Days 38 – 41: Miles 444.3 – 485.8 (Lake Hughes)

I can’t tell you how happy we are to be going Northbound (NOBO) again. The San Gabriel Mountains were beautiful, but there was so much unnecessary stress added to our journey that it made the trail feel more like a chore than an experience. Anyways… NOBO we go, once again.

Miles 444.3 – 454.7 (Agua Dulce)

Hiking season is most definitely upon us! Packrat, Bird, and I hired an Uber to get us from Cajon Pass back to Acton where we would once again join the trail. We successfully completed our footpath from Acton to Cajon Pass going SOBO. Now, we head into the desert with our moral renewed.

Our Uber dropped us off at the LA RV Park, where we once stood debating whether or not to tackle the San Gabriel Mountains. This time, we had only one direction to travel… North, towards Canada!

Walking into the campground, it became immediately obvious that something about the trail had changed significantly. There were people! Hikers!! Tons of hikers were skipping forward due to all the snow that has accumulated in the mountains over the past four weeks. The winter storms we have been dodging since day one have created chaos and confusion on trail. New hikers were landing all over the place… some having done only a couple days out of Campo while others were landing on trail for the first time. It was nuts.

Isn’t she beautiful!

The three of us gathered our stuff and headed to the trail. We were on eight straight days of hiking, but for some odd reason, we were full of energy. It was amazing to be heading north once again.

The excitement of heading NOBO may have been a bit more distracting than I thought. As we headed down trail and away from the RV park, we quickly approached a railroad track. In my excitement, I charged ahead without any regard for my surroundings. As I stepped foot onto the rocks surrounding the train tracks, I was quickly met with the chest rattling blast from a train horn. I looked up and realized quickly that I had only a moment to decide my permanent fate.

Look both ways before approaching train tracks!

All joking aside… the trail is dangerous. Please be careful out there. Be aware of your surroundings. Slowdown and be safe!

Interesting fact… the PCT traverses six of the seven eco-zones found in the continental United States. I mention this fact because I swear we hiked onto a whole different planet. As soon as we crossed the railroad tracks, the landscape turned a beautiful, rich green color with thick vegetation everywhere. The air became extremely dense and humid. It reminded me of being back in the South.

Highway 14 Tunnel

We hiked uphill for a good portion of our morning before descending into Agua Dulce. The ascent was only 1,850 feet, but it was over a short distance. The added humidity made the climb out of the valley a lot harder than it should have been. Luckily there is water seeping from every nook and cranny so staying hydrated hasn’t been a problem.

Agua Dulce is home of the Vasquez Rocks. This famous rock formation has been a Hollywood backdrop for numerous films to include: Star Trek, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Dante’s Peak, The Flintstones, and many more. It was cool to see this famous formation up-close.

Vasquez Rocks, Aqua Dulce, CA

I had some extra pep in my step as we descended into Aqua Dolce. The excitement of having a delightful Mexican dinner was the only thing on my mind. All I could daydream about was a chile relleno, a taco, and a pitcher of margaritas.

Bonita Maria’s – Best meal on the PCT so far.

We had an amazing dinner at Bonita Maria’s before heading to the Hiker Oasis. The staff at Bonita Maria were absolutely amazing. They were extremely accommodating to all the hikers passing through. They even offered the hikers some patio space to crash for the night. The offer was tempting, but we were also excited to see the Hiker Oasis.


The Serenity Oasis or Hiker Oasis is a home-made campground just for PCT hikers. The Oasis is located on the property of and curated by Farmer John and his partner Andrea. There are hot showers, laundry facilities, power outlets… the works. They can handle anything from shipping and receiving packages to feeding the masses twice a day (breakfast and dinner). The property has tons of space for hikers to spread out and even a little store with all the hiker essentials.

Hiker Oasis, Aqua Dulce, CA
Laundry and a foot soak.

Miles 454.7 – 465.6

Margaritas are really good. Sometimes too good. And when margaritas are introduced to a dehydrated hiker diet… they can most definitely lead to hard times. We were moving slowly the morning following that amazing dinner at Bonita Maria’s, but that was okay. We were in an Oasis!

Our slow start allowed us time to appreciate the many amenities afforded to us at this great trail stop. I took advantage of having a shower while Racheal started a load of laundry for us. All three of us ordered breakfast… a massive burrito crammed with eggs, chorizo, refried beans, and an assortment of chilies, onions, and peppers. Amazing!

Serenity’s Oasis – Thank You

Our day started off with a slight up hill road climb out of Aqua Dulce. It was a nice stop, but it was time to get back onto the trail. We had slightly over 20 miles of trail to cover before we would arrive in Green Valley. We had a late start to our day and heavy climb ahead of us so we fully expected to take two days to get into Green Valley.

We had a steep climb once the road leading out of Aqua Dulce hit the dirt trail. In all, we crushed 2,500 feet of ascent, most of it being in the first six miles. After our climb, it was an easy walk down the other side.

A little motivation goes a long ways.

