Days 42 – 45: Miles 485.8 – 529.3 (L.A. Aqueduct)

You really need to be proactive in replacing your shoes well before they lose their cushion… a lesson I am learning the hard way.

I noticed my feet were starting to hurt a lot more than usual. It was a familiar ache… plantar fasciitis! Plantar fasciitis is a soft tissue injury where the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your feet (connecting your heel to your toes) becomes inflamed. This injury can cause a lot of pain if left untreated.

Being familiar with plantar fasciitis, I know shoes with good arch support and cushion are extremely important in helping with injury prevention. I thought my shoes would last at least 500 miles… I was wrong. My feet hurt more and more with each mile that passes. Unfortunately, my new shoes are in Tehachapi… days away.

I think I will replace my shoes every 400 miles from now on. I need to protect my most vital hiking asset… my feet.

Miles 485.8 – 498.2

Packrat, Bird, and I rejoined the PCT where we left off, on Lake Hughes Road. The Leona Divide 100k was going on, so we could expect to share the trail with many ultra runners.

Race officials were staged at the PCT entrances.

We began our day with a 2,220 foot climb out of the valley and back into the Tehachapi Mountains. Ultra runners passed us all day… causing our progress to be slowed down slightly. I gotta give those runners a lot of props… the speed at which these athletes traverse the mountain side was impressive. I’m sure it’s a bit easier to do without a 35+ lb backpack on.

The three of us continued up the mountain for what felt like an eternity. The uphill climb was long and the temperature was higher than what we had been used to. We only hiked 11.4 but it felt much further.

In 2011, the Tehachapi Mountains experienced a wild land fire that claimed 14,500 acres. Some of the vegetation has since grown back, but it could take a hundred years before the area matures into its former glory. For now… we’ll have to enjoy the manzanita, oak bush, and poodle dog bush…

Tehachapi Mountains

Poodle dog bush is a poisonous plant that grows in areas that had once succumbed to wild land fires. The plant secretes a toxin from its leaves and stem that when touched will cause a severe skin irritation. According to some sources, the irritant can last weeks and has been reported as being a much worse version of poison oak.

Poodle Dog Bush

We ended our day at the Sawmill Campground. I expected to see other hikers there, but we were the only ones camping for the night. Campgrounds are great because they usually have pit toilets, trash cans, and picnic tables.

Miles 498.5 – 517.6

Today marked another huge milestone. We crossed over the 500 mile mark! It’s amazing how far we’ve come since leaving Campo. The trail has certainly challenged us and will continue to do so. Next mileage goal… 1,000 miles!

500 Miles!

We were really excited to see Hiker Town which motivated us to hike a bit further than we normally do. Our morning started with a 6 o’clock wake-up and on trail by 7 a.m. The three of us crushed 19.1 miles of trail with a total of 2,559 feet of ascent.

Good Morning Vibes

The first bit of our hike was through a very green, lush area. It was really pretty and well worth a day hike if you’re ever in the area. In fact, the entire hike down the mountain was stunning.

Green Pathways

We began our descent into the Mojave Desert just shy of noon. The temperature was steadily climbing and water resupply options were becoming more and more scarce. It was evident our days of seasonal streams were coming to an end.

As we dropped into Antelope Valley, we could see hundreds of wind turbines and solar arrays cluttering the landscape ahead. The valley looked incredibly flat and dry. This is where we will follow the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

A View of the Mojave Desert (Antelope Valley)

The second half of our day was spent climbing up and down small hills that were painted with millions of wildflowers. Hues of purple, orange, and yellow covered the hill sides. The landscape looked as if we had walked into a Monet painting.

Silver Bush Lupine
Longleaf Paintbrush
California Poppy

It wasn’t long before we made it to Hiker Town. Finally… the famous/infamous hiker stop along the Pacific Creat Trail. I’ve been looking forward to this stop for so long.

We walked into Hiker Town just before 5 p.m. Bird was already there and had already found himself in familiar company. After a couple weeks off trail… Big Dill made his way back to the PCT. And… remember the story of the hiker that had snow blowing into their tent? That was Big Dill and he was in a really dangerous situation that required him to use the S.O.S. Feature on his Garmin InReach.

We also met Hilda again! She was here… with Bird and I after 500 miles of struggling through the Southern California mountain ranges. From Old Town San Diego to here… Hiker Town.

Welcome to Hiker Town
Martha, Smiley, Bird, Hilda

Miles 517.6 – 529.3

I woke-up to the desert sun running me out of my sweltering tent. One thing you should keep in mind when camping in the desert is that the sun and the ambient temperature raises quickly.

Hiker Town Tent City

Packrat made us breakfast tacos using a Breakfast Skillet, Mountain House meal and some tortillas. It was a really nice treat that we don’t get on a regular basis.

Our day revolved around getting prepared for our evening hike. We had to resupply, charge electronics, fill water bottles, and pack our bags. My mom sent us three boxes, with were greatly appreciated since our food supplies were running short.

Hiker Taxi

Hiker town is an interesting place. It gives off a homemade, western town vibe… complete with miniature sheriffs office, city hall, theaters and brothel. The whole operation was split into two ventures. You had the lodging side, which includes either tent camping or renting a themed bunkhouse and the additional services side which includes laundry, showers, and postage needs.

Hiker Town Condos
Rooms for rent.

The real hero in this operation is Martha. She takes care of the lodging side of the operation and can be seen running all around the property, completing an assortment of tasks. Martha is also a wonderful cook. She made all 19 hikers dinner. We enjoyed rolled tacos and a delicious salad. Just what we needed before heading out for a night hike.

Dinner by Martha
Rachael’s Spirit Animal – Martha
Hiker Town Citizens

Miles 517.6 – 529.3

The Los Angeles Aqueduct has supplied water from the Eastern Sierras to Southern California since 1913. Considered a miracle of engineering, this aqueduct supplies 430 million gallons of water daily to L.A. residents.

On this night… we hiked it. At least 11 miles of its 419 miles length. Hikers choose to hike the aqueduct at night because this Mojave Desert can get extremely hot during the day. There is also very little to no shade anywhere along this stretch.?

Ready for the Aqueduct
Watching the sunset from the aqueduct.
Hiking in style!

The aqueduct was fun at night. I could see the silhouettes of Joshua Trees spanning both sides of the road we walked. We didn’t need our headlamps since we had a full moon, our glow sticks, and our LEDs. We also played some music over a wireless speaker I found way back in Idyllwild.

Walking the aqueduct was fun, but it was hard on the feet. All three of us had to carry extra water due to the long stretch between available water sources, so our packs were a bit heavier than usual.

We made it a little over 11 miles before we decided to call it a night. We worried that staying up all through the night would be disastrous for our sleep pattern, so we settled on stopping just after 11 p.m.

Our plan is to be in Tehachapi in a couple of days. Packrat and I have new shoes waiting for us at the post office. We desperately need new shoes. I can’t speak for Rachael, but my shoes have lost all their cushion and most of their treading. I might as well walk on skis.

Cheers, Smiley

One step at a time.

Real Trail Magic


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Comments 1

  • Bebe zaniboni : Apr 28th

    Terrific posts.
    Keep going!!



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