Out here on the PCT, every day is a new adventure. We never camp in the same place twice or see the same things during the day, unless we happen to take a Zero Day in town. Zero Days are far and few between, usually once a week or once every other week because Zero Days can make you soft aka too lazy to put on the pack and hike the miles. Zero Days can also be really expensive. It’s crazy how quickly lodging, food and resupply add up in town. If you’re not careful, you can get sucked up into the town vortex.
The sixth week out here on the PCT started out with plenty of adventure. I did my first 23 mile day, passed Mile 400, had a mac n cheese cook off with Bleeder (I won with Velvetta Mac n Cheese and bacon bits) and slept outside of a fire station. And that was just the first day of this week.
The next day, we hiked another 20 miles, but the highlight of this day was definitely stopping at the North Fork Ranger Station, Mile 436.1. Here I met Ranger Ron and satisfied my craving for hot dogs by eating three of them, two bags of chips and drank three sodas. Before I left, I also scarfed down a Klondike Bar because why not? It was so delicious.
On the third day of this week, we started the day off watching the sunrise from a mountain ridge line as we listened to The Beatles, “Here Comes The Sun.”
Later that morning, Bleeder, Stoic and I hiked down to the Acton KOA Campground and had a delicious pancake, sausage, bacon and orange juice breakfast for only $3.99. Afterwards, after Major Mooch and Punchline hitched their way into Agua Dulce, the three of us hiked the hottest seven miles so far on trail. It was hot, sunny, waterless and there wasn’t an ounce of shade.
We hiked until we found a cold, dark and slightly scary tunnel underneath the highway and took a much needed break from the heat. The best part about hanging out in the tunnel was scaring day hikers who were too terrified to enter the tunnel as we talked to them. They probably assumed we were homeless. Well, I guess they’re kind of right.
That afternoon, we walked into Agua Dulce, grabbed cold sodas and made our way to Hiker Heaven at Mile 454.4. Hiker Heaven is truly a heaven for hikers, complete with a huge yard to tent camp, showers, a laundry service, free loaner clothes, multiple hiker boxes, Epsom salt foot baths, plenty of shaded spots to hang out in, a DIY haircut station, shuttles giving rides into town and back, clean port-a-potties and Cornelius, a mean rooster who seemed to have it out for me.
After the three of us got the lay of the land at Hiker Heaven from the volunteers, Major Mooch and Punchline showed us where to set up our tents. As we were catching each other up on the various events of the day, KitKat snuck up behind everyone and surprised them. I’d been holding the secret that KitKat would be hitching from Wrightwood to meet up with us on trail while Amish hiked 25+ miles/day to get to Agua Dulce to meet us. It was such a hard secret to keep over the last few days, but seeing the look on everyone’s face made it worth it. Soon the entire original Team Lagger trail family would be back together.
We enjoyed Hiker Heaven so much we decided to take the day off from hiking and take a Zero Day here the next day. After being attacked by Cornelius the rooster, my morning turned around quickly when we each soaked our feet in Epsom salt foot baths. I soak my feet every chance I get on this trail so as we all sat around together soaking our feet and laughing, the moment easily became one of the highlights of my day.
For lunch, all of us dirty hikers staying at Hiker Heaven were shuttled down to the Women’s Club in town for a free lunch. Thanks for the super tasty taco salad and desserts ladies!
After lunch, our trail family hopped into an Uber and headed to the nearest REI.
Sadly my ThermaRest NeoAir inflatable sleeping pad has been deflating in the middle of the night, each night, over the last week – ever since we left Wrightwood. I’ve had to blow it up at least once each night. Kind of annoying because 1 – I sleep in a tent AND on top of a ThermaRest Zpad and 2 – The inflatable pad cost $200. Why was it deflating? Luckily I was able to exchange it for a new one at REI.
The other thing I wanted to get at REI were new insoles for my shoes. REI didn’t have the berry Superfeet insoles available in store. I’d have to order them online. So bummed!! I’ve been hiking my way through my shoes and insoles and was looking forward to rocking a new pair of each for the next section. I’ll have to wait another 100 miles until we reach Tehachapi to get my packages.
