Go to a day
The High Sierras
I was really getting into my routines now. I woke up early again, to maximize the morning hiking which is really important for the overall feeling of my day. The sunrise was beautiful, the trail going in large zigzags on the side of the mountains, just at the border between the desert plains and the mountain range. It was a really easy hike, only downhills. I stopped at a fire station to fill up some H2O at a water spigot with a very high pressure, I think everyone drenched themselves while trying to fill up there.
Amazing views down towards the huge desert!
The following part was going through an old burnt section, and even though I had really good views down into the desert, the trail felt dull and nothing eventful happened. I had my lunch break under a tree, fleeing the hot desert day. I met the German guy Jasper again, but otherwise, I hiked alone for the whole day. After a while, the trail actually started to climb a bit again and left the burnt section for a bit. Alternating between some pine forest and desert vegetation, I enjoyed this part much more. And I was doing really good on time when I passed by Messenger Peak.
The last part descending again with magnificent views down towards Acton, a small campground in the Soledad Canyon. I could see the trail far far away on a mountainside opposite of me. Of course, it was running back the same direction that I was walking now, the story of the PCT... I camped at the only eligible place during this stretch, the messenger flats campground. And I met Javaloo again, whom I hadn't seen since back before Warner Springs. I also met the German couple from Wrightwood and Ian and Megs. Very nice to just bump into people every once in a while. It was extremely windy, but we all crammed our tents down into a large depression which was actually surprisingly sheltered. 25 miles by 16.00 today, I was very happy with that!
The PCT far away on the other side descending towards Acton in the bottom of the canyon.
One of my favorite views throughout the whole desert section.
Big milestone, 700k! Creds to Metric for making the marker :)
I didn't get moving until the sun was already casting harsh shadows over the mountainside. My two big goals today were the Acton KOA in the bottom of Soledad Canyon, and Hiker Heaven, the awesome trail angel place in Agua Dulce. The first bit was really easy, going everlasting downhill, continuing the descending from the previous day. Magical views where the trail was running on the top of a ridge in between Mills and Mattox Canyon. The views stretching far away in the distance, the opposite side of Soledad Canyon covered with huge rounded rock formations. From the distance, just small knobs poking out on the side of the slope. Further away the mountain range was continuing into the distance.
The ridge in between Mills and Mattox Canyon. Grand views!
Continuous downhill, the rail road tracks in the bottom of Soledad Canyon.
The rock formations on the other side of the canyon.
I got to the KOA and bought an Ice Creem and hung out. Lots of people were staying there for the night. But I wanted to get all the way to Agua Dulce, so I didn't stay too long and left the nice shade in the bottom of the Canyon and started climbing up on the other side. I finished the last Harry Potter audiobook and went straight to my go-to book, Lord of the Rings. It was now almost unbearably hot, the trail switchbacking up the canyon side, the rock formations I had seen before now right on the side of the trail, towering up over me. Despite the heat, I felt really strong, and crossed over the billowing hills/mountains and down towards highway 14. The trail passed underneath the road, which had the most awesome break space ever. There was a tunnel under the highway, with shade and cool wind flowing through the tunnel. It was heavenly, a perfect afternoon break spot.
Highway 14 coming up!
The awesome break spot underneath the highway.
The last bit to Agua Dulce went through Vasques Rocks County Park. A really cool bit of hiking. Having only 3 miles left I could enjoy this part fully, without feeling stressed. The trail was definitely more worn here, and you could notice this was a popular day hike area. The trail went straight into the town of Agua Dulce, and I met Chelsea and Trish there. We went up to Hiker Heaven together and got settled into the awesome place. In the evening I joined some others and went to a Mexican place for dinner. Walking back to the trail angels I listened to the new album by Alt-J and felt fully content by just being there and then in the spring night.
Entering Vasques Rocks, in between the cool rock formations.
Some cool views from the trail.
More cool rocks.
And some cool cacti.
