiker all morning and early afternoon until I made it to the Best Western at 130.  I quickly showered and did laundry/napped while laundry was doing its thing, then set off to get ice cream. I found a small local diner and ordered a wonderful strawberry milkshake then walked back in the opposite direction to Kmart to buy Epsom salts, soda, more ice cream and a top to wear in the hot tub. I sat in the hot tub, then ordered pizza. After it arrived, I fell asleep and woke up several hours later and ate some it. It’s a good thing they have a fridge and microwave to keep and eat the left over pizza. 

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Too Long

Miles 517.6-545.1
As planned Peaks, Rocky and I were ready to hit the trail early. We are still planning for a 30 miler. The sun was just starting to rise as we approached the canal portion of the aqueduct and its reflection on the water was stunning. Each time I get to watch the sunrise out here is a gift. I love how it transforms the ordinary and at times it’s wonderfully overwhelming. 


We all too quickly passed the waterway and started to walk literally on top of the LA aqueduct. At first it felt so exciting but all too soon it became too long. Along the aqueduct they had spiney rivets that were near impossible to avoid. I tried walking beside it but the sand was too soft. 

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​As the aqueduct went underground, we soon found ourselves presented with 2 options to walk on a compacted gravel or a cemented roadway. At first it was nice to have options but all too soon it too was feeling too long. I would switch from cement to gravel and back but found the the flat terrain was the problem. To date, we have become accustomed to thousands of feet of elevation change several times a day and this was FLAT! We passed by numerous Joshua Trees, many of which were flowering and we learned that the trees to produce a sweet fruit that is edible. Thanks to Peaks’ love for technology we knew by a beep each mile that had passed and our pace constantly throughout the day. 17 miles in was our first water source where we took our second break for the day and it was starting to warm up. The next source was uphill in 6.6 miles but I still carried 2 liters of water, I have this strange anxiety of running out of water especially our here.  What if the next source was dry??  I knew it wasn’t, but what if? We then walked among the wind turbines which are massive as the​​ trail got you up close and personal with them.  It was slow going and soon felt too long as well, thankfully there was wind and clouds intermittently as this whole stretch has no shade. At the next water source I was determined to set mini goals to get myself to the 30 mile mark and to prevent the this is too long from developing. 


​The next 3.5 miles were rolling ups and downs but after 23+ miles, sometimes the elevation gain felt more extreme. I made it to 27.5 miles, but at this point the trail started to show more signs of erosion and a missed step could become treacherous. The next campsite according to Halfmile and Guthooks would require hiking 4 more miles and gaining nearly 2,000 feet of elevation for at total of 31.4 miles. Given the degree of erosion in the last few miles and from what I could see of the trail going up, it was apparent that I would be dealing with similar conditions and I didn’t want to risk it as it would soon be dark. When Peaks and Rocky arrived they felt the same so we set up camp. I felt very satisfied even though I didn’t hit my goal of 30 miles. Another time perhaps. 

We all ate dinner together commiserating on how sore our feet were and feeling proud of our perfected hiker hobble. 

Snow in the desert 

Mile 498.2-517.6

Thankfully the car campers and their shenanigans remained quiet for the rest of the night. Despite all the craziness and being freaked beyond belief I slept so well. I recall rain hitting the tent and periodic gusts of wind. When I woke it was more than apparent that it had snowed overnight and it was quite cold packing up. Fingering numbing and dumbing cold. I was more than motivated to get myself in to Hikertown where I could dry out my rainfly and wash my muddied rain pants and socks which were only going to get worse throughout the day. 

It is still so crazy that we remain on the edge of the Mojave and yet snow fell. I was up and hiking by 630 and was on a mission to get down as soon as possible. I walked in snow for several miles and it was quite cold.  The trail started to descend. I went through bits of frosted leaves, freezing rain capped leaves that rained on my as it warmed. It was great to be out of the clouds finally and be able to look back and still the weather system still impacting the higher elevation. We weaved in and out of various flowering tree/shrubs, my favorite were the ones that smelled like lilacs. 

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All too soon I was low enough and started to get too warm in my rain jacket and pants. If I stopped I quickly got cold so I didn’t stop much and took my one and only break 7.5 miles from Hikertown. I stopped long enough to eat a good snack and drink some water while I talked with a flip/flop thru Hiker 1:11. 

Once I resumed hiking I knew I was definitely back in the desert as the vegetation was drying out and it was just some brown, occasional green shrubbery, wildflowers and loads of cheat grass. The trail follows along a Hunt club and after last night I wasn’t interested in anymore gunfire. Thankfully it wasn’t the season for the club by just barely a few days.  The last mile into Hikertown took FOREVER, as in I checked Halfmile 3 times just to make sure I was moving forward. 

Upon arrival Orion was there along with Confederate, Norm and 2 other hikers who left shortly after I arrived. Scott was barbecuing and threw a burger on for me while I set out to hang my tent to dry. I sat around chitchatting with the gang before deciding to launder my soiled clothing and shower. Because having one burger was not enough, once Optimistic Turtle arrived who arranged a shuttle, the gang all piled into an RV and we were driven to Wee Vill to the most amazing burger place ever.  I enjoyed a plain cheeseburger, chocolate milk and a Sprite. I also purchased hand cream for my burned and dried out hands and face. Note to self handcream is not intended for the face, it burns. I tried to get some of the other hikers to join me tomorrow in attempting a 30 mile day across the LA aqueduct, but unfortunately no takers. 

