Day 30 continued…
We set off from the Sweet Water Store in Agua Dulce in the evening and followed the PCT’s route along a main road for several miles. Upon finally joining an unpaved road and climbing a hill out of town we saw a strange property full of various buildings, vehicles, train carriages, and a large aeroplane fuselage. What this collection of seemingly random things was doing here one can only guess.
We soon ran into our friends, Rattles and Nomad, setting up camp in a gully but opted to keep walking. We were hoping for a viewful ridge top dinner spot to eat our takeaway burritos, corn chips, and salsa. Once on higher ground we found an outcrop of rocks that looked suitable for our Mexican feast.
After enjoying dinner we continued hiking in search of a suitable campsite – which we soon found on a saddle. With clear skies and a fairly sheltered spot we decided to cowboy camp for the second time.
Waking up during the night to pee when cowboy camping is a welcome relief from life in a tent. In the tent you wake up staring at the tent roof thinking about how awkward and annoying it will be to unzip the tent and go through the contortionist routine of putting your shoes on and somehow squeezing out of the tent without destroying it. Cowboy camping you wake up to see the stars, stand up on the ground sheet and slip your shoes on.
Similarly waking up in the morning you can often open your eyes and immediately enjoy a sunrise.
The plan for the day was to hike around 19 miles to Casa De Luna – the Anderson’s – which we had heard was an experience not to be missed.
Yet again the first notable event was coming across a large snake.
After four miles we reached our all important water source for the day. Coincidentally we also saw Stinger and Motown who had night hiked straight from their tequila fest at the Mexican restaurant in Agua Dulce. We were impressed that they had out-hiked us and hiked around 8 miles in a severely inebriated state – finishing at 1am. Needless to say they were suffering from a severe hangover, and Stinger was lamenting his drunk resupply that included a large glass bottle of tequila.
After filtering and treating the water – it had some weird floaties in it – we bid Stinger and Motown farewell and continued our hike.
After an hour or two we caught up to our friend Meta who kept us company for the remainder of the day. The highlight of this was hanging out at the “Hiker Oasis”. Having walked for hours in shadeless chaparral we suddenly came upon a shady area complete with camp chairs, coolers full of sodas, and some super weird decorations. We decided this was definitely going to be our lunch spot.
This was our first real taste of the Andersons’ magic, and it filled us with anticipation.
A couple of hours later we arrived at the road where we could either walk or hitch two miles to the Anderson’s. The three of us tried to hitch but were just losing patience when a lovely woman pulled over and picked us up. The three of us piled into the small sedan, Cashmere in the front, and Physio and Meta squished in the back on either side of a child in a car seat.
Once we arrived at the Casa de Luna (the Anderson’s) we were instructed by fellow hikers to select a Hawaiian shirt from the rack and go find a campsite out the back.
So, with Hawaiian shirts selected we wandered out to explore the back of the property. We quickly saw tent after tent set up in every available spot – or so we thought. Some further exploration revealed even more awesome camp sites, including one perfect for our Double Rainbow tent.
Showering at the Andersons was also an experience in itself. One had to turn on the shower using a screwdriver which prompted a fire hose strength water pressure. The water was only warm for the first 20 seconds.
We took a quick trip to the local convenience store and were soon enjoying Lagunitas Maximus. This was followed by eating massive plates of the famous Casa de Luna taco salad. Cashmere got so excited by the enormous pot of molten cheese that her plate resembled Mount Everest in edible form.
After some socialising with our fellow hikers and playing cards we went to bed.
A little while after we packed up Joe Anderson was manufacturing pancakes almost as rapidly as the hiker trash were eating them. While queueing up for pancakes, Cashmere and Physio noticed framed photos of hikers with their butts out (mooning). We thought this was a bit odd, but it sort of made sense since we were at the ‘Casa de Luna’ or House of the Moon. Perhaps we’ll send a photo some day too.
