April 23 (~05:40 – ~10:20 / ~18:50 – ~20:00)
After KOA – after Agua Dulce (11.7 mi / Total: 458.5 mi)
Weather: Perfect walking weather in the morning. Super hot in the evening.
I set my alarm earlier than ever and I feel invigorated. Every time I woke at night I watched the stars, and now I’m ready to go, even though the sun has no intentions of coming out just yet. It feels right.
I walk out with my headlight on strong. It’s easier to walk when it’s dark, for some reason. Everything feels a little lighter and everything goes a little faster. At one point I see Speedy’s headlight behind me, and then it disappears. I follow the curving trail as it bounces up and down lightly and watch a small moon in the distance. Then new emerging light casts an orange glow onto the hilltop ahead until light is prevalent once again.
After the hills I pass through a long, dank tunnel underneath Highway 14 and find myself unexpectedly at the backend of Vasquez Rocks country park. It looks a little run-down at first, but then it turns into a perfectly manicured park, and I walk through the huge rock formations. It’s still so early that the park is empty but for the bunny rabbits and birds and early morning light, and I almost wonder if the park is open at all, and if I’m allowed to be there, wandering around.
When I exit at the front gate, I’m on the edge of town. I’ve made it to the town of Agua Dulce. After a quick walk I’m in the general store. It’s an odd one and it’s half empty. I can’t find anything I’ve been craving so after a long browse I pick up some mini peppers and an apple for a snack.
My plan today is to go to Hiker Heaven. It’s run out of The Saufley’s home, who are trail angels who host hikers on their property. They let people set up their tents, shower, do laundry and charge their electronics. It’s got everything a hiker needs.
I’m not planning on staying long – I want to drop by during the day, clean and recharge and head out later in the afternoon to continue walking. A little rest stop before continuing on, as I’ve had more than enough rest days recently. By the time I leave the general store I see Speedy and Prince arrive and I join them for breakfast at the local restaurant. When we’re finished we walk the long mile to Hiker Heaven, where we are greeted by the Saufley’s and some volunteers. Everything is organised into different tents, and we immediately change into some dorky loaner clothes, shove our clothes into laundry bags, and run to the shower.
We stay for a long afternoon and watch more and more hikers turn up throughout the day. No one seems to be in a rush to leave, or hurry towards the Sierras, the section after the desert, just a few hundred miles ahead of us now – there’s still too much snow to get through. In fact, the entire rest of the PCT is covered in snow. So everyone is happy to stay in the desert a little longer, and hang out in places like Hiker Heaven.
It gets a little busy for us, so we leave later in the afternoon and we walk back to town, the sun roasting us daringly. We plonk ourselves in front of the pizza place, where we share two large ones (and I get to keep the leftovers.) After gathering some odd food combinations for my resupply, we sit in front of the general store, drinking anything cold from the store, unable to get ourselves out of this sweltering heat to continue on.
It’s almost seven when we finally manage to drag ourselves away from town. We make it a few miles out until we hit the hills and we stop after a few more miles. It’s dark now, and we cowboy camp close to the trail, with a pack coyotes awfully close, howling into the night.