Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 31-Hikertown and Night Hiking

Pine Canyon Creek at 511 to Cottonwood Creek Bridge at mile 534

I guess I was camped on more of a slope than I realized-I didn't sleep well, but it was far from my worst night out on the trail thus far.  On the plus side I was up and out of camp before six.

I've heard that when this section of trail was being built a land agreement fell through so for about seven miles the trail is on private land and it takes the most up and down way possible to the highway.  I didn't mind the section too much, but I can see how it would get to a hiker at the end of a long day when all she wants to do is get to Hikertown.

At one point on the way to Hikertown I remember thinking it wasn't that hot out-maybe I didn't need to night hike the Aqua Duct.  Then I looked at my watch and it was only eight o'clock-it was going to be another typical day in the desert.

Hikertown is this odd little compound on the corner of the highway the trail crosses.  It was completely fenced in with a tall chain-link fence with a big old gate and a friendly welcome hiker sign.  Hikertown was once used in old western movies as trail legend goes.  A dozen buildings built for people under five foot tall lined both sides of a dirt road.  I was met at the gate by one of the operators and brought to the mail room where I quickly found my heavy resupply.

I was given a quick tour that ended at the hiker lounge.  It was nice to be inside-this area is known for its wind, and for good reason.  The last mile to the town I had the wind slamming into me, making me stagger.  Inside the lounge all the doors rattled from the wind.  The bathroom door rattled like someone was frantically trying to get out of a locked room.

The place was mildly creepy, but full of hikers that I knew.  Someone said breakfast was being made and even though there were two showers we all sat around stinking waiting for food to appear.  We are not always a polite crowd when it comes to food:  if a hiker happens to be in the shower when a meal is served, that hiker runs a great risk of not getting any food.

A toaster, two loaves of bread, and two sticks of butter on a plate where brought in and we desended on it.  I haven't had toast since Idyllwild and only the day before I had been longing for toast.  We went through a shocking amount of butter for half a dozen people.  The rest of the meal shortly followed:  scrambled eggs with cheese, hash browns, and orange slices.  There were no leftovers.

The rest of the day was about chores and relaxing and everybody was hoping for a nap before night hiking out.  Showers were taken, laundry done, resupplies crammed into food bags, and blogs updated.  Sadly no nap was had by me.  A few hikers were able to find napping places-on the lawn in the shade like giant toddlers.

Right before leaving I was able to catch up with Stride who had just hiked in after a 24 mile day.  She would be hiking out in the morning.  I hiked out solo, hoping to meet up with others before dark.

The first couple of miles along the aqua duct the water is uncovered.  At some point a river was harnessed, contained, and sent to LA for the city's needs.   And then someone else thought it would be funny to have hikers walk along all that water for 17 miles through the desert and not let them have a drop.

The sun set soon after the duct made a sharp turn and became a covered duct.  I missed most of the sunset-the covered duct blocked the view from the dirt road I was walking on.  I could see hikers ahead and behind me- I know them by sight, but I wouldn't say I know them.

I do catch up with the hikers in front of me as the moon, just a couple of days past new, comes up and it really starts to get dark.  It's about that time I remembered that I don't like night hiking-especially when the trail is on roads and turns are easy to miss (that sums up the Aqua Duct section of the PCT).

Hiking with two couples I feel like the odd one out and I lag behind until the first snack break at 9:30.  There is no long break-stop too long and it's cold.

About an hour later, the moon is gone and the stars are bright we make a wrong turn.  With two GPS's in the group we don't go far on the wrong road and we get back on track without much trouble.  Once back on trail we figure we will arrive at the water source around 1 a.m.

Even in the dark-our head lamps have been off most of the time- there is plenty to see off the ridge.  A town in the valley is bright the entire time it's in sight.  Looking at it messes with my night vision.

The wind wasn't bad since living Hikertown, but it starts to pick up.  I'm wearing pants, but I can feel fine grit blast. Its way to my legs.  About this point I start feeling done.  If there's anywhere to camp in the brush next to the road I can't see it.  Two in our group have already called it a night, and I want to do the same, but I want shelter.

Right then a light shed appears with a sign next to the road directing us to water.  Water has to wait until morning.  I'm so tired I'm staggering-but that could be the wind's fault.  It's quarter til one when I slip into my sleeping bag.  Overhead, among the stars, I can make out motionless wind turbines. It's windy where I am and I use my pack to block the wind from my face and finally sleep.


  1. I like the way that you are free to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Walk? Why not? Sleep? Why not? Go roague? Why not? That has to be the attraction (and the reward).

  2. Beautifully rendered. I am experiencing this as you write it.