An unsettling feeling has followed me on the trail for several days and it has grown stronger each day. I know I shouldn’t do it, but I keep thinking about what lies ahead.
The closer I get to the Sierra, the more I ponder what I will do when I get there, which should be in a little over two weeks.
The mountains received about 200 percent more snow than normal this year and it’s not going away quickly.
|Date||Sunday, April 28, 2019|
|Weather||Foggy and cool in the morning, becoming partly cloudy and warming to the upper 60s|
|Trail Conditions||Long but easy climb and descent, then road walking |
One option is to continue hiking through the mountains, but I’m unlikely to do that. I know myself well enough to know I would find it difficult and wouldn’t enjoy it.
It’s not that I want to take the easy way out, but I often tell myself that thru-hiking is hard enough. I shouldn't purposefully make it harder. “I signed up for hiking, not mountaineering,” is something I’ve started saying.
But what are my other options? I can only think of two that allow me to complete my goal of hiking every mile of the PCT in 2019. One involves skipping ahead to a section that has less snow, then picking up the skipped section later. The other is to go home for a few weeks, then start hiking south from the Canadian border when the snow has mostly melted there.
Maybe my unsettled feelings stem from knowing my options mean I might not be able to continue hiking with the Woohoo Crew.
I was feeling especially agitated this morning by these thoughts. The weather didn’t help.
Everything was covered in dew when I woke up. A misty cloud hung low in Soledad Canyon.
I quickly packed my things and left. Most of the Woohoo Crew were still in their tents. I left just after 7 a.m. before everyone else.
Soon after getting back on the trail, I had to cross the Santa Clara River. The water was so shallow that calling it a river seemed grandiose.
Perhaps that was why I took the crossing a little too nonchalantly and slipped on a log. I didn’t fall in, but got a foot wet.
After crossing the river and the train tracks that were on the other side, I reached a stone pylon with a small metal disc embedded in the top. This was a marker to recognize the completion of the PCT in June 1993.
A formal dedication ceremony was held at this spot, but the actual location of where the trail became connected from end to end was farther up the trail. The marker was placed here so that the ceremony could be held where it was easier for officials to reach.
Words on the disc said that the trail was 2,638 miles in length. Today it is said to be 2,653.1 miles long, though that number isn’t official. Keeping track of the true length is difficult because of changes in its path each year.
The air remained cool and the fog became thicker as I began a long climb from the canyon bottom and up a ridge.
There were a couple other hikers on the trail, but none of the tramily that I could see.
While the fog began to clear after 8:30 a.m., the sky remained hazy for another hour.
The trail got much easier after the initial climb. It continued over rolling, grassy hills.
Despite the hazy sky, I was now able to see distant ridges. This was an enjoyable section of trail because of the weather and terrain.
A tall yucca plant glistened with droplets left from the morning’s fog.
More flowers could be seen as the trail went over a couple more ridges before descending toward California Highway 14 and Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park.
A tunnel went under the highway, which is also known as the Antelope Valley Freeway.
By now the time was 11 a.m. and the weather was becoming warmer. I stopped just before the tunnel entrance where there was some shade. While I was taking my short break, Steel Belted, Falls and Rainbow Sherbet caught up to me.
When I was finished with my break, Falls and Rainbow Sherbet stayed behind to wait for the others, but Steel Belted left with me.
We entered the park, which featured many unique rock formations. Some were weathered and round, while others were broken and jagged.
Being a Sunday, there were many horseback riders and day hikers on the trail today. We had to step off the trail more than once when horses came by.
The trail meandered between several rock outcroppings and then through a narrow canyon.
I stopped to take many pictures, but Steel Belted stopped more frequently. I didn’t intend to, but I soon left him behind.
Some of these rocks looked familiar. That’s because the park has often been used as the location for movies, TV shows, and music videos. It’s been used so often, in fact, that a Wikipedia page was created to list as many as possible.
The park has been especially popular as a filming location for western and science fiction shows, including at least one episode of all of the Star Trek series. One rock formation is so closely associated with that series it has gained the nickname "Kirk's Rock.”
