April 26 (~06:30 – ~11:45)
Forest Service Road 7N23 – Hikertown / Highway 138 (13 mi / Total: 517.6 mi)
Weather: Nice and fresh when I first hike in the forest, then it gets to be burning hot again!
It’s nice to wake up in the trees for a change, and I get up on time to get into Hikertown early, leaving plenty of time to do my resupply this afternoon. Originally I’d planned several twenty mile days, but I hiked a little more these past few days to shave off a few miles, and ended up half-unwillingly pushing it – and now I only have thirteen miles left to walk.
The morning takes me through the perfect forest and it’s such a serene start of the day. I love the fairytale feeling of the forest, and the rising of the sun seen through the trees. Then, switchbacks take me lower and lower while the sun strengthens and begins to burn. It’s a long winded trail down, but a beautiful one, and I love this feeling of reaching an end to this section, and finding my way down to the very bottom of the mountain.
It’s not the end – after crossing a road I pass over a stretch of low, undulating hills, although I wish the trail simply curved around, traversing the flat valley floor for once, something easy, rather than turning this into a national scenic trail – oh wait, that’s exactly what the PCT is. The trail goes up and down and up and down and everywhere are bright fields of wildflowers, more than I’ve seen before and I imagine what this place would’ve looked like without, and I’m happy I’m here now, this year after it rained so much during winter.
It’s hot by now, burning hot, and I’m still getting by with the water from the tiny stream I found yesterday, but my filter has been tainted by the water from the cistern, and every time I drink there’s the horrible aftertaste of death. This means the two bottles I filled up are enough for this section, while I daydream about cold fizzy drinks, imagining the refreshment of it all. Oh, the dream. Soon I’ll be in town and I’ll be able to get just that. Then Speedy texts me and tells me they got a room at Hikertown. As usual they got up super early. ‘It’s the nicest,’ she writes, and I wonder what that means.
I just need to push a little further but the hills keep stretching out further and the sun gets hotter. Finally I turn around a corner and the straight line of the dirt road leading towards the highway dividing the flat valley floor awaits me.
It’s a long half mile later when I enter the grounds of Hikertown: an old Western style compound with an array of small buildings where PCT hikers can stay, shower, do laundry and charge batteries. It’s an odd place, and I walk in without knowing where to go. It’s deserted but for the few hikers lounging in the centre, but no one addresses me, so I call Speedy instead, and ask where she is.
Speedy and Prince got a room in one of the buildings on the far end, a ramshackle place with a large bed that looks bigger than it actually is as it’s been moved sideways. It has an en-suite, which is about its only redeeming factor, as I don’t believe the room has ever been cleaned. It’s probably part of the charm, to some people. There’s a TV with old videos Speedy and Prince seem quite excited about, but then the caretaker appears and I quickly buy that fizzy drink I’ve been craving. I sit on the porch and savour it. No one will ever understand how good a cold fizzy drink can taste until they start thruhiking.
We have a long day left, and spend it shopping and relaxing – the caretaker lets us use his car and we drive to the general store in Neenach just a few miles away, and I buy lots of cold drinks, a hot coffee and I get my resupply for the next few days. It’s pricey and the selection is limited but I manage to get some things together. I even find a few decent oranges which I eat when I get back, standing on the porch.
When we return Hikertown is busy – the porch is heaving with hikers we don’t know and they linger for hours – it’s not until the early evening when they hike out again, after the sun has set. It’s time for the infamous LA aqueduct section, and we’re all preparing for it in our own way – a long, flat and dry section which most hikers nighthike to avoid the blistering heat. There’s no camping and no water for over twenty miles, and we’re hitting it early in the morning. Tomorrow is going to be a whole other challenge…