After returning to Hikertown, Peaks and Rocky had arrived. They opted to sleep in this morning when the realized it snowed. When I asked if they wanted to join me for a 30 mile day tomorrow they both immediately agreed. Yay!!! 

A bit of PNW in SoCal

Miles 478.2-498.2

As strange as it is for me to say it but I slept so well last night!!!  The change? Could have been sheer exhaustion or wearing my earbuds as ear plugs. It started to lightly rain early in the morning, at first it sounded like leaves softly hitting my tent before I realized it was rain. Thankfully I woke up as I remembered I hung some socks to dry outside. Peaks, Rocky and myself secured a ride out at 6 am back the trailhead which mean we escaped the vortex!!!  The Anderson’s are known for hikers staying for extended periods of time. Each morning they make pancakes and hot coffee and by the time they finish new hikers arrive so they stay to chat and find themselves eating yet another taco salad. 

Pied Piper joined us for the car ride to the trailhead. We were all walking by 630. It was a cold, windy and wet start to the day and did not let up except a few times when the sun tried very hard to make a special visit.  


​The trail was a steady uphill with some descents thrown in. I tried to imagine the views beyond and found myself thinking about Scotland, Germany and New England…I’ve only been to 2/3 but hey that’s what an imagination is for anyhow. The mist and low lying clouds that hung over the trail piqued my interest and sometimes seemed as though I was walking in a dream. It’s weird to see all this green and know we are right on the edge of the Mojave!  Just before 230 Peaks, Rocky and myself arrived at Sawmill Campground…a less than stellar area with loads of broken glass, shell casings, and poorly adhered to fire rings. At least they have a pit toilet and trash cans!!  

I tried to dry out my rainfly in the wind but ultimately just decided to set up my tent so that I could get out of my wet shoes and socks. Crazy macerated feet. Thankfully my rain jacket, pants and umbrella did a good job keeping the rest of me dry. I tucked inside my tent and donned nearly every dry article of clothing I have to warm up while I cooked an interesting dinner of lemonade  chicken ramen (I flavored all my water prior to leaving this morning oops), Milky Way, string cheese, jerky.  My water filter, gas canister and battery items are all in the sleeping bag to keep them operable as it’s going to get close to freezing tonight, brrr!!


Tomorrow looks like rain again so I am thinking of pushing on to get to hikertown where I can dry out inside. Fingers crossed they have space. 

Just popping in again…lying in my tent some car campers arrive. Somebody is  chopping wood and swearing so much so that it sounds as though they are beating somebody up.  I am questioning my desire to stay…it’s too cold to pack up and it’s drizzling again. What do I do?? 

So it just got worse, they are now shooting a series of different guns at what I’m not sure….wood, people, rattlesnakes?  But it sounds like they are ambushing or murdering people. Seriously freaked out right now. Texting Peaks and Rocky does help and Peaks did call 911, but they couldn’t do anything. 

Hooray for rain and hail because they have now stopped. Hoping for a peaceful night. 

A day at Casa De Luna

Mile 468.2-478.2

Well my decision to not use my air mattress was not the wisest, could not find a comfortable position and tossed and turned more than usual. It was also quite warm with the sleeping bag as a blanket and too cold without. My knee felt good when I woke so I was very pleased. 

By 615, I was packed and on the trail drinking carnation instant breakfast and coffee. I must have been moving quickly because the miles flew by and I managed 10 miles by 930.  It was warm, but not as warm as the previous mornings had been. There were pockets of refreshing cold air when the trail switched in areas around seasonal creeks and that made me very happy. The whole area was green and was a nice switch from the last few days. There was ample water so the water carry was minimal, yet another thing that made my day. I arrived at Casa De Luna around 1030. This place is so different than Hiker Heaven. Arriving on Cinco De Mayo was an adventure even early in the morning. I set up my camp space among the Manzanita Forest and chatted a bit before going with a few hikers to the local cafe for burger, fries and a crazy good thick strawberry milkshake. 


Back at the Casa I painted my rock and drew my trail name on the infamous sheet draped over the garage. I enjoyed the typical massive Taco Salad dinner before heading off to bed. Hoping to escape the vortex that this place has in preventing people from leaving, but given that this isn’t my scene I’m suspecting will not be as big deal.   I can say I’m very glad I stopped, Terri Anderson who just had knee surgery was very hospitable and gives the best welcome hugs ever and the fact that she opens her home to all of us stinky hikers is just amazing. Thank you!! 