There was an official PCT trail register at the beginning of our incline. Packrat and I had fun thumbing through the pages, looking at the names of those who passed through the area before us. We saw a lot of familiar names; other hikers we’ve met along the way that had a bit more speed than we did. We miss you all and hope you are having a wonderful journey.

Packrat leaving her mark.
One of many PCT registers.

Packrat, Bird, and I only hiked 11 miles. We found a decent place to camp near a stream alongside the Bouquet Valley Road. There was some trail magic in the form of a water cache available, although the stream running through the area was crystal clear and cold. I opted to leave the water for others in the event this stream slows down in the future.

Miles 456.6 – 478.2 (Green Valley)

We woke-up to our gear being soaked. Everything was wet… my tent, sleeping bag, all of my accessories, everything! Morning condensation is an unfortunate reality and hard to determine the severity of its occurrence until it happens. I have noticed that low laying areas and areas near water tend to produce more condensation than areas opposite. We were in a heavily saturated, low laying area next to a creek. Go figure…

AV Rocks (FB) We found your rock! So cute.

It took us awhile to get out of camp due to the need to dry things out. Luckily, the morning sun peaked above the horizon just right where we received the morning sun rays almost immediately. We did our best to dry our stuff out, but all three of us would most likely have to pull our stuff out later for further drying.

We hiked about 12 miles for the day, with only having 1,800 feet of climbing before we reached Green Valley. There is a BBQ smokehouse in town that we were very excited for so we wasted no time getting a ride into town.

The Family – Bob Kimmerly Memorial Bench

The trail crosses the San Francisquito Road, about 100 yards from the fire station. According to our sources, the fire station has opened up their space to allow hikers to camp for the night. They had plenty of space for numerous hikers to spread out, a picnic table, running water, and outlets where we could charge a few electronics. It was not a bad setup, and where we decided we would camp for the night.

Camping at the Green Valley Fire Station

We called the Green Valley Smokehouse upon reaching the fire station, hoping for a ride into town. The owners of the smokehouse very graciously drove down the road to fetch us and bring us back to their establishment. The food was good. I would have taken a picture, but I forgot due to being so hungry.

After our delightful meal, Packrat, Bird, and I enjoyed an ice cold beverage outside the local convenience store alongside a dozen or so locals. It was a mixed bag of blue-collared workers and veterans who seemed to work hard and drink hard. Apparently, the three of us caused such a stir within the community that more and more locals stopped by to check things out. Before we knew it, most of Green Valley was outside this convenience store partying the night away. It will be a fond memory for sure.

The Green Valley hang-out.

We crashed alongside many other hikers at the fire station. About eight of us talked around the picnic table until hiker midnight (9 p.m.)… having a few laughs and sharing stories from our journeys this far. It was fun to finally be meeting other hikers.

More hikers!!

Miles 478.2 – 485.8

With the exception of a couple hikers whom were staying put due to injuries, our crew was the last to leave the fire station in the morning. We were on trail at OUR regular time, but apparently other hikers are quicker to get up and moving.

It has been twelve consecutive days of hiking and we were beginning to feel the effects of the trail. All three of us were experiencing some form of ache and pain, which is a good sign that it’s time for a break.

Smiley – 12 days of consecutive hiking.

Our morning kicked off with an immediate 1,000 foot climb. We were making great time on trail, but we could tell our bodies weren’t recovering as quick as usual. While taking a break at the summit of the hill we had just climbed, we discussed the idea of a day off.

My knee was giving me some problems. I was experiencing a sharp pain that was causing some intense discomfort. I couldn’t recall a misstep or ankle roll so I am assuming the pain is associated with over exertion. I was definitely ready for a day off.

We decided to hike to Lake Hughes Road where we would then attempt to hail an Uber. There was some trail magic in the form of water and oranges for us to enjoy while we waited on our ride. Thanks to the many trail angels out there providing for us hikers. We honestly could not do this without you!

Thank you, R. Huschitt for the trail magic.

To be continued…

We are taking a much needed day off in Lancaster, CA. Our bodies are sore and we’re dying to just lounge around poolside for a while.

We should make it to Hiker Town in the next couple of days where we are expecting some resupply packages and new shoes for Bird. Rachael and I are getting new shoes in Tehachapi. I can’t wait!! Stay tuned.

Cheers, Smiley

One step at a time.

Packrat and Bird’s first Wienerschnitzel. 

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Comments 2

  • Tim Semones : Apr 21st

    Chris, glad to see you guys back on the move. Was a bit concerned when you returned to Cajon Pass to pick up trail (ok, the closed Highway 2) for a bit instead of continuing NOBO but looks like it going to work just fine. I would say clear sailing until Kennedy Meadows but I bet you guys will stamp it out at a nice pace and find a civilized meal or two on the way. Bet you will be there by mid-May, perhaps perfect timing to go pick up the couple of miles back in Big Bear area and come back for the Sierras at the perfect time.

    Super excited for you three, keep it up!

    • Jeff Zinn : Apr 23rd

      Looks like great times out there Smiley! Keep having fun and enjoy every second.


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