Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hiker Heaven

Hi everyone, I'm writing to you today from outside Agua Dulce, CA, at a place called, appropriately enough, Hiker Heaven. This is a legendary rest spot at the home of two trail angels named the Saufleys, and it certainly lives up to its title. They have a guest house set up behind their home in a double-wide trailer, bins and bins of clean, town-worthy clothes, hiker boxes full of gear left by previous guests to rifle through, t.v., internet, movies, rides to town... and Donna even does the laundry FOR YOU!! Holy crap. Hiker Heaven indeed.

This awsome trail magic couldn't have come at a better time either. While the trip from Wrightwood to here was a relatively short couple of days, it has felt like much longer. After getting a ride back to the trail with Ray, the PCT climbs up the north face of Mount Baden Powell, a 4 mile, 3000 foot climb on a good day. Due to the late snows and the direction of the slope, the trail quickly becomes lost and one has to hoof it straight up the mountain, no switchbacks, kicking steps into the snow every foot of the way. The effort is woth it however, affording 360 degree views down to the Mojave on one side, and off through more snowy canyons on the other. With jellied legs, one has to follow the trail as it steeply ascends and descends along a knife-edged ridge ultimately leading down to Islip Saddle, where another wildfire last year damaged the trail and forced a reroute around 50 miles of trail or so. Ouch.

The detour starts innocently enough, winding down South Fork Canyon, a gorge where the trail tread does its best to narrowly cling to the crumbling walls. Not the type of place to be is an earthquake, though it would make a good movie location for a western. At the bottom is a car-accessible campground, which to a thru-hiker necessarily needs to be approached with dread and caution, along with a sprinkling of hope. We're like bears; car campgrounds are disgusting, noisy ugly, littered places, often full of the dregs of humanity out for a drunken weekend (god knows this one was), but it also affords the opportunity to yogi some free food/ beer from the locals. Unfortunately this campground had all of the former, none of the latter. Groups of bongo playing hippies poorly playing Sublime covers. Parents doing donuts in the dusty parking lot with their children hanging on to the roof of their pickups, honking all the while. Underaged girls drinking till 4 a.m., shouting cheerleading chants while being implored by men twice their age to "show 'em their tits". Yeah. It was that bad. It makes you wonder at what stage of psychological development these people must be stuck, that they can not imagine a world of 'others' outside their tiny group of friends. Really? Screaming (seriously screaming) at 4 a.m.? Please.
To look around at the beautiful setting, at the bottoms of a gorge carved out of the solid rock by millenia of rushing water, and realize that it meant nothing to these people was truly frightening. I like to think that the average city dweller or suburbanite tries to get out into the woods in order to enjoy the quiet and solitude, to marvel at the things it has to offer that the world built by human hands cannot. And yet these people (I shudder to put myself in the same species as they, but thats taxonomy for you), were doing exactly the opposite; the only reason they were there was to escape the mores and laws of society that would have had them imprisoned or shunned for that kind of behavior. Scary.

But anyway. Leaving behind that nightmarish place, the trail went to Devil's Punchbowl, a geological formation of carved sandstone rocks and creeks. Unfortunately, things go down from here. 30-40 miles of blister inducing, foot pounding, mind numbing road walking through desert, surrounded by Joshua trees and scrub bushes, was only bearable thanks to a book (Charles Kuralt's On the Road, very worthywhile considering the circumstances). Walking while reading, with traffic whizzing by at 70 mph, is not the best way to spend a few days, trust me. Getting back on the trail was the best feeling I've had in awhile, particularly for my feet. Luckily the trail is pretty amazing coming into Agua Dulce where it passes Vasquez Rocks, another sandstone outcropping, along with a number of ranches and horse farms. The towns along the trail really do have the old west feel about them, including places to park your horse at the grocery store. Crazy.

That being said, it is nice to finally be back on the real trail again, with hopefully no more detours to tangle with between here and Canada. I'm planning on staying here for 2 nights, then possibly looking for some trail maintinence crews to work with for awhile later on to kill some time (don't hold me to my word though). Crossing the Mojave Desert is next, then on to the high mountains after! 450 miles down, many more to go.

1 comment:

Dave Sailer said...

Hi. Thanks for the campground description. Luckily for me, I've never had it as bad as that, but I still feel totally like an alien just passing through. Or is it the other way around? Anyway, I know the feeling.