3/26 – 3/31/14
Mileage driven 344
with that KOA?
Hiker Town is near the corner of Highway 138 and West Avenue C-15, near Lancaster, CA. There, PCT hikers will find unique trail magic. The owner has a nice yellow ranch-style house on a large acreage. It’s surrounded by a white picket fence. Outside the fence, a wide dirt pathway. Bordering that, an eclectic collection of old-west movie studio buildings. A sheriff’s office complete with jail. A post office. A cat house, city hall and a gun shop. Lots of chickens and dogs and a few alpacas. This is where the Glow hike started last year so it felt special to us. Hiker Town is the gateway to the Tehachapi trail north leading into the Mojave.
Bob let us park our car and was most gracious. An interesting side-note about Bob, one of the caretakers of the property, is that he worked in Hollywood and had a couple of awards up on his wall near the door of his 1-room space. When asked about it he smiled and commented how much fun it was to work in Hollywood, but he was quieter about details and brushed off our kudos for winning awards.
With the car safely parked at Hiker Town, at roughly 5 pm, we’re waiting for our niece to pick us up. She had agreed to take us to Mill Creek Summit, our trail head for this leg of our hike. We’re not sure how it happens every time but our best laid plans for getting on the trail early never work! We left in plenty of time to make our schedule. We planned to hike five miles to Big Buck Trail Camp. But, for starters, we had the wrong address for Hiker Town. Only after a bit did we realize if we had the wrong address, so did our niece. A few texts later and a few moments of dismay, Dakota showed up and we were on or way.
By the time we got to Mill Creek Summit it was dark, and raining, and really very cold and windy! We hiked in one mile, found a spot and hunkered down for the night. The wind whipped through our fly all night long. Our site wasn’t completely in the open but enough that we wondered, “Are we safe from lightening if we sleep with our boots on?”
The next day was beautiful. We headed up to Mount Gleason. While the air was dry and the day was heating up, the brush surrounding the trail was wet from the rain. As the day wore on, the wet dried. At one point we took a wrong turn and somehow between the Poodle Dog Detour and two other trails that seemingly were part of the PCT, we ended up having to bushwhack it to the true trail. It was a good hour out of our day as we had to climb back up a huge hill. Despite all this, we did manage to hike 14-miles, a little more than we planned and needed to do to stay on schedule for Tuesday arrival back at Hiker Town.
When we woke Friday, frost and ice were on the ground. There was still lots of Poodle Dog brush around. We had a hot lunch at the closed Messenger Flat Campground. There were many downed trees for two miles before the North Fork Ranger Station. These trees didn’t make the trail impassable, but we had to be creative. Sometimes it was easier to climb under or over. Other times, we hiked completely around the tree.
As Patti was walking on from here, she expressed the feeling of true joy at just being there, even danced a few times.
Between the wet clothes and the bushwhacking, Lynn especially, was tired. We discussed going further but once Lynn knew there was a shower at mile 444, there really was no further discussion. We were just going to have to deal with the unpleasant fact that mile 444 on the Pacific Crest Trail is a KOA.
You see, we have forever been tent campers. When we first began our camping “career” we had just left Los Angeles. We were on a country-wide search for a permanent city to live in and have fun vacationing along the way. We put aside six months. We sold most of what we owned and took off. Along the way, we looked for out-of-the-way campsites. KOAs just weren’t our style of camping and became an inside joke between us. Anytime we saw a KOA back then, it was always next to a highway filled with RVs. The sounds of nature covered with the noise of generators. Most of the time we never saw anyone outside of those RVs.
Never was this illustrated better than at Crater Lake. We had staked out a campsite right near the rim of the lake and we had a spectacular view. Later, a huge motor home pulled up into the pull-through site next to us and on came the generators. The US flag was hung near the door. The only time we ever saw anyone was when the guy came out, guitar in hand. He sat down, belted out “Amazing Grace,” got up, walked back into the motor home and there he stayed. Crater Lake is truly amazing, no doubt. It wasn’t that he couldn’t sing, but it was all kind of weird and funny that our neighbor’s idea of nature was to strum a few chords while sitting on a picnic table.