Optimism

Mile 454-468.2

Taking every opportunity the last two and half days at Hiker Heaven to rest, elevate, gently stretch and ice my knee I woke this morning feeling better. I opted to try a practice walk just under a mile into town just and back. I found Sir John and Wookie had buddied up and made it into town and were at a local eatery. It was great to see them again. You never know if you’ll run into a hiker again.  I chatted with them a bit before heading to the store for cold beverages. I found banana milk and couldn’t resist. I must be feeling dehydrated because I grab a soda, OJ, and Gatorade as well. I walked back to Hiker Heaven and felt great. Proactively I iced my knee and started thinking I could head back on the trail later in the evening once it cooled off. As the day progressed I continued to feel great and decided I would resume hiking. Whimsy was wanting to try night hiking and asked if we could do it together as it was her first time and of course I was game. Sir John and Wookie borrowed Sugar Mamas truck and were going to get ice and dropped us along with Snowcat off at the trailhead. 

We started hiking about 545/6pm. I started off slowly testing every step for the first few miles and then suddenly I knew I was feeling great and picked up my speed and continued to feel well. I loved walking in the cool evening air as the sun set. 


Once we made it to the top we needed to don our head torches and snake our way down. Snowcat’s head torch ran out of juice and he had to walk between Whimsy and I until we were able to locate a flat camp spot for him. It was very nerve racking for me because he had to follow so closely and I feared he would slip on a rock or something and cause me to fall. Thankfully it all ended well. During this time I saw my first tarantula.  I’m glad to report that I didn’t fall down a cliff, however,  may have screamed and backpedaled’s quite a bit. The creatures of the night are equally as freaky as those during the day. 


Whimsy and I carried on once he was set up. At first we planned to camp at a site a few miles up ahead but missed it , besides it was too close to the road anyhow. 


The next available was for only one person. Looking at both the Halfmile and Guthooks apps we realized the next campsite was 2.2 miles ahead and I knew I felt well enough to continue on. We arrived just before 11pm. The camp space was very spacious and we both set up camp, had a quick bite to eat and set out to fall asleep underneath the powerline with all its crackling. I thought I would simplify save time and try to use just my foldable pad I use during the day for seated rest breaks. We shall see….

Slippery Slope

Mile 436.2-444.3

Pied, Orion and I are all early morning risers for different reasons. Pied likes his coffee and a little smoke; Orion needs to tend to his horses and I greatly dislike hiking in the heat. I was the first to set off. I’m walking as the sun crests over the tallest hills. I am thinking it can’t get any better than this…quiet time early in the morning with the sun rising. 


Within the first 5 miles Pied passes me and then takes a break for more coffee and smoke. Because it’s getting hot (I was using my sun umbrella before 830) I decide to hike on to the Acton KOA campground. I am daydreaming of ice cream and cold soda as I walk past wild sage and open vista views. 

Then just 0.8 miles from the KOA, I know the distance exactly because I checked Halfmile once I got myself back on trail, a dark colored rattlesnake is crossing the trail as I am already stepping forward on a very steep decent. I’m not sure what occurred after and how exactly it happened but I end up falling 20 feet down the cliff side. I know I was head first, then rolled, then feet first chest against the cliff, rolled again before self arresting my digging my feet into the dirt/rocks before stopping against a little bush. I quickly assessed myself…no apparent snake bite, phew…then assessed the situation. Climbing down didn’t make sense as I worried snakes would be lurking on the sunny cliff side. Climbing up was difficult…sometimes I would slip losing everything I gained but eventually made it back to the trail. I know I tweaked my right knee (the one I destroyed skiing years ago). I have only two options: to hike down or sit and wallow in despair with a resident rattlesnake. I chose the first. Below is a picture that either Buffy or her dad Papa Bear took of a same colored rattlesnake in the same location the following day.  


Slowly I walked myself down and into the KOA. I was a mess, dirty, shirt torn and skirt, cuts everywhere. I was so shaken that upon entering the office/store, my lower lip was shaking like a 4 year old girl and I was near tears. I was led to the bathroom where I was able to wash the gouges and cuts to my hands. The manager then kindly drove me to Hiker Heaven where I had my resupply sent and was planning a zero day tomorrow. Still shaken upon arriving at Hiker Heaven, I just sat on the ground, put ice on my knee and slathered antibiotic ointment all over. 

While in hindsight I know he was trying being very helpful, there was a hiker who just rubbed me the wrong way in every which way about the event and how he tried assist. Then on top of it, he pushed his phone in my face and took a picture. He sent it to me and here it is. I look so ridiculously pathetic. 

I slowly gathered my wits and decided to shower so I could rest, elevate and ice my knee. To make matters worse one lowly tick managed to hide inside my hiking shirt from the day before and decided to attach on my stomach…thankfully it was only there at the most 3 hours. So gross. Now I have to watch for not only a gangrenous infection from my numerous cuts but also about Lyme and other tick borne diseases…just a mild case of hyperchondria. 

Later into the day Pied and Orion showed up who were also going to be zeroing. It’s nice to have friends, however new, around. That night we all along with Donna (the homeowner of Hiker Heaven),  several other legendary hikers and New York Times columnists sat around and shot the breeze as if it were the most normal grouping. It’s crazy and yet so amazingly wonderful how this trail brings all sorts of people together. We are one and the support and care we all have for another is unlike anyplace I have ever witnessed. I feel blessed everyday I am out here and not a single day goes by that I do not appreciate it.