Mile 369.4 Wrightwood to mile 444.0 Acton KOA
Lazy half day in Wrightwood.
Day Eighteen: 20 May 2015
Start: HM 369.4
End: HM 384 Little Jimmy Campground
GPS Point: 34.347283, -117.830514
Day Total: 14.6 miles
Water at Wrightwood mile 369.4, mile 383.7 Little Jimmy Spring
I got to sleep in this morning. Which I thoroughly enjoyed. Betsy washed out clothes up this morning, we organized packs, ate breakfast, and then had Betsy drop us off in town. The post office and hardware store are next to each other and we picked up our packages, organized food, and ended up spending the whole morning in town. We hitched a ride back to Inspiration Point and were hiking just after 11:30 AM.
The first part was an easy four miles to the base of Mount Baden-Powell. There is some Boy Scout history going on here. —-Repeat map description— we took the short detour to the top. What a view! If the sky had been clearer, we supposedly could have seen Catalina Island off L.A. And into the Mojave Desert the opposite way. Pretty incredible. And there was this 1,500 year old tree right before the summit. So amazing!
Knowing today would be short, we stopped early after only around 14 miles. There are a lot of PCT’ers camped here. It is the last point right before the Endangered Species Detour. There are several detour options and my group is still in debate. I was planning to take this detour. It will essentially become official PCT trail and the alternate is supposed to be beautiful. The only issue is it being not well maintained. But this is not like the fire detours where we are road walking. It is real trail. The only issue being it is 20.5 alternate miles for a skipped 10 PCT miles. So many people are opting for the shorter alternate of 4.9 miles to skip 4.5 PCT miles. I thought we were planning the long route, I bought an extra day’s food. But today we started talk of the shorter option. Brandon has tendinitis. Ben wants the full alternate. This may be our breaking off point. The group dynamics break down when we want different things.
Langston decided he wanted a fire tonight. Which was accomplished. This campground has history, it has these old Forest Service ovens built out of brick and iron. Each of the four camp spots have three ovens. And there are two outhouse buildings with two pit toilets each. This camp site is so well established that apparently bears know to come here. Which is somewhat crazy. We all hung our food is the outhouse on the rafter beam. Some shoved theirs into the ovens. Hopefully this is all just precaution. The night will be chilly so it is unlikely we will hear a bear while bundled up tightly in our bags.
People I remember from today are Splob at Mountain Hardware, Sled Dog and his dog Oakley from the cafe and water cache point, a married couple from the top of Baden-Powell, several others from the camp, and an L.A. couple who happened to be out on an overnight trip. They made the fire with Hot Sauce and hung out with us. Good conversation. Ben and Brandon went to bed early and we never concluded our alternate route plan.
Failing at alternates.
Day Nineteen: 21 May 2015
Start: HM 384
End: HM 407.1 Sulphur Springs Camp
GPS Point: 34.370081, -117.995515
Day Total: 23.9 miles
Water at 383.7 Little Jimmy Spring, 394.3 Cooper Creek at Burkhart Trail, 407.1 Sulphur Springs Camp
So the idea was that Brandon would take the shorter alternate and the rest of us would take the long alternate for the Endangered Species Detour. Except I don’t navigate off my phone and thought the long alternate would begin from the PCT trail. Instead I got a few miles into the wrong path and decided that I would just keep going. I am undetermined on whether coincidences happen so took the mess up as reason to move on. I actually ended up sitting at a river for two hours contemplating on what to do. Brandon showed up, explained that the other guys had turned back and made it to the correct alternate. His plan was to continue for at least twenty miles. I decided that I would just move forward too. I likely could have made a good distance today, but I’m glad I will at least be able to consciously part with Brandon to pass goodbyes onto the others. Otherwise it would have just been me never showing up again. Thus I am camped in the same camp as Brandon, and six others, but tomorrow I will kick off to get as close to the Acton KOA as possible. Brandon will likely go around 20 miles again and the others will have a chance to catch up. I may give time for them to catch me too. I need to take care of some business that requires an outlet and wifi at the KOA or in Agua Dulce.
Taken from Halfmile’s map info: “The once thriving Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog is now nearly extinct. To protect the frog, the PCT has been closed for several years from Eagles Roost [mile 390.3] to the Burkhart trail junction [mile 394]. …For more information about the Mountain yellow-legged frog see: www.mylfrog.info.”
Today’s terrain was surprisingly easy. I feel like I could have gone a long time further had there been more daylight hours. It was cold all day. I think my body functions more efficiently while cold. When hot, it wants to shut down. It must be a combination of slower metabolism, need for warmth, and less water loss. Regardless, I sort of wish I had tried to go on today instead of doubting moving on alone. Since I was on my own agenda, I took more breaks and moved faster overall. Anyways, our camp area is nicely coved off and low in elevation. Brandon and I had stopped right where the trail camp is, so funny. We setup camp in the horse area while the South Korean man, Kay, with my same shoes, walked up and asked why we weren’t at the camp area. There was good water too, unlike the tadpole filled, stagnant pools we had just filled up from. Kay was with Smiles for Miles, there was an older gentleman already at the campground who has just gotten back on trail from an injury, and met the the Baden-Powell couple and another guy from last night’s camp. Glad we moved over to the proper camp area. There were tables and pit toilets. I haven’t peed outside once today with all the pit toilets the trail crossed today. Sort of crazy.
PCTA Trail Gorillas and PDB.
