October 1, 2017
Casa de Luna – KOA Campground, Acton
34-35 miles/10hrs 50′
7:30am start is pretty stellar considering I awake at Casa de Luna, have a a nice omelette, toast and ample coffee ℅ Joe, and am now back at the trailhead I left one and a half days ago. Which is funny because it seems like a month ago. Which is just how it goes on the trail. I swear time speeds up when you want it to drag on; slows to a molasses drip when you need it to fly by. I sleep in the spare room of Casa de Luna, at Terry’s invitation, with the window wide open so I feel like I’m outside. It’s a luxury not to set up the tent, then break it down and pack my stuff as I do almost every other day on the trail.
I begin to walk and realize I have so much energy from that little bit of zero walking the day prior. I hammer along at a steady fast-for-me pace and reach Cache 13 in 3hrs 45′. I fill up with some water then hammer on to Agua Dulce. I am there so fast I don’t know what to do with myself. What I am certain of is food. I am hungry and finally stop, 24 miles into the day of walking, to eat something more than the few bars I’ve consumed. The grocery store on the road that is now the trail through town is perfect. Tables and chairs and shade out front piled with 1.5 litre sparkling water ice cold with fresh lime squeezed in, 2 avocados, a massive bag of chips, a cucumber, a can of double shot espresso and cream, 1 banana, 1 apple, 1 strawberry-pineapple popsicle and my massive appetite. I eat and drink it all then head back out into the hot sun to knock out the next 10 miles to the campground where my resupply box has been sent. 34 or 35 miles in 10 hrs and 45 minutes. Nice.
I reach the campground with kitch-y teepees out on the front lawn in the dark. I’m looking around for the entrance because I’ve entered the property from the far side. It seems to take forever and feels oddly abandoned. Then I see some people walking to the showers or getting into the odd RV and know it’s open but just quiet and slow. Finally I find the kiosk at the proper entrance and a friendly man inside. He gives me a hiker rate and even tries to find my resupply box in the closed convenience store. It must be in the back office, which is locked, he says. ‘Would you like to purchase any food?’ I say no, I have so much food I’m carrying and my resupply, I need to dig into what I have. He says I am the least hungry hiker he’s ever met and proceeds to tell me funny stories of mainly NOBO’s coming in desperate for pizza, beer, ice cream. I tell him if only he know what I had already eaten that day.
After a long, hot, all I can shower kind of shower (as opposed to the coin operated showers that are so often not very hot at campgrounds), I make some food, write, set up camp then lie down to sleep. Before I get in the tent I notice this weird sound. I assume it’s the RV sewage pump I heard before when I saw an RV drive in. The nice security man from the kiosk comes by and asks if I heard the lions yet. Lions? Yes, lions. I tell him I heard the sewage pump and he laughs ‘that’s no sewage that’s the old lion’ at the animal rescue place next to the campground. We have a good laugh. He says I must be more tired than I look.
By 11pm I am sound asleep, knowing I will sleep in past my normal 3:30-ish rising because the office doesn’t open until 9am and I need my resupply.
October 2, 2017
Acton KOA Campground – Exposed Ridge Mist-Filled Camp
I’m lathering up in 50 SPF sunscreen when Maria, an employee of the KOA Campground, comes by and asks if I’m hiking the trail. She shivers in her long-sleeved shirt, ‘aren’t you cold out there? It’s so cold now…’. I tell her I’m from Canada and it feels like summer. ‘And you’re all alone?’ she asks ‘Aren’t you afraid out there, all alone?’. Many people cannot fathom being alone yet alone hiking and camping alone. I tell Maria I love it and that it’s more than safe. She shivers again and leaves while saying ‘watch out for those snakes out there.’
The store opens early so I get my box, pack my food and head out just after 9am. Up and up and up some more I walk into the exposed and soon-to-be scorching hot ascent to the National Forest station up in the previously burned hills. Todd, the ranger who has lived there for 20 years, supplies clean, filtered water for the hikers. I get to meet Todd and say thanks for the trail magic. ‘Oh, it’s no big deal, take all you need. Next water is 17.5 miles from here, so camel up.’. What a great guy. There are trash cans and shade and water. I take a little break and look around. There is a campground hikers can use if they want. Todd tells me 5 SOBO’s passed through only yesterday ‘four guys and a girl. They were moving fast and far.’ I know instantly it’s my friends, flying along their way.
The little oasis of not burnt forest is surrounded my torched acre after acre. I walk through so much burn area for the rest of the day it feels like it will never end. The charred landscape mixed with toxic poodle dog brush (PDB) leaves me on edge. Every time I see a bush of PDB I yell out ‘POODLE’ or ‘POODLE PACK’ if it’s a crop of the skunk-smelling weed. Just to keep myself awake, that is. Thankfully I didn’t cross paths with anyone while yelling about the poodle.
It’s not a long day of walking but I’m dragging. Not the most inspiring places to walk through when it’s so devastated. That and the heat. Man is it hot. I do know, however, I need to slow it down a notch. I am not yet fit enough to walk as fast as I am these past few days. Time to let go of this delusional idea of catching the pack of SOBO’s I liked so much. Funny thing is I don’t want to catch them, yet am walking like I want to. Calm down, RedFeather, calm down.
I’m close to where I think I’ll camp (the spot on Guthook’s app that has one ominous comment: I would not advise camping in this spot…), and see a tent pitched right in a pull-off from the dirt road I cross. A familiar head pops out and I see it’s Irish Canuck. Or Irish Knuckles as Per Bear thought his name was. He’s eating his food in his little tent and is happy as can be. He tells me his happenings since we parted ways just north of the Casa de Luna junction and soon I tell him I need to get going, I’m losing light and need to find and set a camp. It’s great to see so many people out having their own experiences. Each person has such a different adventure. As the trail should be.
I end up camping about .1 of a mile south of his roadside perch. The ridge is beautiful with panoramic views of a night sky lighting up and a sun setting. Oddly enough, I notice moisture on my stuff sacks soon after they are out of the backpack. Did I spill something, I wonder? Nope. That is moisture in the air. Which is so weird because it’s so very parched and dry where I am. Little do I know I am in the exact area that Peter warned me about with raging winds blowing in moisture laden air in the middle of the desert mountains. Yup, that’s where I am, I will soon discover.
I get my things under the shelter of my not very well set up tent, rocks piled on top of tent stakes, hoping the thing will stay pitched, hoping the wind doesn’t blow any more than it already is. And it does. I dig out my earplugs so I can get some sleep and soon wake up to a little personal disaster….