After breakfast we posed for a group photo of around 30 hikers, at which point Terri Anderson ‘mooned’ us. Suddenly the bare arse hiker photos all over the wall made more sense.
Terri Anderson then went about ferrying hikers back to the trail. When it was our turn Terri told us about how they became trail angels 16 years ago. It was fateful story involving hikers with a craving for vegetable soup, a closed restaurant, and coincidentally a pot of vegetable soup the Anderson’s had made that day.
Unfortunately for us the official PCT was closed for part of the section we were about to walk, so we had two options. A 19 mile road walk, or a 9 mile road walk plus 25 miles on the PCT to get to the same point. After 9 miles of road walking (including a lunch at the “Rock Inn” – thanks Barb) we had a decision to make.
After much debate and conversations with other hikers we eventually decided to continue on the road. Our main objective is to complete a continuous hike from Mexico to Canada. We already know there will be sections of the official PCT that we will miss for one reason or another – whether it be fire detours, alternate routes with restaurants or breweries to visit, or alternate routes with better scenery. On this occasion we could not justify walking an additional 16 miles in order to stay on the PCT, particularly as the water report was intimidating with reports like, ‘need a rope’ and ‘we never did find this source’.
So, the extended road walk was predictably boring – with a few notable exceptions. While walking Physio noticed a tyre swing moving around on an adjacent property a fair distance from the road. He initially thought there was someone on it, but then as we drew nearer it became clear the tyre was empty. So what was causing the tyre swing to…well…swing? The wind? A poltergeist? No…it was this guy playing around!
He is one of the most glorious goats I’ve ever seen. Once he realised we were watching him play with the swing he became self conscious and just stared at us for an extended period. It was special. But then he got back to work with the swing.
The other highlight was watching a full grown horse rolling around on its back in a dusty field like a dog. Apparently this isn’t that crazy and definitely not as amazing as our friend Mr Goat, but since we aren’t horse people it still seemed pretty weird.
After a couple more hours road walking we arrived at Hikertown – a seemingly random collection of old wild west style buildings made available for hiker accommodation. Upon arrival we eventually found the host who offered us a queen sized bed in a building labeled ‘Hotel’.
We can assure you, it was not a hotel. We were told he had not got around to changing the sheets, the bed spread was a mess – we had no idea how many different hikers had slept in this sheets. However, it cost $20 and we have incredibly low standards.
Our standards were so low we stayed a second night in the “Hotel” and still didn’t change the sheets – even though there was a set of drawers with clean sheets in our room.
We decided to take a zero day. Cashmere’s feet were becoming numb (later we learned this is apparently totally normal and she will regain feeling about a month after we finish the PCT), there was a storm coming, and we were both strangely tired. We also had a pretty major surplus of food, so decided we should spend an extra day eating our way through it.
We spent most of the day lying around in our warm bed. This led to some awkward conversations with new guests at Hikertown. Since we were in the building labeled ‘Hotel’ it was the first place people went to try to find the host. So we somehow became hotel receptionists who spent our working day completely horizontal.
One guy new to Hikertown named Thermometer came right into our room, took his pack off, and appeared ready to settle right in. He struggled with the English language. All he really said was “Supermarket” and “Water”. Eventually Physio left the bed and showed him to a large garage full of hikers – a place where he could get water.
After 36 hours spent almost entirely horizontal we sadly had to stand up and leave Hikertown.
The section of trail we walked followed an aqueduct for around 15 miles. 15 miles of dead flat desert – with tumbleweeds and Joshua trees the only real vegetation on offer. We walked past one guy with a pitchfork lifting huge piles of tumbleweeds over the fence in his yard.
At one point the PCT followed an exposed pipe – and by followed I mean we walked on the pipe.
Eventually the aqueduct led us to a wind farm. Cashmere and I love wind farms. We think the turbines represent human ingenuity and progress. However, what most people don’t know is that wind farms are actually the most horrible places on the planet. Satan himself designed the places where wind farms are built.