So, here we were, some 20-something years later, at mile 444 of the PCT, being all hiker-like, but staying at ~gasp~ a KOA. But never has a hot shower and a nice clean bathroom been so welcomed as that night. It was really a pretty nice place. We were able to get an ice-cold Gatorade at the store before it closed. We listened to lions roar at night. And we met an incredible fellow hiker.
As we were making dinner, we hear this, “You hoo!” It took a bit to recognize this you hoo was trying to get our attention. It was another hiker wondering where the office was. She came over and we immediately connected and started talking as if we were long lost friends. We invited her to join us for dinner. She quickly set up, showered and came over. We spent the night chatting away.
She was so much fun. Her name is Katie. She didn’t have a trail name yet. We learned she started hiking seven weeks after her knee surgery! She started at Mill Creek THAT DAY. It took us two days to get where we all were. What a rock star! She has an unusual talent of being able to walk the trail backward so we started calling her Eitak. We wondered if the trail name will stick. Only time will tell. She does have a blog called “A Skirt in the Dirt.” When we told her we saw it and read it, she said, “ Oh, good! I thought only my step dad read it!”
We talked about bloggers and hikers we follow. She was inspired by MukMuk. When the conversation went to trail names, Patti asked her if she remembered the post about the Glow in Dark hike. Katie suddenly had a slight tear in her eye and asked, “How are you?!?” She made Patti feel like a celebrity.
On Saturday we had to climb out of the Acton Valley area before heading to Vasquez Park, really a nice park. We met up with Katie again and hiked a bit with her. She moved on and we made it through Agua Dulce. Walking for more than a mile on open road was kind of a drag, but the ice cream at the store along the way never tasted so good! We also met another hiker, Ibeam, whose name we recognized from the PCT list serve.
We did over 15 miles Saturday and set up camp just two miles short of the Green Valley Ranger Station. Feeling much joy and energy, Patti wanted to move on further. But, it was a good thing we didn’t because after the next two miles, there really wasn’t a lot of camping options. The forest from Green Valley north to the Highway 138 is closed. There are a few options but they all require road walking. One option was to walk a shorter distance on the road and to catch up with the California Aqueduct. We took Elizabeth Lake Road knowing we had to start there. But we still weren’t sure where to go or how far it would be that way going to Hiker Town. Along the way were several farms. One farm had a lot of dogs all following us along the fence line. The owner, a really nice lady named Kim, came out to talk to us and gave us clearer directions. She earlier ran into hikers we’ve met, Katie and UB. It was hitting us that the PCT community of hikers is like living in a small town, or the show Cheers, everyone knows you.
As proof, again, we were still walking Elizabeth Lake Road when this white van with a “Hiker Trash” bumper sticker pulled over. Out jumps this woman with a Casa de Luna t-shirt. “HI! You must be the couple we were just talking about!” Terry is a trail angel, who, with her husband open their home to hikers of the PCT. She had met up with Katie, who told her about us. While driving down the road she saw us, put 2-and-2 together and realized who we were. She immediately hugged us and it was really again, like we were seeing an old friend.
After speaking with Terry, we found Munz Ranch Road. In the mental space we were in, we completely missed the aqueduct entrance. We were just talking away and completely walked past the turn-off. We walked way to the end of the road and thought, “Now what?” Just then, as luck, truly LUCK, had it, a guy pulled up to the mailboxes there. We asked him where was the aqueduct and he told us it was a 1.5 miles back down the road. We felt crushed by the thought of walking three miles out of our way for nothing! But, then the guy asked if we needed a ride back and we both said “Yes! Thank you!!”
The aqueduct was one of the most peaceful walks we have ever taken. Far enough away from all the traffic noise. The sound of the water lapping in the aqueduct. The occasional birds singing whenever there were trees. It was actually beautiful. It was, however, also incredibly windy and blowing against us the whole time.
It wasn’t planned this way but we ended up walking 26.5 miles to Hiker Town. Definitely the most we have ever hiked in a single day! We went home that night. The next morning I got a text from my sister-in-law who lives in that area that they got hit with a terrible storm that night. We were lucky to make it out of there a day early.