On the last episode of Autumn Doesn’t Know What She’s Doing, I had just arrived in Wrightwood, CA. Susan and I were doing big miles to avoid people and places that had a lot of traffic due to a continuing gastrointestinal illnesses being reported by fellow hikers. The day after we arrived and our first zero day, I got sick, and no not with whatever stomach issue was going around. I had Covid-like symptoms that confined me to bed.

The fever was high and I was low.

I was desperate for my own bed, my cat, and my mom. Food was unappetizing which is unheard of after hiking for six days straight from town to town. The body aches were so awful it was hard to even walk to the bathroom. We had the Airbnb for two nights but I knew that wasn’t going to be enough to recover from whatever my body was doing. I was getting wrecked by some sort of virus and I was worried my friends were going to get it too. As they packed up their bags and organized their resupplies I was trying to find a refuge where I could recover. I ended up in the lovely city of Palmdale, the only place I’ve had to pull out my knife in defense since the Cougar incident. Being followed and screamed at by a man for several blocks in a busy city was enough to make me get back on trail. I ended up taking five days off before I was dropped off in Acton, having skipped another small section to meet back up with my friends and avoid the snow on Mt. Baden-Powell.

At this point I had to accept my fate that I’ve broken my foot path twice now. I had to accept that I was not mentally as tough as I thought I was. And I had to accept that what I expected out of this experience was turning out much differently.

The section between Acton and Tehachapi was lonely.

I met up with Susan and Danny at Serenity’s Oasis in Agua Dulce, a hiker haven of sorts run by a man named Farmer John. We celebrated Danny’s birthday with Mexican food, pitchers of margaritas, and new friends. After that though, I was on my own. I could tell those five days off combined with being sick had done me in. I was struggling to get going but I decided to honor what my body could handle, whether that meant being alone every night or not. Susan and I hiked on and off together and I usually had folks to camp with at the end of the day but it wasn’t particularly fun.

The stretch from Acton to Tehachapi was 122.2 miles with a couple small places to resupply in between. I had sent myself a box to a place called Hikertown. And well I’m not even sure how to describe this dilapidated-movie-set-middle-of-nowhere-hostel situation. I guess like that.. Hikertown is right off the trail before the infamous L.A. aqua duct section. Most hikers stop here for a rest or to pick up a package before heading into the land of Joshua trees and windmills.

I arrived to Hikertown alone around 10 A.M. and was met with some familiar faces I’d seen off and on in the previous section. I was out of fuel for my stove and needed to get to a store. The Hikertown folk had a shuttle (a shitty mini van driven by a grumpy cashier) that would ONLY take you to their convenience store which was conveniently out of fuel. To get to the next store, you would have to hitchhike or walk another five miles down a super busy highway. So basically I wasn’t getting there. I accepted another fate that I would have to cold soak my food for the next several days. And when they say the trail provides, later that day the trail provided a hiker who was giving away a half-full fuel canister.

When we got back from the store, about 15 more hikers had showed up and I was overwhelmed. Big tramilies were showing up and taking over. I felt so out of place and kept to myself most of the rest of the day. I was happy to see my friend Heather that I met way back in Mt. Laguna and then amidst the crowd, I spotted Chai Guy! It was nice to see someone who was a part of my origin story again.

Hikers typically night hike the section leaving Hikertown because of the heat. The aqua duct is a long stretch where you can physically walk on top of the piped water being sent to L.A. It’s pretty trippy carrying so much water on your back to survive knowing how much is right underneath you.

I watched as the groups of people put on glow in the dark face paint and ate their psychedelic mushroom, peanut butter, and jelly sandwiches. The masses of party people were headed out at sunset but I couldn’t fathom hiking without a little sleep before. Or tripping balls in the dark with a bunch of strangers (been there done that.) I called my mom and had a little breakdown feeling super alone. My plan was to leave at 3:00 A.M to beat the heat but the thought of hiking in the night alone was starting to worry me.

And just like the trail provided fuel, it provided me with a new friend.

While filling my water I started talking to this girl called Specs. Her plan was to also camp and leave around the same time. I felt so relieved in that moment, I thought I’d be the only one camped in this makeshift backyard full of creepy sheds filled to the brims with junk and tools. That night I slept like shit, my watch told me I only got four hours of sleep before my 2:00 A.M. alarm. Specs and I headed out just before 3:00 into the dark. The trail took us down a dirt road past quiet houses and made me feel like I was in high school again sneaking out and getting up to no good.

We walked past the open aqua duct, pitch black and still in the night. Field mice darting all around us, we were moving fast. Before I knew it, we had done close to 10 miles before sunrise. And if you do miles before sunrise, they don’t count. Which meant I only had seven more for the day until water and shade. The sunrise behind the Joshua trees in the sprawling desert was beautiful. I took in the colors of the sky and made mental notes for future paintings.

I felt hope for the first time in while, hope that I would stay on trail a bit longer.


The next several days involved early starts (3:00 A.M.) with very little sleep. Specs and I  stuck together and Heather joined us down the line. We walked through wind farms and camped under the giant windmills which was quite unpleasant, hence the lack of sleep. The windmills were like living giants and we were walking through their territory. The man-made beings were equally terrifying and beautiful, especially in the early sunrise. On our last full day of hiking, we were met with wind gusts that dropped me to my knees, almost pushing me down the side of a hill I was trying to climb. Of course that day involved almost 5k feet of elevation gain which felt doubled in the headwind. We rested in the shade of a tree most of the day and did several more miles to camp that afternoon.

That night I decided I wanted to cowboy camp for my first time, mostly because I thought it might be my last night on trail. (Cowboy camping is sleeping right on the ground without the protection of a tent.) Specs and Heather on either side of me, I slept better under the stars than I had in weeks. The next morning we had six short miles into the city of Tehachapi, CA.

What happens next? I wish I knew.
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Comments 1

  • jhony : Jun 4th

    Well what a well written article. I for one hope you stay on the trail.
    My 2¢ worth. But I truly enjoyed your article and hope you a doing and feeling much better.


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