Through the desert…
June 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
Agua Dulce to Tehachapi – 104 miles 7 days Total: 558 miles 40 days + 4 zero days
In Agua Dulce we stayed at a trail angels house. Every year from April to June the Saufley’s welcome the hundreds of northbound hikers that go through. In their backyard they have set up tents and cots for hikers to sleep as well as a trailer with a kitchen, living room and bathroom. Resupply packages pile up in the garage beside two computers and an information booth where you can pick up a printed water report (the water report tells us which water sources on the trail are dry and which ones are still running so we can plan how much water to carry and not die of thirst). And your laundry is even done for you! No wonder it’s called Hiker Heaven.
We took a zero day there and were planning to leave the next day early afternoon. We tried hard to leave, I promised, and we have witnesses. The packs were ready, a couple more minutes and we would have been gone. But we got a call from John, our mailman, who was planning to drive from LA to visit us with his 3-months old baby girl Julia. That was the perfect excuse to take an extra zero day so we stayed one more day!
Twenty-four miles further we got lured into the Anderson’s vortex. Like the Saufley’s, the Anderson’s welcome hikers into their home, Casa de Luna. This is the hippie, party place on the trail (but when we stayed there, people were recovering from two nights of partying so the place was disappointingly quiet :-(). A path behind the house leads through the woods where you can set up your tent. Terrie cooks Taco Salad every evening and Joe makes pancakes for breakfast.
Hiker Heaven and Casa de Luna couldn’t be more different; each place has its own feel, but both Donna and Terrie welcome you with a hug, making you feel like a long lost family member whom they’ve been waiting to find its way back home. It takes lots of courage to wash dirty, smelly hiker clothes and it requires loads of energy to cook dinner for up to 40 hungry hikers on some evenings. And think of the ressources: space, water, electricity, washing powder, toilet paper, food, gas… it takes to sleep, clean, feed and give rides to about 400 hikers every year. And they don’t expect anything in return! The dedication of these people to the trail and all that they do for us hikers is truly amazing.
But such places are also dangerous. It’s tempting to stay. It’s hard to leave and it’s even harder to be back on the trail. Especially that by now we’re fed up by Southern California and its arid landscapes, we yearn for the mountains. That’s our motivation. “Let’s cross this damn desert and get to the mountains!”
So we went through the desert. It’s a shame Moses wasn’t here to lead us (a hiker whose trailname is Moses was one or two days behind us) but at least it didn’t take us 40 years. Only two days. We followed the LA acqueduct for a while then walked straight through the Mojave before climbing out of the desert into the Tehachapi hills. We beat our record on this last stretch, we hiked 20 miles in a day once.
I’m proud of Isabelle, she’s made huge progress regarding snakes. Now, when we stop for a break near a log with a hole from which a tail snake is hanging, she doesn’t freak out and run, she merely says: “Hum, maybe we shouldn’t stop here…” and she even agreed to stay there for our snack break once I had identified it as a Gopher snake and checked there was no rattle on the tail (Gopher snakes are non venomous and keep rattlesnakes away). We weren’t the only ones in for a snack… Soon whiskers and grey fur appeared out of the hole; a mouse making a run for its life. Its friend or babies (?) weren’t as lucky as the snake moved deeper into the hole while out of another hole it pushed some part of its body, along the length of which we could clearly make out a small bump…
We have never felt so European. We miss a lot of allusions and cultural references other hikers make (most PCT hikers are American). A whole part of America doesn’t get exported and even the things you’ve heard about or seen in movies seem unreal and alien. Isabelle is developping a dislike for the US that comes out particularly strong when we head into town to resupply. True, in the land of cars, towns are a hiker’s nightmare. City centers don’t exist, post office, motel, restaurant and supermarket are spread out over miles.
It seems we are becoming famous on the trail. People we’ve never met know of the Swisters. What are the people saying about us???