The thing about the bliss I mentioned in the last post: it isn’t constant. It is fleeting, coming and going as we live our lives out here on trail. I knew that when I wrote the last post. I knew that if I sat in that position for too long my back would start to hurt and my butt would go numb.
After we hung out at the North Fork Ranger Station for a couple of hours we ventured back into the desert. The trail was on the south side of the hills to start with so we were shaded and graced by a little breeze that followed us into the setting sun. We checked in on each other’s books, our own little book club. The book I was reading, B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton was the only book no one else was ever going to read so I kept everyone entertained for a couple of hours by describing the murder mystery in great detail. I still had twenty pages to go so I left the boys hanging. Even though it was a pleasant night it was a rough hike in. Our legs all hurt after our second twenty-plus mile day and Kyle’s knees were killing him, probably due to walking weirdly thanks to his too-small-shoes. We were headed towards the Acton KOA but the trail took a very circuitous route. We actually stood directly above the KOA at one point, but in order to descend the two thousand feet between us and it we had to take a two mile jaunt to the west. So that made everyone a little awnry.
We finally got to the KOA at 9:30pm. It was dark but the campground was still bustling. Cars drove in and out, children ran around screaming, and tents were strewn all over a giant grass field. We had entered what looked like a large bubble of hikers. The good news: a free shower was included in our stay. Even though it was late we all took advantage of the shower. You sleep so much better when you are clean. Despite the lights that were on all night and the occasional train I slept like a baby. A clean baby. We woke up early in order to complete a ten mile nero into Hiker Heaven by 10:00am. As I pulled my earplugs out I heard lions and tigers roaring. No, I’m serious, there is a retired circus big cat refuge right next to the KOA. The big cats were making blowing noises at the train as it chugged on by. They were so loud I was worried they had escaped and were prowling the KOA, looking for hikers to eat.
The sun crested the surrounding hills at six. At six it was ninety degrees. Apparently we are having a heat wave, that’s what the locals are saying. It was so hot. We wove in and out of shade as the sun climbed, causing the shadows that exist in the folds of the hills to get smaller and shorter. Our only reliable shade of the day was a tunnel (a giant culvert during the rainy season) that allows hikers to walk under the freeway. We pressed our backs into the cold concrete, tempted to stay there all day. Right outside of the culvert was the beginning of Vasquez Rocks State Park. It is a park that exists along the San Andreas fault and boasts incredible rock structures, thrusting out of the earth at an angle that reminded me of a beached ship. We wove amongst them, reading the signs the park put out to help people learn native desert plants. For days now I have been wishing for signs to identify all the plants we are seeing and now here they were. We found some more shade under a Needle Willow and were hard pressed to push on.
Push on we did. Finally we were walking into Agua Dulce. The trail goes right through town and a shuttle comes every hour to take hikers to Hiker Heaven. Hiker Heaven is the first of three trail angel houses located on trail, all about twenty five miles apart from eachother. It is a serious operation. Right as you get in L-Rod gives you the tour. There is a whole laundry area complete with clean clothes to wear while you laundry is washing. Then there are the gear repair and computer tents, the pack hanging area, and a huge dusty yard for tenting in. A large patio and grassy area are shaded by a huge pine tree and beyond that is the hiker trailer, where hikers can cook, watch movies and TV and shower. To take a shower you add your name to a list, but it is worth it because the shower is very nice (for a shower in a trailer at a hiker hostel) and well stocked. There are three different kinds of shampoos to choose from, combs, disposable razors, q-tips, lotion, shaving cream, anything you can think of. Outside is a bevy of hiker boxes, a first aid kit and a foot care kit. It is a pretty wild place, complete with coolers filled with beer and smoke hanging heavy in the air. People were up last night until three in the morning, singing around the fire and hootin n’ hollerin, but I slept soundly with my ear plugs in. This is Hiker Heaven. It is fun, organized, and perfect. We will be here for the rest of the day today because tonight we are going to start night hiking… dun, dun, duuuuuun. It’s too hot to hike during the day. So we will see how that goes…