PCT 2019: Day 35, Messenger Flat Campground to Acton KOA

One little piggie ate pizza

Yellow and white flowers

I took my time packing and leaving camp this morning.

Forgive me if it seems I have said that every day so far. Maybe I have, but the pace of this hike hasn’t changed a lot. At least lately we are hiking a few more miles on most days.

Today’s mileage was a little short, but that was because we were headed to a commercial campground where we could shower and do laundry. Better still, it was an opportunity to eat pizza and drink beer, which in my mind are essential ingredients for a successful thru-hike.

DateSunday, April 28, 2019
WeatherIncreasing clouds with a high temperature in the mid 70s
Trail ConditionsSome overgrown sections, ups and downs
Today's Miles13.9
Trip Miles445.5

As I was eating breakfast and packing my gear, I had to stay alert in the area around my tent. I discovered more small patches of poodle dog bush there than I had realized when I set up last night.

I didn’t step on any plants, but a couple times I caught myself just as I was about to step on one.

View of Soledad Canyon from Messenger Peak

Soon after leaving camp, the trail followed a ledge around the north side of Messenger Peak. The ledge overlooked Soledad Canyon, which was where the Acton KOA Campground was located.

From this vantage point I was able to receive a cellphone signal, so I sent a text message to Kim to let her know I was still alive. I hadn't been able to do that since leaving Wrightwood four days ago.

Climb up barren ridge

Like Pacifico Mountain yesterday, Messenger Peak was impacted by the Station Fire in 2009. Once the trail began to descend from the mountain there were no trees.

Some shade would have been nice. Today was another warm day, though it was a few degrees cooler than yesterday.

View of clouds or smoke in the distance

There were more clouds today. In addition to the clouds above me, I could see in the distance what looked like low clouds blanketing a valley.

A short time later I met a hiker who said she thought the clouds were smoke from a fire that was burning near Big Bear Lake. That didn’t seem likely to me because Big Bear Lake was roughly 75 miles away in the opposite direction.

Flowering manzanita

I also noticed during the descent from Messenger Peak small flowers in the shape of upside-down urns. They were growing on the ends of manzanita branches.

Later in the summer, these bushes will develop berries that resemble small apples. They are edible and very sour, but are said to have medicinal and nutritional value.

Lone tree on ridge

By 9:30 a.m. the sun was high enough in the sky to make it more obvious that I was seeing smoke, not low clouds, in Soledad Canyon. Fortunately, the fire did not appear to be near the KOA campground where I was headed.

descending trail

Today's segment of trail was nearly all downhill, descending 5,000 feet in just under 14 miles. I was making good time, so I knew when I reached North Fork Ranger Station I could take a break there.

Picnic area at North Fork Ranger Station

When I arrived at the ranger station I found a picnic area. I expected to find tramily members relaxing there, but they were all gone. This made me think I was going more slowly than I had thought.

The time was 10:45 a.m., which was too early for lunch, but I stopped anyway for a snack.

Flowers on trail

I didn’t mind that I was hiking alone. The trail was easy and the views were nice. As a bonus, there were many wildflowers to see along this section.

Mountain lilac flowers

Mountain lilac flowers were especially showy along the trail past the ranger station.

Trail over ridge

The trail’s long descent was broken up by a short climb up the spine of a ridge. It was not difficult and soon the descent continued.

I eventually caught up with Captain, Gromit and Simple Man at Mattox Canyon Creek. Captain was just leaving when I arrived, but Gromit and Simple Man remained there, so I chatted with them while I filtered water and ate lunch.

After finishing lunch and gulping down some extra water I continued down the trail. There was another climb after the creek and this one was not as easy. The temperature was getting hotter, but because I had just finished a break with water and food, I powered up the 400-foot hill without much trouble.

horned lizard

Along the way I saw a horned lizard, also known as a horny toad. These aren’t easy to see in the desert because of their camouflage coloration.

Other desert lizards nervously dart across and down the trail with a burst of speed, so they are difficult to photograph. Taking a picture of this horned lizard was much easier. The first defense used by this species is to try to avoid detection by remaining still. It will run off if the suspected threat comes much closer.

Closer view of Soledad Canyon

By mid-afternoon, the highway at the bottom of Soledad Canyon came into view. Just beyond it were railroad tracks.

This area was an important copper and gold mining area in the 1860s. The railroad was constructed in 1876. Today the tracks provide commuter service between Lancaster and Los Angeles.

Tent at Acton KOA

After reaching the bottom, I had another three-tenths of a mile to walk along Soledad Canyon Road to the KOA campground.

While checking in at the campground, I learned that I could get a towel, soap, and shampoo for the shower, but the towel required a deposit. I almost had a problem with this later. I decided to not do laundry here because there would be more time for that at our next stop, which would be tomorrow at Hiker Heaven.

As I waited for an Uber driver to pick us up and take us into Acton for dinner, I suddenly remembered the camp store would not be open until 9 a.m. If I didn’t get my deposit back now, I would not be able to get it when I returned tonight because the store would be closed by then. I certainly didn’t want to wait in camp until the store opened in the morning.

I ran back to my tent, grabbed the towel, and was able to collect my deposit money back just as the driver was pulling into the parking lot in front of the store.

Hikers eating pizza

The driver took us to The Pizza Place, about 7.5 miles from the campground. The whole Woohoo Crew except MJ was there and we were joined by three other hikers. Duke and Duchess, who I hadn’t seen since Mike’s Place, ate with us, along with a hiker who had the same trail name as our Gilligan.

Because he was a guy, we started calling him Gilli-guy to keep the two straight.

I devoured all but one slice of my pizza, not because it was especially good, but because I was especially hungry. Hiker hunger was now fully set in.

When we returned to the campground, I took the remaining slice with me. It didn’t last through the night.

One little piggie ate pizza
One little piggie ate potato chips
This little piggie's comin' over your house
Gonna level with your sweet lips


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.