After REI, we had fifty cent frosties from Wendy’s, resupplied at Smart & Final and I sweet talked our Uber driver into taking us through the drive-thru at the nearest In-N-Out. Once we got back to Hiker Town, Amish rolled into town, courtesy of a local trail angel. We were finally all back together again. Today was a good day.
Our original plan for the following day was to chill all day at Hiker Heaven and then head up late afternoon to night hike the next section. Mother Nature had something else in mind for us. At about noon, a wild brush fire broke out on trail about three miles from where we were staying. We could see the dark smoke and flames from Hiker Heaven. Scary stuff. No one really knew what to do or if the fire would be heading our way down the hill. To be safe, we all packed up our bags and we were ready to evacuate at a moments notice if needed.
We patiently waited out the afternoon to see what would happen with the fire and our plans for getting around the fire on the trail. The bush fire quickly grew to 200 acres, but slowly was contained by the fire department. Since this section of trail was no longer hikable, Donna (Trail Angel from Hiker Town) kindly gave our entire trail family, all six of us, a ride around the fire and all the way to our next scheduled stop, Casa de Luna. Instantly we were all a day ahead of schedule!
Upon arriving at Casa de Luna, another famous Trail Angel along the PCT who provides an epic haven for dirty thru-hikers, we dropped our packs in the backyard and put on Hawaiian shirts. We were just in time for dinner, which consisted of taco salad. After dinner, we each danced for Terri for a sought after 2018 PCT bandana. Little did we know, our group got the last of the bandanas. I’ll be proudly rocking my bandana for the rest of my thru-hike up to Canada.
The last day of Week Six on the PCT was a Nero spent at Casa de Luna. We woke up to a huge pancake breakfast. After breakfast, we walked down to the cafe to get a second breakfast, milkshakes, lemonade (with free refills) and to charge all of our electronics. Our plan for today was to chill the first half of the day, get a nap in after the cafe and then night hike out of Casa de Luna.
After having another round of taco salad for dinner at Casa de Luna, we all headed back to the trail – KitKat, Amish, Bleeder, Major Mooch, Punchline and me. We started our first night hike on the trail at 9PM.
Let me be the first to tell you, night hiking is hard. We decided to give it a try because we wanted to get in a fair amount of trail miles while beating the heat. Night hiking was definitely a lot cooler than the day, but there were a number of challenges. It’s harder to see at night, even with a head lamp, it’s kind of spooky, your sleep routine gets all screwed up, you miss the daytime views and there are more animals than you’d think there’d be out on the trail.
The first five miles of night hiking were fun. We all marched together in a single file line, made jokes, laughed and even stumbled upon a cooler stocked with fresh trail magic full of fruit and cold sodas. We had even managed to catch up to the group of hikers who had left Casa de Luna before us as they were taking their first break.
Miles 5 to 10 weren’t as fun for us. Our group started spreading out. The jokes and laughter stopped as the cold air came in. Our original plan was to hike 20 miles, all through the night. Before we had gotten 10 miles in, there was already talk of stopping to camp somewhere early because people were getting tired. As the rest of the group decide to call it quits for the night and set up camp around 10 miles in, Bleeder and I pressed on with the original plan. No sleep til Mile 498.2, Sawmill Camp!
As the sun started to rise, the tiredness started to settle in. We were exhausted, but were still three miles from the campground. We took a quick snack break, gave each other a pep talk and got back on the trail.
Those last few miles were not fun at all. I was so tired. My feet were stumbling all over the place. Thank goodness for trekking poles. But it was just more three miles. We just needed to get there. Then I could siesta all day in the shade.
At around 7AM, tired as hell, we made it in one piece to Sawmill Camp at Mile 498.2. My feet were sore, my shoulders ached and my eyelids were heavy, but we had made it! We had survived our first all-nighter hiking excursion.
Every day (and night) is a new adventure out here on the PCT.