Resting day. I stayed at Hiker Heaven and took the day off. The place is totally amazing. The Saufleys, who are the trail angels, have a huge garden where you can pitch your tent. They also have small tents for doing laundry, charging your phone, borrowing computers, and in their garage, they are running a mail service. I relaxed, went to the local pizzeria with Chelsea and Trish, bought some candy for the upcoming stretch and wrote some in my blog. Today was also the last day I met Tall Paul, who headed out the day before me, which was kind of sad. At the end of the day, I felt rested and ready for the next stretch. Hiker Town, here we come!
I got up early to get ready to get going from Hiker Heaven, feeling good about start walking again after the day of rest, my second zero on the trail. I left with Ian and Megs, who had caught up with me the previous day again after staying at the Acton KOA. We had huge dark clouds towering up threateningly as we left the small town. I felt a certain ominous feeling, hoping I wouldn't get caught in a new storm. I still had the Wrightwood one too fresh in my memory. The trail climbed up the mountains again, large switchbacks with the typical desert view I almost had gotten used to now. On the top, I struggled through the wind on the ridge for a bit, and then descended down into Boquete Canyon.
Megs and Ian and the dark clouds rolling in.
Sometimes you see very strange things on the PCT.
At the bottom of the Canyon, I took a quick lunch with Ian and Megs just as it started to drizzle. I had that unsettling feeling of upcoming discomfort. The thoughts circulating around my plans for the day and how they would be affected by the weather. I think the hardest part of being out there is the mental challenge you get when the bad weather rolls in. I started to climb up the canyon, the rain increasing more and more. After a while, I couldn't neglect it anymore. I had to put on my rain gear. It felt so good to get the warmth of the extra layer, and at first, I was totally content, even though the rain was now pouring down. But after a while, I started to become cold. I was now totally drenched, both outside and inside of my raingear.
After passing over the top and descending down into Spunky Canyon I was getting really cold. I passed by a small tent site where someone had pitched their tent and I almost wished I had set up camp and taken shelter from the rain earlier. But I kept pushing, my feet becoming numb by cold and my joints feeling stiff, making it a very tiresome hike. I passed a cool bench with some special name, but couldn't stop there, I just kept walking, thinking of my hopefully dry sleeping bag. Finally, the rain started to subside and a dramatical change happened. Suddenly the warmth started to come back to me. Without the continuous drenching of cold water against my rain gear I started to feel my extremities coming back to me. When I got into my sleeping bag everything felt damp. I hung up my stuff all around my tent in a desperate attempt to dry them. Hoping there wouldn't be another rain storm during the night.
Beautiful foresty trail.
Maybe not the most interesting picture, but this was the last picture I took before the rain.
The clouds were gone, though the chilly morning air and damp surroundings were not inviting me out of my sleeping bag. When I finally got out and packed all my wet stuff together it was already 9.00, and I had lost some precious hiking hours. My phone had died from the water the day before, I hadn't noticed that I carried it in my rain jacket pocket which got totally drenched. I was genuinely sad about that and the hike up the hill was with very mixed emotions. It was nice to have some heat again though and I quickly got warm. The first part went through a jungle-like surrounding with high branches covering the trail in a sort of green tunnel. Colored streamers hung on branches of poison oak to warn unknowing hikers about the plant.
An old PCT sign :)
During this section I saw tons of Bullsnakes.
I was totally alone, didn't see anyone during the first few hours until I had passed over the next set of hills and down into the Hughes Lake Canyon. In the bottom, I met Lisa and Jake the mum and son hiking together, who were having a break. They had started the same day as me, but I hadn't seen them from the start until Hiker Heaven. They were nice and comforted me about my phone which I loudly complained about. I moved along and started the winding switchbacks up the other side of the canyon, kind of the story of the last 100 miles now. I could see Jake and Lisa who had started moving again, just a short bit below me, but because of the switchbacks probably two miles behind.
Looking back down into Hughes Lake Canyon.
Another old PCT sign.
At my lunch break, I hung all my stuff up in a thorny bush, flattering in the wind they dried quite fast. I was now entering a burnt section that had been closed the previous year. The trail followed the ridge of Sawmill Mountain. The bushes still high and the trail winding, zigzagging in between them. I started to get views of the huge Mojave Desert north of me. I was at this point almost finished with the section going westwards and the trail would soon turn north down into the desert plains and then up on the other side towards the last part of the desert and then finally the Sierras. But before I would enter the dryest part of the trail I was walking through a deciduous forest and quite enjoying this lush section.
