I was trying to keep an open mind about our destination as we walked there today. We were heading to Hiker Town, a hostel with a somewhat questionable reputation.
Though some hikers have made upbeat, positive comments about the place, others were extremely negative about it. Reading the comments, I had a hard time sorting out who was right, who was wrong, and who had an axe to grind.
The best I could do was hope for the best. If things went badly, I’d figure out another plan.
Hiker Town was the last chance for water before a long, dry stretch of trail across the Mojave Desert. There also wouldn't be much shade for the next 17 miles.
We would have to stop at the hostel anyway because most of us also needed to pick up resupply boxes there.
Knowing this would be a short hiking day, I slept in until 6 a.m. Hiker Town was less than 10 miles away, so I took my time packing.
Just Awesome, Spamala and I left together about two hours later.
Though the trail was making a long descent to the desert floor, the trail took several ups and downs along the way. For most of the way, we got a sweeping view of the flat desert and the Tehachapi Mountains on the other side.
Looking down toward the bottom of the ridge, I could see more wildflowers. There were vast fields of California poppies.
The trail then crossed some private land owned by a local hunting club. If the signs were to believed, we didn’t risk being shot because hunting season ended a few days ago.
Spamala, Rainbow Sherbet, and Just Awesome found a small patch of shade where the slope of the mountain was positioned just right. I joined them there for a short break and a snack.
The lower part of the trail followed a zig-zag path along folds in the mountainside. I’m sure we walked three or four times the distance we might have walked if the trail could have taken a straight line.
Near the bottom of the descent, the trail joined a long dirt road. This led us to a highway where Hiker Town was located.
Hiker Town superficially had the look of an old western town, though I couldn’t tell how this came to be. It might have started as a tourist trap and became a hiker hostel when tourism declined.
A building with a post office sign was where I picked up my resupply box. One building was identified as a schoolhouse and another a hotel. Most were dilapidated. Some buildings were in such bad shape they couldn’t be used for sleeping and were filled with junk.
I met a hiker who was a work-for-stay helper and she showed me around. She said the only remaining accommodations were an old camper or a tent site.
The tentsite was exposed, so I knew it would be too windy to sleep well. On the other hand, I feared the camper would be musty.
The cough I started to get a week ago was not getting any better. I didn’t want to risk aggravating my allergy with mold.
I should have realized, though, that mold doesn’t grow well in the desert. When I checked out the inside of the camper, it wasn’t musty at all.
It was a barely-acceptable place to sleep, but more acceptable than the tentsite. I decided the camper probably wouldn't make me sick.
After agreeing to sleep there, I looked around at the rest of the “town.” I learned the shower wasn’t working, but the caretaker hoped to have it fixed later today.
The caretaker said we could drive his van to a convenience store located down the road. We weren’t allowed to drive it more than five miles away, which happened to be how far it was to reach the store.
We later learned the limit was because Hiker Town’s owner also owned the convenience store. He didn’t want us to go to a competing convenience store, which was a little farther down the road.
Steel Belted offered to drive, but did so without knowing the van was in poor condition. It had no acceleration.
This realization came quickly when he attempted to pull into traffic on a busy road with large trucks. Somehow he coaxed it to go fast enough to avoid being rear-ended by a truck.
The convenience store had food service, so we all ordered lunch. The wait for our food seemed interminable, but it was good when it finally arrived.
My double bacon cheeseburger was huge, and I felt stuffed when I finished eating. I had finally found a match for my hiker hunger.
After putting our lives in peril again on the return trip in the van, we found out the shower was still not repaired. MJ was staying in the nicest room in Hiker Town, which had its own shower, and she let us use it.
By the end of the day, there was still no consensus among the tramily members about what time to begin hiking tomorrow. MJ said she was leaving at 3 a.m. to avoid as much of the heat of the day as possible. Most of the others thought about waiting until late afternoon or early evening, thinking they would hike mostly at night.
I was unsure what to do. Neither option appealed to me. Leaving at 3 a.m. seemed ridiculously early and not leaving until late afternoon seemed like a long, boring wait in a place I didn't enjoy.
Then when I got back to the camper I made up my mind. I decided to leave early. Hiker Town was just too dirty and depressing for me to stay any longer than I had to.
I packed my gear so that I wouldn't need much time to get out of here, and if I could wake up in time, I’d leave with MJ.