Lizard Vibing

Day 19

Since it was 17 miles from our campsite to the Highway 58 overpass, we got a 6 am start. There were a couple hill climbs, mostly on roads, and then a very long descent. Recalling AT descents, I worried that it would bother my knee… but this is the PCT! It was delightfully gradual, winding back and forth for ages — offering views of turbines, the highway, and yellow & purple streaked hills.

At the highway, Karin & I came across two thru-hikers, Isaiah & Honey Bun. They raved about Hiker Hut and the kindness of Barbara. While the four of us sat there, a local named Rachel pulled up, looking for hikers to take into town. Karin and I were tempted, yet Martina was a mile out. Rachel was so kind, she waited for Martina to arrive then took the three of us, plus an older hiker named Cheerful, first to the post office then to Albertsons. We got food and ate it at the Starbucks cafe tables. Then I called Barbara and she sent her husband Richard to pick us up.

Barbara led us to a cider barn that she’d converted into hiker accommodations. It had a small kitchen, fridge with food, laundry sink, and shower. Out front was an attached gazebo patio and delicious flower fragrance wafted from the nearby ornamental crabapple. The three of us got cleaned up and hung our wet clothes on a line. A Russian Blue cat named Kittygurl let me pet her. I went through my resupply box, discovering several treats that my parents snuck in. They are the best! When we got tired, I slept on a fold-out mattress in the gazebo so I could stare at the stars.

Day 20

I woke early, yet well rested. The barn had a carpeted area and I did two Yoga with Adriene classes: Deepen and Flow. It felt so good to stretch and flex. Barbara came over to check on us and it turned into a long conversation. We learned about her cider and Whistle Stop Cafe businesses, then heard stories of her children and grandchildren. I enjoyed the glimpse into life in this pleasant, friendly town.

We chilled for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. It was the way I want to spend days off trail, replenishing my body with food and peaceful relaxation. Barbara gave us a ride back to the trail and we began hiking at 6:30 pm, when it was cooler. As I neared the top of the climb, the sky turned a beautiful pink, highlighting a row of wind turbines.

For five miles, we walked in dusk and then darkness past and through a large wind farm. I enjoyed the sound of the turbines and saw one shooting star. We ended at a picnic table with a small water cache. Karin and I had a late dinner then cowboy camped in the moonlight. Martina set up her tent close by.

Day 21

An early start, on trail by 4 am in order to complete a hill climb while it was cool. There were a lot of bugs on trail: children of the earth, beetles, one small tarantula. I came to a gaping chasm in the trail, but found a path around by going uphill. Shortly after the sun rose, I caught up to Karin and sat on a tree stump to eat my breakfast.

It became one of my favorite days on trail when I came across a long-nosed leopard lizard sunning on a rock. It let me get a picture then ran ahead of me on trail for a little bit. I leaned over to get a closer look and it ran towards me, then sat in my shade. It did that a couple times, it was so cute! When the lizard eventually ran into a bush’s shade, I sat and we stared at one another for a few minutes until it scrambled uphill. I love fun creature encounters!

Continuing on, the trail had a bunch of eroded spots that required careful footing. Karin & I reached a briskly flowing creek and joined a group of hikers in the shade. Karin knew two hikers from their week in March. After chatting a bit, I stood barefoot in the creek. It wasn’t very cold, yet it felt refreshing. When Martina arrived, we continued onward. As we descended toward another wind farm, we spotted a wild black horse.






In the end, we did 23 miles to camp beside Cottonwood Creek, near the start of the aqueduct. Once again, we were surrounded by turbines and their whirring filled the air. I found it pleasant except for one that squeaked now and then.

Day 22

I was tired and slept in, the last of our group to get on trail. The day was nearly all road walking, most of it following portions of the LA aqueduct. It wasn’t even hot due to a 20 degree temperature drop plus a strong headwind. I listened to multiple, long podcast episodes.

My feet were sore, a new condition for me despite 3000+ miles of backpacking. My hamstrings and shins were sore as well. I felt somewhat discouraged as I trained better for this trail than for the AT. Karin proposed that it might be impact force, our pace is faster than on the AT or when I did the Colorado Trail. And the sore feet may be the heat… I’m not worried, my body will adjust, after all it is relatively early in the trail.

Having reached Hiker Town, we did stop at 17.4 miles. Martina was worried about rain; my body needed a shorter day. The hostel was a cobbled together collection of film set cast-offs with an old west theme. A wash sink provided the only water, though there was a restroom behind the Sheriff building.

We got the “Top Secret” trailer. Four prop guns decorated the wall, and air blew through holes in the door screen. We were suspicious of the furnishings. I spread my ground cloth over the twin mattress and Karin used her Tyvek as a barrier between the carpet and her air mattress. On the plus side, it was cozy and we had outlets!

For entertainment, we took the offered shuttle to Neenach Market. As I heard, it was over-priced plus the owner didn’t let me use the WiFi. Oh well. We spent the remainder of the afternoon lounging in our sleeping bags.

Day 23

An afternoon of rest followed by a good night’s sleep were exactly what I needed! After all it does take rest to build strength… The three of us got on trail at 8 am, doing a bunch of PUDs (pointless ups & downs) for the first six miles. We ran into several people that Karin knew from March. An animated guy named Minstrel gave me tips for hiking the Wonderland Trail (it’s on my list!). He also raved about Tucson.

Martina was worried about the weather since she mailed her cold weather gear to Acton. Debbie & Parker reported wind, cold, and wet ahead while NoBo’s warned of icy trees.

Karin & I stopped for a lunch break. A short time after, I reached the top of the climb and saw what looked like spilled buckets of ice under many a tree. Lucky timing! The melt had come and gone. I was warm with two layers and found the pine forest and green ground cover enchanting.

Martina and I stopped at a concrete cistern for water. Then it rained lightly for ~30 minutes, letting me test the rain gear that I’ve been carrying. I stayed dry, the sky cleared, and a rainbow appeared. The wind dried most of my clothing. We set up tents on the back side of the hill from the exposed Sawmill Campsite. Martina & Karin shared Martina’s duplex tent for warmth. Twenty miles and my feet & legs didn’t hurt today!

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