I come from a windy place by anyone’s standards. I’ve had to battle with strong wind my whole life. But somehow against all my expectations we found wind in the desert of Southern California to rival the windiest days in one of the windiest cities in the world – Wellington, New Zealand.
It turns out walking through completely bare open ground for miles on end with wind howling and no shelter just isn’t that cool. So the day became the easiest 15 miles of the PCT so far, followed by probably the hardest 9 miles. We were repeatedly almost blown off our feet and at one point Cashmere lent her full weight into the wind and it held her up.
As we passed the most exposed part of the whole wind farm with icy cold hands and jelly legs we were placing all our hope in finding shelter in a canyon where there was reportedly water and campsites.
As we descended into the canyon our worst fears were materialising. Instead of providing shelter the canyon provided a funnel. Our friend Kat was wandering around looking a little distressed and proclaimed “there are no sheltered campsites”. Cashmere replied “we hate this place”, to which Kat replied “not as much as I hate it!”.
By some miracle Cashmere scouted us out a campsite semi-sheltered by some low shrubs and we promptly cooked dinner and made camp. Cashmere truly is a wonderful companion to have on the PCT, and should be a shoe in on everyone’s top ten people they would like to be stuck on a desert island with.
An hour or two after we nodded off to sleep we were awakened by even stronger wind. Satan’s summer home was not done with us as the wind changed direction and blew even stronger through the canyon. It was like Satan was throwing a good party, because things only really got going after midnight. With each massive gust the side of the tent slapped Physio in the face and we both became increasingly nervous our tent pole would snap.
We eventually decided to distract ourselves from Satan’s House Party the only way we could and before we knew it the party goers ran out of steam and the party died.
We awoke to blue skies and light wind. After packing up camp we set off to walk the remaining 17 miles to Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road where we planned to hitch to Mojave.
We were yet again struck by the beauty of the desert – a beauty we never expected to find in such a barren place.
However, we were also struck by dread as we approached yet another wind farm. At the top of the ridge before we reached the wind farm we discovered yet another little hiker oasis – a water cache and camp chairs.
After a quick rest and some greedier than usual water drinking we prepared to leave. However, before we could leave a lovely southbound section hiker appeared with a sack full of goodies. Wow…this guy was walking 20 miles with an 8 pound sack of potato chips, candies, and Starbucks coffee packets attached to his hiking pack. So he was basically mobile trail magic giving things to everyone he met along the way. This guy was taking it to a new level.
So after eating our newly procured potato chips we descended to another wind farm, which made us both worried.
On this occasion the wind was nowhere near as crazy as the day before so we made it to the road junction without drama.
At the junction with Tehatchapi-Willow Springs Road we got a ride to Mojave without even sticking a thumb out. After a quick chat with us, a lovely man named Warren offered us a ride. He worked in the maintenance crew for the wind farm and was curious what us hikers were up to.
Once at the Motel 6 in Mojave we checked in, dropped our bags, and promptly went across the road for pizza. While walking across the road to the pizzeria a toe on Physio’s right foot began to hurt immensely. Luckily we soon had pizza to distract him.
Once we were done with the pizza (we had no problems eating the whole thing) it was time to assess Physio’s toe back in the motel room.
Okay so by our judgement Physio’s toe was pretty messed up. We were still hopeful about hiking the next day, but we had to wait and see…
Physio’s toe was no better in the morning and his foot around it was still red and swollen. Eventually we decided to take a zero and hope it got better. This was all we could do since it was a Sunday so seeing a doctor was not going to be easy…or cheap.
Cashmere kept herself busy by walking all over Mojave in search of gas canisters – a process which took several hours. This also involved telling every retail shop in Mojave that they should stock them (since none did).
Fresh from the disappointment of the gas canisters hunt we attempted to catch a bus to the neighbouring town of Tehachapi. This process also proved fruitless and took about an hour.
