For me, this stretch stood out for its stunning views, steeper ups and downs, and of course, hiking with Louise! Hiking with someone else is different. Everything must be agreed upon, even if just implicitly. How many miles to go, how fast, when to break, how long, whether to camp near others. Decisions I didn’t know I was making before. This takes just a little extra energy every step of the way, but the payoff is great.
Before all my response to everything happened internally. I marvel at the views, the way the light hits the flowers and the grasses shimmer in the wind. I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’m tired, I’m content. I meet people and make judgements. I think about what to cook for dinner. I rejoice that the creek is not dry. I remember stories and places and people from different times of my life. All in my head.
And that’s not so bad. None of it needs to come out. But it is nice to have someone to share it with. Especially my sister.
Traveling with Louise has brought about a couple changes and revelations in particular. Before Louise got her first taste of cowboy camping, I spent a couple nights in a tent with her. Of course I’d camped in a tent before, but it felt new again. It was luxurious to be in a space closed off from the dirt and bugs, but it made it harder to get up and going in the morning. Very important when it can get unpleasantly hot by 9. It’s a good option on particularly cold nights or if it rains.
Also shoes. At every lunch break and when I make camp I take my shoes off and pour out what looks like a couple tablespoons of sand. My toes are caked with dirt. No one else that I’ve traveled with accrues dirt quite like I do. I thought it must be my shoes. But Louise and I have the same shoe in the same size. And her feet do not get as dirty. I must accept that it’s just me.
Footprints are often very visible on the trail. A friend who caught up to us and did not know Louise had the same shoe as me said she thought I was just taking tiny steps. Walking behind Louise the last day of the stretch it occurred to me that if I step my left foot to the left of Weeze’s right footprint and my right foot to the right of Louise’s left footprint, it might look like one person was hopping the whole trail. I got caught up trying to step in this way for some time, at the expense of noticing the scenery. I hope I’ve confused someone.
Ok, a bit about this stretch. We started around mile 369 and made it 85 miles to mile 454 in 5 days and 4 nights, hiking about 17 miles a day. The first day we gained 3000 ft up to the top of Mount Baden Powell, at about 9400 ft- the highest I’d been so far. Kind of a tough introduction to the trail for Louise, But she powered through like a champ! From there we could see everything- mountains of the past, including San Jacinto (~200 pct miles back!), mountains yet to come, and always to the east, the brown and orange and tan Mojave.
We traveled through Angeles National Forest, making our way towards the desert. One day we did some road walking to skip 4 miles of trail housing an endangered species of frog. A couple days we spent dodging the dangerous poodle dog bush, a distint looking plant with a very distinct smell that can give you painful burns. The last couple days we were right on the edge of the forest. Green mountains to the left and brown to the right. Finally the last day we descended into the dry ‘western’ looking landscape, particularly novel and stunning to me. We pretended we were in WestWorld. 10 miles before town we hit the Acton KOA where we took a luxurious 3 hour break, eating ice cream and showering and doing laundry and sitting in chairs.
Now in Agua Dulce we are staying in ‘Hiker Heaven’, a trail angel’s home that acts as a sort of hiker hostel. The name is apt. I’ll let Louise describe it more.
Hello everyone! Louise here, reporting from a comfy 20 ft long couch at Hiker Heaven. I don’t know if I can be as concise as Morgan has been, but I will try!
Hiker Heaven is run by a very generous family-the Saufleys- who have been welcoming PCT hikers to stay on their property for twenty years. The Saufleys’ amazing commitment to helping hikers has become legendary, so on the week leading up to our arrival, ‘Hiker Heaven’ was on everybody’s lips. And it lives up to the hype!
Arriving in town yesterday, we heard there was a shuttle every hour from the grocery store to Heaven, and so we waited till the next shuttle came along. Fifteen minutes later, 23 of us piled into a pickup truck–almost, but not quite their record if you can believe it!–and then Morgan and I had to go through a quick orientation. We were introduced to the expansive property, including among other things the laundry tent, the internet tent, the sewing/repair tent, a shower area, a post office, and a sprawling lawn covered with about 40 hiker tents, chickens, dogs, cactus, and even a horse corral!
We’ve met so many interesting and kind people here, including (drumroll please) two other pairs of siblings!! In a quite ridiculous fashion, last night Morgan and I found ourselves sitting in a circle with two blond German brothers and two dark-haired and bearded brothers from Michigan, around our same ages. I don’t know how much we’ll run into them in the future, but it was really sweet to share that short bit of “family time” on the trail.
In other news, Morgan has a trail name now! I bet you could guess what it is too… Pancakes 🙂 And in true Morgan-fashion, she ate two orders of chocolate chip pancakes and a leftover blueberry pancake from my plate, making a total of 5 pancakes for breakfast. And a friend just gave her another pancake, so all-in-all it’s been a good day!
Lastly, I must mention just how patient Morgan has been with me this past week. I was really struggling in the first few days to feel steady… really my heart felt like it was going to explode! But Morgan has been very understanding and helpful and a really good foot-taper and cook. Actually, right now, Morgan cooked up a pan of spinach cornbread and is giving it out to lots of hikers. She’s got a lot of skills and passions, and I can say that we’re all benefitting from her care!