Side trail to Mike's Place

The less we say about it the better

Day 10, Tentsite at Mile 114. 7 to Mike’s Place

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Every day on the trail so far has been interesting, but for today that would be an incomplete description. The word just doesn’t do it justice.

Different, maybe? Unusual? Strange?

Yes, definitely strange.

Weather Mostly sunny, then partly cloudy; breezy, with a high temperature in the mid 60s
Trail Conditions Four rock-hop stream crossings, then the rockiest section so far, with some long climbs and descents
Today's Miles 12.2 miles
Trip Miles 126.9 miles

The day started out ordinary enough. I spent some time talking to Christine, a hiker from New Zealand. She had camped with us last night. Or more accurately, we descended upon her where she was camped. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to mind the company.

Christine's PCT thru-hike attempt was just one of her many world travels and adventures, which she writes about in her blog.

Sandy trail along Agua Caliente Creek

Tengo and I were the last to leave camp. We started walking at 7:30 a.m.

The trail followed Agua Caliente Creek on a sandy trail before making the first of four water crossings.

Sketchy crossing on Agua Caliente Creek

The first crossing was a little sketchy, with only a few small logs provided as a makeshift bridge. Despite offering little footing, no one had trouble crossing the creek.

Stopping for Bookworm

A short distance away Tengo and I arrived where Bookworm and the other tramily members who continued down the trail last night had camped. There was definitely more room here than where Christine, Tengo, Captain, Gilligan, Rainbow Sherbet, Deva and I had camped.

Bookworm was the last of the group to leave camp, so we waited for him to finish packing.

Leaving Agua Caliente Creek

After the fourth creek crossing, the trail began a long climb of nearly 2,000 feet.

The footpath was filled with many more rocks than I had seen on the trail so far. Still, these rocks were nothing like the rocks I often saw on the Appalachian Trail. They didn’t slow me down.

manzanita shrubs

As the trail climbed, it was often lined with manzanita shrubs. Their twisted branches had smooth, orange/red and sometimes white bark.

Continuing the climb

The climb was steady and continuous, but not difficult. We were heading to an elevation of just above 5,000 feet.

Mountain view

Before long, distant mountains came into view. The trail never went as high as the ridge went, but instead weaved in and out of the folds of the ridge’s side.

I stopped to send a text to Kim with a photo of my view. She replied, “It is even better than you had heard it would be!”

She was right.

manzanita grove

At times, the view was blocked by long rows of manzanita that lined the trail.

Because I had stopped to text Kim, I fell behind Tengo and Bookworm.

Rocky trail

I also began to slow down because now the rocks on the trail were larger.

They reminded me of rocks in New Hampshire on the AT and that reminded me an audiobook copy of “A Walk in Woods” by Bill Bryson was on my phone. It had been several years since I had read it, so I decided to listen to it.

Maybe it would take my mind off the rocks, I thought.

Large boulders

After stopping for texting, photos, and launching the audiobook, I figured by now I was far enough behind the others I wouldn't see them until I reached our destination. I was surprised then when I came upon Tengo, Hootenanny and MJ. A short distance later I saw Captain, Gilligan and Deva. They hadn’t been going as fast I thought, or maybe I hadn't been walking as slowly as I thought.

Still, I was feeling a little sluggish, and when the group started hiking again I didn’t try to keep up.

Along the way I noticed a red bandana lying on the trail. I guessed it belonged to Duchess, because I thought I remembered seeing it when I met her yesterday at Warner Springs Community Center.

I picked it up, thinking there was a good chance she would be at Mike’s Place when I arrived there.

Water tanks at Mike's Place

I reached the spur trail that led to Mike’s Place a few minutes after 2 p.m. There were three large water tanks on the trail, but only one contained water.

Bookworm was standing nearby and was looking at the weather forecast on his phone. He said it called for wind gusts of up to 35 mph, with a chance of rain and fog.

The weather had been nicely clear and comfortable today, so I wasn’t pleased to hear the forecast.

Tramily at Mike's Place

Besides seeing the tramily, there were a few other hikers at Mike’s Place when I arrived, including Steel Belted, Just Awesome, Duke and Duchess. I was correct in thinking the bandana belonged to Duchess and she was glad to get it back.

This was a strange place, so it seemed fitting the caretaker would be a guy named Strange Bird. He was nowhere to be found, but eventually someone discovered a note he left saying he had gone into town.

Mike's Place kitchen

Our trail guide said the owner allowed hikers to stay here, but it was hard to figure out where we were to stay. In fact, it was difficult to see what else the property was used for.

Along with the water tanks, scattered about the grounds were odd assortment of buildings, some equipment vaguely related to agriculture and mostly rusting, and an old RV.

Some of hikers found a drum set and a couple other instruments on a porch at the house, and began playing something almost recognizable as music.

Besides strange, another description for Mike’s Place might be creepy. Nothing seemed normal. Certainly, the place was a trash dump. Junk was laying everywhere.

“I don’t want to be mean, but what does the caretaker take care of?” I asked the other hikers.

We sat around on a collection of mismatched, rusting chairs and decrepit benches. At first we were uncertain if we would stay, but as the wind picked up and the air turned colder, we decided to stay.

We hoped Strange Bird would arrive soon and tell us where we should camp, but he never did. By 5:15 p.m. I decided to set up my tent in the best place I could find that was sheltered from the wind.

Some hikers set up their sleeping bags in the screened porch of the house, and a few others decided to camp in the RV. No one knew if this was okay, but it seemed a safe bet because there didn’t seem to be any rules here.

The wind break I was hoping to get from the surrounding manzanita wasn’t very effective. The wind blew hard and I noticed sand was blowing into my tent. I put on my Buff to cover my nose and mouth so I wouldn't be breathing sand all night long.

Because I had gone to bed so early, I decided to listen to more of “A Walk in the Woods.” Not unexpectedly, I soon fell asleep while the book continued to play. When I awoke I discovered I had missed two chapters of the book.

I tried to not dwell too much on how weird this day had turned out. Maybe Mike’s Place wasn’t that strange, just different?

Actually, no. I would learn tomorrow that strange was the correct word to put on it.

Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me around
I feel numb, born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground, head in the sky
It's okay, I know nothing's wrong, nothing

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