Day Twenty: 22 May 2015
Start: HM 407.1
End: HM 436 North Fork Ranger Station
GPS Point: 34.387541, -118.252285
Day Total: 28.9 miles
Water at mile 418.8 Mill Creek Ranger Station
What a mentally taxing day! I started off well. The camp last night was so quiet and protected from wind. I slept amazingly. Also slept in! Left camp at 8:30 and quickly made my to the Mill Creek Ranger Station. Just before the station I ran into a group of four PCTA Trail Gorillas working away at maintaining the trail. These people have been tirelessly working away four five years at getting the 400-440 section back into shape after a fire that went through there. Most notably the trail had become completely overgrown by this plant called Poodle Dog Bush, fondly shortened to PDB among hikers, that has little hairs all over it. These hairs can cause an allergic response just like poison oak or ivy. Very serious stuff. And the 400-440 section used to be a death zone. But this year the trail is completely open. There is still PDB from miles 403 to 436 everywhere around the trail but avoidable. I think most people are still taking the road walk that bypasses this section. Despite being avoidable, it does require you to pay attention and dodge a few areas. I was mentally exhausted from watching everywhere I placed a foot, elbow, or pack strap. The best part being that it can take anywhere from a day to two weeks for the response to show up. Joy! Then, right as you are about to reach the North Fork Ranger Station (approximately mile 433), there is poison oak everywhere! It was just before 6:30 PM when I showed up to camp. Only eight miles to the KOA but I couldn’t take anymore. I can’t be sure yet, but I feel like I must have touched either the PDB or poison oak. Hopefully a shower, pool soak, and laundry tomorrow will be all I need.
I am actually glad I stopped. There are lots of people camped here. At least eight camped up top in the wind, and seven more down by the horse corrals where I am. There is a group of four: Redwood, Galaxy, Dragonfly, and Breeze, At Home, a guy I passed on trail who has a bad ankle, and Brandon made it. Plus there were many people that I passed on trail who didn’t make it here. Notably, Cool Kay, Jobs and Siesta, Van Gogh and Tortoise, Drift, Tumbleweed and her boyfriend, and others. I saw at least twenty names down for today at the 419 trail register, so I am positive some must have reached the Acton KOA.
Speaking of which, I am in somewhat of a pickle. The KOA is only eight miles away. I will stop and do some chores and get my resupply. But now I am curious if I should continue past Agua Dulce, a mere 12 miles past the KOA. That would be a 20 mile day and productive. I need to do a few hours of computer things with wifi connection and an outlet. I will talk to Brandon tomorrow. Seems like he is willing to keep up. His foot must be feeling better. I do like the idea of pushing forward. Maybe seeing how many days I can take longer miles. I also am tempted by the idea of soaking in the KOA hot tub and having pizza delivered… Oh Southern California, so many distractions and temptations.
Alright I sat around chatting with At Home and Redwood way too long. Falling asleep now.
Distractions in Southern California.
Day Twenty-one: 23 May 2015
Start: HM 436
End: HM 444 Acton KOA
GPS Point: 34.438362, -118.272114
Day Total: 8 miles
Water at mile 436 North Fork Ranger Station.
Great time last night at camp with new people. Word on the trail is that the main herd is within the next two hundred miles. I am not prepared for so many people, but also excited to meet new people. And the two days of trial for breaking away from the guys was a good experience. I feel less pressure while hiking on my own agenda. And I make way better time. I will continue on at my own pace and maybe the crew will stay together, but I am satisfied if we become more fluctuant on speeds and mileage.
So many people today! Drift made it to the KOA last night. Then Coppertone (Vic Hansen) was at the parking lot right before the KOA turnoff. What better than some early AM trail magic! We saw him with ours and ice cream about five days back. I sat with him and Galaxy, Redwood, and Dragonfly for about an hour before Brandon and At Home turned up. Then more from last night’s camp turned up so we continued the last 1/4 mile to the KOA. Right as we were walking in, I spotted Ben. He developed some terrible shin splints during the long alternate and got a ride this morning with the Acton trail angel, Mary, from the Mill Creek Ranger Station to the KOA. He is pretty upset about being hurt. Hopefully with rest today he will be back at full speed tomorrow. Also found Jackson at the KOA. He didn’t resupply in Wrightwood and ran out of food, so pulled a 24 hour day to hike 50 some miles into the KOA. Pretty intense! Ben said Hot Sauce and Mike (the Kiwi) should get into the KOA tonight.
En route to the KOA this morning I decided I would take a Nero. I needed to do some computer stuff. Much to my surprise when I found out the KOA had broken down wifi and it is Memorial Weekend so a million people are camped there tonight. That equals zero access to the hot tub. Somewhat regretting not hiking on to Agua Dulce. I just wasn’t prepared to do 14 more miles and spend a good chunk of time on the Internet. In a grumpy mood, I feel like all I get is a shower and washed clothes. Which isn’t a small thing, but also not the whole package I was hoping for. Then, with the intention of finding Internet, because not only does the KOA not have wifi but also has zero service, I blundered on hitching to Acton the town. Two car rides and several walking spurts later, I am on the southern side of town at the 49ers Bar and Grill. I needed to be on the north end, two miles away, but cut my losses. I ate a cheeseburger, guacamole and salsa with chips, and several beers. I am feeling less disgruntled but wary of how I will hitch back to the KOA as the day progresses. That said, it is clearly not the end of the day, but I am ending this entry early so I can continue onto other internet chores.