Another 80 miles or so has brought us to 454, where we are staying at the Saufley residence – aptly nicknamed Hiker Heaven. I don’t know much about agua dulce, the town in which it is situated, but I know that the horse to human ratio is high here.
We didn’t actually mean to zero here, but after one of our big days (a 25 miler) I pulled my right quadriceps. I managed to get another 22 miles or so out of it, but today it needed rest. We got in yesterday around 6 with our friend and companion hans pilgrim and headed straight for big mouth pizza. A couple of beers and way too much pizza later, we ambled down the road to our destination.
A few minutes later, a car rolled down it’s window and the woman inside started yelling at us: “HIKER TRASH! HIKER TRASH!” This, it turns out, was Donna Saufley – who was just playing around, of course. This was the woman who along with her husband hosted us most graciously in their backyard. She gave us directions to the gate, and told us where to find towels, etc. We were shower bound.
I shaved for the first time in roughly 40 days, and washed a truly substantial portion of dirt off my legs with the benefit of a stiff bristled brush. They put us up in the “honeymoon suite” where we crashed on a nice cushy bed.
The hike here was nice. We left wrightwood and got a ride to islip saddle trailhead from two guys about college age, one of which is a professional snowboarder. The first day, we went over mount Williamson and down to the burkhardt campground, up the burkhardt trail to where it rejoined the pct, and then up to cooper canyon trail camp. It was a short hiking day – we started around 4pm and only made it about 10 miles. Along the way, we met up with a new companion named Hans Pilgrim, who was trying to hitch up the highway to the campground but decided to go with us instead.
The next day we did 18 miles through some nasty stands of the dreaded poodle dog bush. Day 3 was rough – 25 miles, including a roughly 20 mile walk up old mt Gleason road along the poodle dog bush detour. It was very hot, very exposed, and rough on the feet. We made it up and over, and finished with a 5 or so mile walk down to north fork ranger station. The ranger there told us only 20% of people actually get poodle dog bush – a fact that we were all glad we hadn’t known, as it almost certainly would have pushed us toward not taking the detour.
Our final day we descended to the koa campground, where we ate ice cream, chips, and copious quantities of Gatorade while waiting for my leg to feel better. Once it did, we were off – up and over a ridge dotted with beautiful sandstone formations to where we could see our destination, agua dulce. This, incidentally, is also where we started fantasizing about our menu options.
We descended from the ridge and went under the highway through Vasquez rocks, which was the real live hideout of a real live Mexican bandit named Vasquez. One more short but steep climb and we were making our way into town proper, headed directly for beer and pizza.
We’re in Agua Dulce now, ready to get back on the trail. Now that we’re in the 400’s and the miles are flying by, I’ve noticed that instead of keeping track of the mile or tens of miles, I’m now conscious of the hundreds of miles. I’m more in the hiking mindset – I can’t wait to get back on the trail. I’m feeling strong. My mind and body are settling into the hiking routine.
We made some solid miles between Wrightwood and Agua Dulce. 10 miles that first afternoon, setting up camp by dark. We ran into Hans Pilgrim who joined us on Route 2 after Wrightwood, and we ran into Paint Your Wagon washing his shorts in the stream who joined us in camp that night. The next morning we had a few hills to climb before the boyscout camp, and all tolled we did 17 miles that second day after Wrightwood – in full on Poodle Dog Bush territory. Day 3 we rocked 24 miles through the PDB detour – around the Station Fire detour, over pavement, up brutally paved Mount Gleason road, through more PDB, and eventually under the powerlines to set up camp at the North Fork Ranger Station/wonderful amazing water cache. The camp site was beautiful, the mountain air smelled sweet and clean, and we drifted off to sleep to the faint crackle of the powerlines. On Day 4 into Agua Dulce, we made 18 more miles: through the KOA campground where we fueled up on ice cream which powered us over the hill to Vasquez rocks and down into the town full of presumably Hollywood-famous horses and tasty pizza. We stayed in a cozy bed at the Saufleys after a shower and laundry, and met a few other hikers with large packs: Sea Turtle and Tortoise. The trail Angel IPod gave them a shakedown (or brutal gear thinning) where each lost 12 lbs of useless heavy gear. The next day Jared, Hans, and I zeroed while Jared rested his quad and Hans his ankle. We rode loaner bikes to town, ate Belgian waffles, organized food, sent a package ahead, got our own shakedown (we each lost 3 lbs!), and we opened lovely packages (thanks Nancy & Charlie, Renee, Mother Yanker, and Emily for the maple candy, gatorade, under wrap, marshmallows, magazines, and notes – we loved it all!). The next day – today – we’re just waiting to get pick up our laundry before getting back on the trail. It’s allowed us a little more time to relax (those “days off” for me are full of planning and doing) and chat with Paint Your Wagon about how he got onto the trail and how the trail has changed him and us. We could all agree that the trail has allowed us to chill out, calm down, accept the present, be in the moment, release out fears (be they snakes or lack of food), be more centered, and have more gratitude. And we hike!