PCT Week 6: Nero’s, 500, and the Mojave

Acton & Agua Dulche, a Quick Nero

This is the first week that doesn’t start from a zero out of town, much rather it begins with a nero into Acton. We get to the Acton KOA early from trail but rather than pushing forward, a resupply in town is necessary.

We also get a shower and laundry, which I haven’t done since Big Bear, where I did laundry in a sink. It definitely comes at the right moment. A quick dinner in town is also appreciated.

There isn’t much going on in Acton, but staying at the KOA right outside of town, we see many old faces from the trail, as well as even more new faces. The campground is worth it if you need a little rest before the 5-7 day trek to Tehachapi.

We leave first thing the next morning, and make it to Agua Dulche, another option for anyone needing a rest. Because of the nero the previous day I decide on taking a lunch in town before setting out a couple more miles to camp.

Welcome to Poodle-Dog-Bush-Ville

A tragic portion of trail is next. There are a lot of burn areas on the PCT. This was not the first burn area and it won’t be the last. But you can clearly tell that this section is difficult to pass through because of the burn.

Poodle Dog Bush is a shrub that primarily grows in burn areas. What makes it dangerous for hikers is that it is similar to poison oak/ivy. Touching it can cause severe irritation. Having a lot on trail slows us down as we try to safely bypass the shrub.

In the case of the next few miles, the entire trail is riddled with it. Generally in patches along the side of the trail, but there are definitely parts of the trail are completely covered.

Anyone on trail should be careful going through burn areas in general, the poodle dog bush makes in some cases much more annoying.

500! Double the Magic!

While we do spend most of our day in burn areas avoiding poodle dog bush, there is some good that comes from the trail. Not once, but twice we receive trail magic from Cheryl and Retro.

Retro who has been on the trail for decades, doing sections at a time, and his wife Cheryl who is supporting him in their van, made this stretch more special.

We first meet Cheryl on the first road crossing near Lake Hughes. She is there dropping off Retro and providing trail magic. We hang out for quite a while, telling her about the journey so far. She is a true angel.  As we prepare to leave she mentions that she would be picking up Retro on the other side of the mountain at the next road.

We set off for camp, where we catch up with Retro! It’s his birthday! Having met his wife earlier that day I felt like I already knew so much about him. He’s an amazing source of knowledge when it comes to the trail.

The day gets even better, we have a fire pit at camp. It means one thing, quesadillas are on the menu tonight. It’s a cool breezy night as we camp a mile away from 500.

We set off early from camp, as Cheryl plans on being at the road. But before we can receive more magic, a special marker is ahead, mile 500! It’s crazy to think I’ve already walked that many miles. A quick moment us taken as unfortunately the marker is in a burn area full of poodle dog bush.

Down we go, trail running at this point. We are so close to the road, and from a mile away I see the silver van. Cheryl and Retro are there waiting, and the siesta begins!

Off to Hiker Town

An amazing two days with our trail angel Cheryl comes to a close, we say our goodbyes, we will definitely be seeing them later down the trail.

The day isn’t over just yet. One more mini climb to an iconic PCT landmark. Belly full of magic and rest I push through the last stretch for the day, and then I see it, the Mojave desert.

I have just one more mile until I reach Hiker Town. An oasis in the middle of the Mojave section of trail. This iconic piece of property is a great necessary stop to rest before heading off through one of the most intersections section of trail.

We are treated to homemade tamales and a great evening with dozens of hikers. At this point we need to start planning our approach to the next 48 miles to Tehachapi. It’s pure desert and in some ways one of the most boring days on trail, only if you let it though!

There are many great ways to do the LA Aqueduct, you can night hike it and do the 24 hour challenge all the way to Tehachapi, you can start the day before the sun and quickly get through the hot section in the early parts of the morning. The only method that isn’t recommended is hiking in the middle of the day.

I choose the early morning start. So I cowboy camp under a full moon in Hiker Town and get as much sleep as I can.

The Mojave, a Sunrise Hike through the Desert

It’s 4am. We wake up and quietly make our way out of Hiker Town. The 48 mile stretch has begun. My plan, split it into two 24 mile days.

As I walk, the moon sets behind me, and the sun rises in front if me. While many folks dislike this section. I’m excited, it’s a unique part of trail and  it brings you along some neat features.

It starts off with a long walk on the LA Aqueduct. Who can say that they have walked on a giant pipeline that provides water to a major city. The rest is mostly just road, a very long road. All around you Joshua Trees.

I do take a nap in the hottest part of the day in order to rest but also keep my body cool. It’s a long water stretch and the heat can get to you. But there’s a breeze a foot!

The trail goes from flat desert to rolling hills through a wind farm. Hundreds of wind turbines all around you. Probably 60-80 mph winds, pushing you down, literally. I plant my trekking poles one at a time on certain climbs as the wind will bring me down if I’m not careful.

There is a lack of campsites in this 48 mile section. Most of it is in a wind farm making it next to impossible to camp anywhere. This is why I hike 24 miles the first day and finish the rest of it the next day. There is no reason to take your time here.

After two grueling days, I make it to mile 566. I officially complete the Southern California section of trail. It’s finally time to take a zero in Tehachapi and prep for The Sierra.

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