One more Bullsnake.
Mojave Desert to the north.
I stayed at Sawmill Campground, which was super windy this evening. There I met Chelsea again, and we hung out together with another girl I can't remember the name of now. I broke my tent pole and had to use a branch from the ground. Which was not the optimal solution. Since my tent pitches with trekking poles and I don't carry them, I had to use the carbon fiber ones that you can substitute with. But they are not the strongest, and now after more than a month on the trail, they finally gave in. So I decided to order the free-standing ones, that I deemed would hold up better when I would get to town.
Beautiful thick green deciduous forest.
The first thing I heard this morning was the smattering of rain on my tent, and I thought to myself that this bad weather would never end. Knowing that I had the low elevation desert with warmer temperatures coming up, I managed to get out of my sleeping bag. Turns out that the rain was only water dripping from the trees. It was super misty and even though the weather felt a bit miserable, I couldn't help but enjoy the hiking. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of this part because I had my camera tucked away. After only two miles of hiking I passed the 500-mile marker, and a couple of meters after that another one, and then another one. Even though people had problems deciding on which exact spot it should be at, I was very excited to have passed this big milestone, halfway to a thousand miles!
One of the several 500-mile markers.
After a while, the trail turned northwards, finally starting the progress of actually going towards Canada again, and descending down towards the Mojave Desert. After going down for a bit I suddenly exited the clouds and relatively blue skies suddenly protruded in front of me. The temperatures were still really chilly and looking back I could see the heavy clouds like a large wall covering the mountains I came from. The downhill was easy hiking, but I started to feel some pain in my (other) knee now. This was an old injury I had even before the PCT, which seemed to always get worse when it's cold. I stopped and stretched a lot which definitely helped. But the hiking time in between breaks became shorter and shorter, and I was looking forward to getting down to the desert and to Hiker Town. A very weird, miniature town.
The wall of clouds behind me, obscuring the mountains I woke up at.
Chelsea a bit further down, descending towards the Mojave Desert.
Run-down cars just before entering the desert plains.
I could see Chelsea in front of me, she was keeping a really good pace. Trying to time myself and see if I was catching up with her. At first, I was keeping the same pace, but soon I was falling behind her, even though I was pushing my hardest. That girl can really walk fast. When we, at last, got to Hiker Town we hitched to a nearby restaurant and ate burgers. My phone finally, finally dried out, started working again, and even though it was having some weird glitching it was possible to use it. I was very happy about that! We hitched back to the small town and Chelsea decided to go back out on the trail to do a couple of miles more. I, however, decided to not be that bold and stayed in the little town. I borrowed trekking poles from Jake so that I could pitch my tent. And set it up together with Tine and Susanne, two nice Germans who I think started the same day as me. It was really windy, as always in the desert, but falling asleep to the wind was something I was used to by now.
Hiker Town in the middle of the picture. Chelsea can be seen far away on the road, way ahead of me.
Evening view from Hiker Town.
The services in the small town.
The wind died down during the night and I woke up to what was looking to be a promising day. I left Hiker Town and started my journey across the vast desert plains. At first, the trail followed a road. There are lots of channels leading water down to Los Angeles through the desert, and after about a mile the trail met one of the largest channels and started following it. Shortly after that, the trail took a turn yet again and entered the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which is what this section of the trail is most famous for. The pipe you first follow has been quite iconic for me in my preparations, and it was really cool to finally be there and walk on it. Around me, the plains were stretching out in all directions, with only the mountains in the far distance breaking the horizon. Joshua trees were growing everywhere forming large thickets, and this was definitely the stereotype of the desert I expected from a long time ago.
The first part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
Ops, maybe should have put this sign on the other end of the pipe.
