Hiker Box Diaries Episode 5: Death Traps, Squalor, Trump, Reagan as PCT Thruhikers Converge on Hikertown
— DiggerPCT (@Takethisbread) May 26, 2016
When I strolled up to Hikertown I thought it was a joke. It was caged behind a ratty chain link fence and it was absolutely deserted. I passed through the gate and eyeballed the spigot a few from the entrance. I hadn’t had any water in 24 hours. That is my fault. I had water in my backpack, I just didn’t feel compelled to drink it. The water was collected from a “guzzler” on one the mountains I had just crossed and it wasn’t very appetizing. Guzzlers are a roof built two feet from the ground in the desert mountains, with a gutter that can capture rainwater into basin under the crawl space. The water was yellow with large brown chunks of mystery floating on the warm, stagnant surface. I had it in case of emergency.
I dropped to my knees at the foot of the spigot and filled my cloudy Smartwater bottle. I chugged three liters at the altar of the Hikertown faucet and rose to scan the environment. This looked like a roadside attraction that America ignored. It was adorned with everything a town in the old west might have. Upon entering, the hotel is on the right and the front desk was decorated so that it appeared that a mannequin with a woman’s body and Donald Trumps’ head was the desk clerk. There was a City Hall, a feed store/cathouse, a doctor’s office, a saloon, and a spa amongst many other other buildings. Each building was no more than 10′ x 6′. I stood there thinking it was all a joke, about to leave when I saw a hiker emerge from City Hall.
“Welcome to Hikertown!”
“Ummm, is this for real?” I asked.
“Yea. Pretty crazy.”
I was introduced to Bob, the kind gentleman running the place. The prices were $5 for a tent site, $10 for a room. I initially balked at committing to stay, but given the freezing temperatures in the desert and the 40mph winds, I allowed myself to rent a room. Not exactly a room, actually. It would best described as a prostitution trailer. I was a 4’x8′ box with a large sliding glass door in the front without shades. Whatever happened in this box was a cinema to the rest of Hikertown. I half expected Liam Neeson’s daughter to be chained to a bed in there, with heroin needles dangling from her arm. I threw my gear in there and walked over to City Hall where a gaggle of thruhikers were gathered.
“Did you see my room?” I asked The Grand Poobah.
“Absolutely crazy,” he replied comparing it to another place we had stayed on the Appalachian Trail.
“If the Doyle Hotel is the bottom of the barrel, then this is the grime under the barrel,” he assessed.
The decor was dotted with creepy looking dolls of yesteryear, that seemed to always be staring right at you. A “Doctors Office” was set up with a fold out bed that was the size of an ironing board. There were comfortable chairs strewn around the property and eventually many hikers filed in and we had a huge crew of three dozen by day’s end.
Bob is nice enough to let hikers use his minivan for free to make the four mile commute to the local store to ressupply and eat some hot food. The minivan isn’t exactly “street legal”. The sliding door is kept closed with a rope, and will test the knot making ability of any hiker. The driver door is equally disabled and the transmission needs some work. The P R N D 1 2 on the steering column gear shift is merely a guideline. “Drive” is somewhere between N and D, and “Reverse” is just slightly past P. The keys live in the ignition, nobody is stealing this baby.
I piled myself, Smiles, The Grand Poobah, Action Jackson and Corndoggie into the death trap and off to the market we went. The hood rattled and shook as if it were ready to succumb to the force of the headwind, and spring in front of the windshield like Richard’s car in Tommy Boy when Farley failed to secure the hood latch. Anything over 35mph and the van shook violently.
The store had reasonable supply and we loaded up and made orders for hot food from the grill in the back of the register. The woman who was in charge was very helpful. She wrote everything down meticulously on a pad of paper before calling out the order to the cook in the back.
I ordered a cheeseburger, and it was surprisingly good. I mean this is the middle of nowhere. There isn’t 100 people for 100 miles, yet they had brioche rolls. Decadent for Hikertown.
I was chatting with The Grand Poobah, when Wesley (Corndoggie) placed his order with the kind, old, lady at the register.
“I’d like a corndog, please,” he asked.
“Ok, corndoggie for you,” she said as she rang up his order.
Then inexplicably, shockingly she yelled out the order to the cook in the back.
“ONE NIGGER COMING UP!”
I gasped. I looked at the others as if to confirm what I heard was real. The looks on the faces certainly cemented it. We shuffled out of there stone faced. By sundown, the winds howled and the temperature dropped. Hikers bundled up in winter gear and sleeping bags. Bob had allowed us to set up a TV in the feed store to watch an NBA playoff game. The room was decorated with trinkets. Some interesting and perhaps valuable, others worthless. A vintage Ronald Reagan bobble head doll stared at us from a desk. It depicted Ronald Reagan the actor, and appeared to be of that era. Hikers passed around a mannequin head all night.
— DiggerPCT (@Takethisbread) May 26, 2016
The moon rose on the horizon, nearly full, an enormous presence to our west. I had never seen such a magnificent moon. It was the largest and most bright orange my eyes have laid upon. We rushed to get photos, but a cellphone could never capture such grandeur. Three dozen hikers gathered together in a dilapidated theme park, to observe the universe’s grand encore.
It finally got too cold to stand so I retreated to my heroin den for the evening. I awoke at 5:00am to see The Grand Poobah in the throes of obvious “shit struck” panic. He was frantically pacing up and down the park, trying to open doors to bathrooms. They were all locked. I felt bad for him as he toted his roll of toilet paper in his hand running from door to door. I quickly wandered back to sleep before being awoken by the neighbors banging on the wall to my room.
“Wait”,I thought, “there are no neighbors.”
The closest people are Demi and Smiles who are sharing a 1974 Fleetwood RV that door is kept closed only by a rope. But that is 40′ away.
I got up and checked around perimeter. Sure enough, Poobah had pinned himself against my room and defecated on the side of my heroin trailer.
I packed up my stuff and got out of Hikertown. I left behind my backpacking umbrella. Five hundred and eighteen miles walking, and I used it for twenty minutes total. Absolute waste of eight ounces and two feet. The dreaded Mojave Aqueduct walk would be chilly today. Perfect day to bid adieu to Hikertown.
I actually loved my stay.
I am now at Tehachapi, CA (mile 566).
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