I stopped near Kirk’s Rock to chat briefly with a couple day hikers. They told me their son had completed the Appalachian Trail in 2017, the same year I did, but I didn’t recall meeting him. He was now hiking the PCT and was about 350 miles behind me.
Before long I had reached the high point of the park and could look down toward the town of Agua Dulce. This was a small community with a few businesses and a population of a little over 3,300. The trail went through the middle of town and my destination, Hiker Heaven, was on the edge of town.
When I arrived in the business section of town I walked first to a grocery store to check it out. I had read the store was struggling to stay open and was not well-stocked for hikers.
Duke and Duchess were there and we agreed a resupply from here was doable, though not that great.
I wasn’t going to need to buy much because of the box of food waiting at Hiker Heaven, which we had shipped a few days ago from Wrightwood.
I kept an eye out for the road, expecting to see tramily members walk by. After a while, however, I decided I was too hungry to wait for them so I went across the street to get something to eat at Sweetwater Bar and Grill.
While waiting for my food I continued to look for the tramily. Finally, they walked by, so I ran out to let them know where I was. Steel Belted came in to join me, but the rest elected to keep on going to Hiker Heaven. Some of them were hoping to get an Uber ride into Santa Clarita.
After lunch Steel Belted and I checked out a little more of Agua Dulce, then started walking to the hostel. Up ahead, I saw a pickup truck stop for Marmalade and another hiker. I shouted, “Got room for two more?” The driver waited for Steel Belted and me to jump in.
Though I called Hiker Heaven a hostel, the name doesn’t do it justice. In fact, it is difficult to describe the place.
The owners, Donna and Jeff Saufley, are true trail angels. They opened all of their property to hikers and don’t require payment.
I counted more than 30 tents squeezed into their yard today.
Nearby were some large tents set up for hiker needs, like charging electronic devices and repairing gear. Loaner towels and clothes were provided, as were two showers.
Just as Scout and Frodo had done, Donna and Jeff had volunteers on hand to help with some of the chores, such as doing laundry and tracking down packages that had been shipped there.
Donna and Jeff tried once before to close Hiker Heaven, but they have announced again they intend to close. If they do, I feel fortunate to be among the last class of PCT hikers to stay there.
I picked up a couple boxes I had sent here, the memory cards I ordered on the trail and a new pair of shoes, Altra Lone Peak 4s.
Including some training hikes, the shoes had a little more than 500 miles on them and were definitely in need of replacement. A large hole had worn through the side of my right shoe and my sock was now poking through. I couldn’t have gone much farther in the old pair.
Though I wasn’t surprised to only get 500 miles of use out of the shoes, I was disappointed in the way they failed. I thought maybe the wear was caused by the microspikes I wore on snow and hoped the next pair would hold up better, if not last longer.
Another piece of gear I decided to replace was my Sawyer Micro Squeeze water filter. This was a big disappointment. It was promoted as being smaller than the regular Squeeze filter, but provided a flow rate that was nearly as good. I only found that to be true for a couple weeks. Now it was painfully slow to use.
I sent a text message to Gilly, who was one of the tramily members who took an Uber to REI, and asked her to pick up a regular Squeeze for me.
MJ was here, so after I showered I chatted with her to catch up on the couple days she had hiked alone from the group. Then I picked up my clean laundry and prepared a box to send home my microspikes.
Regardless of whether or not I was going to continue hiking through the Sierra, I didn’t want to carry their extra weight right now. If I needed them, I could always have Kim send them back to me.
Once the chores were done I walked back to Sweetwater Bar and Grill with Spamalot, Just Awesome, Falls, Boston Chris, and a hiker I just met, Roundup. On the way, we waved hello to the rest of the tramily, who were returning in an Uber from their resupply run.
We returned to Hiker Heaven after dinner. As I crawled into my tent, I thought more about my feelings of uncertainty. I’m the kind of person who likes to have a plan in place. Right now, there was no plan.
In a phone conversation I had this afternoon with Kim, she urged me to wait until I reached Kennedy Meadows to decide what to do.
I’ve been trying to do that all along, but suddenly, what she said sunk in. It wasn’t so much what she said, but the confidence in which she said it. Then I knew I would make the right decision when the time was right.
Until then, I will just enjoy my time on the trail with my little band of friends.