The pipe came to an end and the aqueduct now became a combined road. At places, there was ventilation with cool air streaming up from the water underneath. Great for a break! I really enjoyed this section of hiking. The temperatures were hot, but not too unbearable, I was lucky with the weather. There was not so much wind and the views of never-ending desert mixing with run-down houses and barbed wire fences gave a certain special feeling that is not really found in other sections of the trail. Far away I could soon see windmills, distorted by the heat in the air. The trail turned away from the aqueduct for a while and followed a dirt road where at several places large cracks in the earth crossed the road, from spring floods that had come through earlier. Not a trace of water could be found now.
My first part of shoes are breaking apart.
One of the ventilations on the aqueduct.
Windmills in the distance.
I took my lunch break underneath a huge Joshua tree, a nice shaded spot in the now increasing heat. I read my book and relaxed, but I soon got restless as I always get after a too long break. So after about an hours break, I started to move again. I had done 13 miles already this morning and felt good. The trail rejoined the aqueduct and the first water source of the day appeared. I stopped and filled up together with the French gang of people who were already there. Hydrated and ready, the trail now left the aqueduct for the last time and entered the large wind farm I had been seeing at a distance. The terrain changed to grassland with junipers growing which really reminded me of Öland back home in Sweden. The trail was slowly climbing up towards the mountains and the wind had started to pick up. I was starting to get tired, and the small canyon I was planning for the campsite was longingly in my mind.
Walking the aqueduct.
Windmills and joshua trees.
French guys near the water source.
Entering the wind farm.
My knee started to hurt again, and I had to take a couple of breaks to stretch. At one of the breaks, Prince suddenly caught up to me. I was super surprised and happy to see him. I don't think I had seen him since Fuller Ridge, just after Idyllwild, 350 miles earlier. We chatted for a bit, he told me that Nic, Hummingbird, Simba, Russ, and Emi were a day ahead of us. He had some problems with his stomach and had to slow down. Strengthened by the unexpected meeting I made it the last bit up to the camp without feeling my knee at all. This was the first night I cowboy camped. It was nice sleeping directly underneath the stars, but I don't think I appreciated it enough back then. I really miss cowboy camping now.
Looking back down the desert just as I started to climb up into the mountains.
My cowboy camping setup in the small canyon that was my campsite.
I was worried about my knee. After I got rid of the first problem back before Wrightwood I had been so happy to be able to walk without any problems. But now I was feeling very anxious for the other one. So I stopped several times during the morning and stretched, even though I couldn't feel any pain at all. I was feeling really tired this day. I think the previous day had taken its toll and now with lots of uphills, I was really struggling. At my breakfast break Jake and Lisa caught up with me, and I chatted with them for a bit, before kept climbing. The views down south in the desert were magnificent, and you could see a glimpse of Mt Baden-Powell and Mt San Gorgonio where I had been so long ago.
Hiding in nature, evolution-style.
Sunbathing with a view of the Mojave Desert.
At mile 549 there was some awesome trail magic. I ate a bag of cookies, an orange and drank some cold juice. There were also chairs to sit in to rest my tired legs. The French people were also there, and Jake and Lisa soon caught up. We talked about the French election which had taken place just a couple of days before. After about half an hour I reluctantly got up and started to walk again. I walked this part together with Jake and Lisa, which was really nice. Jake told me about his job as a Ranger, which sounded really awesome. Jake and Lisa have this friendly air about them that you wished you would have yourself. Walking down towards the road leading into the towns of Mojave and Tehachapi went by very quickly. The massive wind farm was covering the landscape, with the white poles becoming the forest of the desert. Probably generating enough electricity to support whole Sweden itself.
Relaxing at the trail magic.
We do get spoiled on the trail :)
The huge wind farm stretching out.
When we got to the road I said goodbye to Jake and Lisa who were hitching into Tehachapi this evening. I myself were planning to camp at this spot and then walk to the next road and hitch into Mojave the following day. It was sad to say goodbye, probably for the last time, since they were going to a wedding and would fall behind me. As if it wasn't enough Texas Blue and Charlie Brown also passed by and told me they were planning to take some time off and go test hike the Sierras. There are so many people out there, and it's impossible to walk with everyone all the time. But the community is truly what makes the PCT amazing.
Me with Lisa and Jake.
Charlie Brown and Texas Blue.
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