Pacific Crest Trail Update, Mile 535: Urban/Wilderness Juxtaposition, Water and Hikertown
When we left Hwy 15 at Cajon Junction northbound, we started a 20 mile long, consistent climb with no water. There is a water cache about five miles in but it felt dicey to rely on dated information on the quantity of water at this cache, so we carried lots of water—I had 7 liters on my back from the highway. Ouch. In an attempt to mitigate the heat, we started the climb at 4:00 AM. Once the sun hit us we would be fully exposed, almost no shade, for the remainder of the 5800 foot ascent.
Due to the trail moving through random spots of civilization, our long bouts of wilderness are interspersed with man made oddities. I do enjoy the way that the trail is pieced together—every day is unknown. Inserting urban onto the trail (or visa versa) can be strange and interesting and usually involves some creative route finding. In the pitch dark, we made our way down to the trail, passing discarded mattresses and piles of trash. We crossed under the highway through a graffiti-laden, tunnel. Mixed in with the graffiti is a small PCT mark on the walls of the tunnel. As we pick our way through the fences and ditches on the side of the highway, I recalled the Criminal Minds marathon we just watched while hanging out for several hours in the Cajon Pass Inn. I’d never watched this show before, and as we navigated the edge of the urban sprawl I was thinking of the plethora of serial killers who cut off peoples limbs or heads. Not a helpful thought in the dark of night.
Better to focus on the starry skies, making sure to not get hit by the train, and enjoy the cool air as we started making our way up.
About two thirds of the way up the endless climb we got our first unexpected trail magic of the hike—coolers of cold drinks, candy bars and some fruit. Nirvana. I made the mistake of drinking and eating too much sugary stuff while sitting for too long. This equated to very stiff, dead legs and a pukey, bloated stomach for the rest of the climb. We were rewarded with one of the nicest campsites of the hike thus far, with views of the city-sprawl below. Though I suffered on those last few miles into camp, I think I would have indulged in the magic if given the chance again. Yep.
We were on a schedule to get to Wrightwood on a specific day as we were getting our second vaccine shots in the Wrightwood area. After a bit of rest to ensure we didn’t have shot side effects, we were back at it again.
From the south side of the Lake Fire Trail Closure on the PCT, we had to bypass this second fire closure by walking around the closed section of trail on the road. We did another 4:00 AM start to beat the heat and more so the traffic. The first few hours were quite pleasant—cool air, starry skies, no cars.
We had been consistent and steady, while increasing our miles a bit the past few days in anticipation of some upcoming recovery days. The extended miles also reflected our ability to get water.
One of my evening text conversations with hubby, Chris, is a reflection:
Me: “What are you up to and what did you have for dinner?”
Chris: “Doing the dishes after having a steak and a glass of wine. How is your camp tonight?”
Me: “We are sleeping in a ditch on the side of the road. Because there is water here.”
Water defines our journey in the desert. It informs how far we hike, where we sleep, how much our packs weigh. We got info there was a water cache at the head of the trail leading into Hikertown. When we arrived the was about 3/4 of a gallon left. We took what we needed while leaving some for the next hiker. As we left the trailhead I was hoping some angels would come and refill the empties…
Several days before getting to Hikertown, which is on the edge of the Mojave Desert, the trail becomes a bit redundant. One day kinda looks like the day before, and the next day prompts, “Did we do something like this a couple days ago?” But then we get in sight of Hikertown and the infamous Mojave, and the geography starts to turn.
Hikertown is right on the PCT in Antelope Valley. It is an odd, eclectic, oasis offering water, food, tiny themed “rooms” in which to sleep, a kitchen, an outdoor shower and hiker boxes. They have a shuttle to a store where they accept resupply boxes, and have most things that hikers like to eat on or off trail. All for a donation of your choosing.
If you are lucky you’ll meet the owner of Hikertown. If so, make sure you set aside some time to listen to him tell stories of how Hikertown came to be.
Hikertown is an oasis, but it is more so it is a stepping off point in the trail—from hilly, dirty and dry, climbing and descending amidst a plethora of vegetation—into the flat Mojave Desert and the Aqueduct. Just about all hikers stop here, if only to collect themselves mentally before forging ahead into the shadeless terrain ahead. There is much fun and socializing to be had while reconnecting with other hikers you’ve perhaps met and not seen since. But everyone’s eye is on the next objective—getting through the Mojave and on to the southern Sierra.
We arrived at Hikertown around mid day when a large handful of hikers were prepping to head out. It was a reasonably hot day so the air was productive and pensive. Some talked of doing the ‘Tehachapi Challenge’, an approximately 50-mile straight through push from Hikertown to Tehachapi. But the banter was all laced with concern about the heat.
To address the latter, we would once again, leave in the middle of the night. And once again we had a lovely saunter under starry skies over the iconic aqueduct. We took a Zero in Lancaster then jumped back in where we left off to pushed forward back into the hills. All eyes on Kennedy Meadows—and much more water.
It has been incredibly uplifting to see how many people give support to the hikers and the hikers to each other. Feels hopeful. As it should be always. Feeling grateful to be on trail.
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