Where: Pacific Crest Trail – Mile 444.3 to Mile 517.6
When: June 2 – June 7, 2017
Who: Marie and Me
Distance: 73.3 Miles
Day 31: Acton to Agua Dulce/Hiker Heaven (10.2 Miles)
With only a half-day ahead of us, we decided to start our hike in the afternoon, taking the morning instead to relax, clean our gear and visit a nearby supermarket for supplies. Our gracious hosts were more than happy to feed us and make sure that we had everything we needed to tackle the heat. Feasting on the remainder of last night’s cake and pasta, we mended our tattered gear and headed out back into the desert around 5pm.
The trail was quick to remind us of what we had forgotten in the comfort of the air conditioned house. It started with a steep climb, winding around the edge of a grassy hill before descending into a rather slimy tunnel that undercut Interstate 14.
Emerging on the other side, we were greeted with one of the best views on the trail thus far: Vasquez Rocks. From the desert floor they shot up like cathedral spires. We crossed the path of a couple day hikers, who were probably perplexed to see a couple of backpackers in such an urban area.
The dirt trail transitioned into a paved country road that took us past a line of ranch homes. The ranch homes gave way to a series of restaurants and convenience store. By then it had gotten dark enough to require headlamps to navigate the last mile to Hiker Heaven.
Hearing tales about Hiker Heaven before we had even started the trail, we were certainly eager to reach our destination, and we were not disappointed. A volunteer gave us a quick rundown of the amenities, which included showers, laundry, charging stations, foot soaks, bathrooms and even a post office. It being too dark to make use of much, we set up tent in the backyard and fell asleep.
Day 32: Agua Dulce/Hiker Heaven (0 Miles)
Since we had taken care of our resupplies in Acton, most of the day at Hiker Heaven was spent reading and soaking our feet. The heat wasn’t much of a concern with the help of a cold shower and plenty of ice water from the dispenser.
In the morning we caught a hitch into town in the back of a truck bed. The Sweetwater Bar and Grill served up a delicious serving of oatmeal and Monte Cristos. We then picked up some cold drinks and candy at the market before heading back to Hiker Heaven.
Towards the end of the day, Marie made ready to reveal the big surprise she had been planning for my birthday. We picked up a package from the post office, which contained a fancy change of clothes for the evening. Looking like completely new people, we earned the favor of a nice volunteer who shuttled us to a luxurious french restaurant, grown over with flowers and well-trimmed vines. Le Chene, boasted a nearby sign in cursive letters.
We started with a bottle of chilled Spanish wine. Then we bravely dug into some classic French cuisine, frog legs and escargot. The meal finished with some filet mignon and orange duck, enough to make you forget entirely that we had been chowing on snickers in the desert for the past month.
Beyond content and very full, we caught an Uber back to Hiker Heaven for the night.
Day 33: Agua Dulce/Hiker Heaven to Mile 474.2 (19.7 Miles)
Waking up in the very early morning, we flip flopped between setting off in the morning or waiting until the afternoon. The morning eventually won out, and we set off down the 2 mile stretch of road that took us back to the trail. Entering the Mojave stretch of the trail, the heat bore down on us harder than ever before. Fortunately, a slight breeze carried us up the hillside where we found an ideal patch of shade.
The rest of the day wound downwards. A small spring supplied our water. We walked along a ridge for a while, choosing to cook dinner at a small, commemorative bench that we came across. The bench proved too small a site to sent up the tent, so we pushed on for 2 more miles until we came cross a small clearing among the bramble at the top of a hill.
Day 34: Mile 474.2 to Green Valley/Casa de Luna (4.0 Miles)
Our campsite put us only four miles away from our destination, Casa de Luna, one of the most famous trail angel’s houses on the PCT. We made it the rest of the way down the hill to a small fire station. From there, we had hoped to hitch a ride to the house, but we weren’t so lucky. We trekked the extra two miles, stopping once at a gas station to pick up slurpies and ingredients for sandwiches.
Casa de Luna proved true to all the rumors surrounding it. Upon entering, we were prompted to ditch our clothes for Hawaiian shirts and dresses. From there we took our showers in a wooden shed and laundered our clothes in the provided buckets. With the chores down, we made eager use of the hammocks, reveling in our newfound attire.
Best of all, we got to fuel our artistic side with the painting station. We fumbled our way through some rock painting, ending up pretty pleased with the results. They probably won’t end up in the Smithsonian, but they’re special to us regardless.
At night we were treated to the Anderson’s famous taco salads. Full on food and company, we retired for the evening.
Day 35: Green Valley/Casa de Luna to Mile 498.2 (20.0 Miles)
The next day we started our big push after a series of zeros and nearos. Unless my memory has been fried, this day proved to be the hottest day on the trail yet. The last few days of downhill seemed to catch up with us as we climbed upwards, seemingly closer to the sun with every step.
For our water, we collected drips off a potato chip bag that someone had wedged into a small spring. As the day stretched on, we gained enough elevation for the scenery start to change. Desert shrubs began to morph into large trees, reminding us of our time in Mount Laguna and Big Bear. We were also rewarded with a drop in temperature.
As another trip to the past, we made use of a nearby cistern, equipped with a stick and hollowed-out water jug. Fortunately, this water proved entirely clear. We had enough time to make it back to Sawmill Camp, where we made use of the picnic tables to cook our late dinner before Hikertown the next day.
Day 36: Mile 498.2 to Hikertown (19.4 Miles)
Help! We’re being eaten alive! Or at least we thought we were during the last stretch into Hikertown. Swarms of flies buggered us at every instance, collecting en masse whenever we stopped for a moments rest in the shade. For a piece of gear that had little use anytime else on the trail, the bug net quickly became my most valuable item. We had just enough time to snap a quick pic at mile 500. Out of frame you can just imagine the impending swarm.
As we trailed downward, the trees melted back into desert shrubs as temperatures began to rise again. On the bright side, the heat proved too much for the bugs, who retreated back into the hills. We crossed paths with a group of thru-hikers who were assisting with a gear photo shoot. We paused for only a moment, though, choosing to complete the last stretch of seven miles into Hikertown.
A flag loomed off in the distance, growing steadily larger as we approached the highway. Pretty soon we had entered the confines of Hikertown. The array of miniature buildings and mock storefronts resembled a forgotten side section of Disneyland. We were even introduced to a small litter of kittens that had made the feed store their home.
Catching a ride from a shuttle, we feasted at the nearby Neenach Cafe & Market, filling up on lemon/blue raspberry slurpees. By the time we had made it back to town, the wind had elevated to a small dust storm. We opted to stay inside one of the buildings, lucky enough to secure the best room in the place. That night we slept in the comfort of a blanketed bed, listening to the wind as it blew across the strange and wondrous world of Hikertown.