Eventually we decided to just hitch and were soon picked up and dropped right at Big 5 Sports in Tehachapi, which did sell gas canisters – hooray!
We celebrated our purchase of gas with $10 all you can eat Chinese at “The Great Wall”. As soon as we decided to eat Chinese Cashmere immediately started talking in her and Maggie’s special language. Apparently the two of them like eating Chinese food together a lot – so much so that it was like Maggie was with us.
Once satiated we hitched back to Motel 6 and did a few more chores before bed.
We were still hoping to get back on the trail but it simply was not going to happen. Physio’s toe was still a mess and the infection had clearly spread into his foot.
We decided to check out of the Motel 6 and head to Tehachapi to go to a doctor and hopefully even cheaper accommodation. A lovely trail angel named Jetta Blue helped us achieve this goal, dropping us at the Tehachapi Airport where we would camp.
As with so many other people and organisations, the Tehachapi Airport is very hiker friendly. They make a picnic area and their pilot’s lounge available for PCT hikers. Once we set up camp in the picnic area we headed off to see a doctor, where Physio got a prescription for antibiotics. The doctor gave us an extra big prescription in case we needed more antibiotics further down the trail.
After eating another delicious pizza dinner we headed back to camp for the night. This is where things started to get pretty weird…
So we knew there were going to be trains blasting through close by about every 30 minutes. This made it hard to get to sleep initially. However, once asleep we were fine, for a while at least…
At around 4am we awoke to a sound on the tent like rain. However, it kept coming in short bursts. With our brains a little slow at 4am it took us a minute or two to figure out the sprinklers were on. It didn’t take Cashmere long after that to figure out we had left our packs outside and they would almost certainly be soaked.
We both sat in the tent waiting for a sprinkler free opportunity to go outside. Cashmere went first and avoided one sprinkler but got hosed by the other one (there were two taking turns battering our tent). Physio went next and upon exiting the tent tried to move a stake to keep the tent fly taught but also only succeeded in getting hosed.
Returning to the tent a little soggy we laughed about how ludicrous the situation was. When we tried to go back to sleep it got worse with several trains passing by in quick succession – each delivering numerous blasts of their horn. It was at this point that Physio declared we were being subjected to psychological torture and became determined not to stay there another night.
Worse still we were awoken early by a loud speaker saying “Mic check 1,2,1,2” repeatedly. This was really the icing on our misery cake.
We later found out the mic check was for a children’s rocket competition. To pass some time we decided to watch the competition, which resulted in a series of seemingly random but awesome events.
An energetic elderly couple named George and Anne Marie came and asked us if we were hiking the PCT. When we said yes and reported our sprinkler woes they declared that we should stay at a new trail angel named Cathy’s house. Reasoning that we like people named Cathy and we weren’t interested in another night with the sprinklers we said that would be lovely.
Unfortunately Anne Marie didn’t have Cathy’s number on her, so they decided to take us out for lunch at a restaurant they owned up until 2 months prior. It just so happened to be Cashmere’s PhD graduation day, which we celebrated with a toast and they insisted she have a mimosa.
After lunch, which they would not let us pay a cent for, they then brought us to their house to get Cathy’s number and to spend more time with us. After chatting about all manner of subjects including ancient trees, the possible health benefits of marijuana, and many other things, George drove us back to the airport where we would be collected by Cathy. In case you aren’t getting the message, Anne Marie and George were and are incredibly generous and amazing people.
After a few navigational issues Cathy found us and took us to her house. She showed us the granny flat we would be staying in – the kitchen of which she uses to bake sourdough that she sells.
After showering we joined Cathy and her family for what would be our best dinner of the PCT to date. Think free range home grown pork, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, roast capsicums, hot homemade sourdough bread and butter…lots and lots of butter! This was followed by home made goats milk ice cream, and the milk came from their goats!
During dinner we were continually entertained by Cathy’s son Frank who implored us to invest $1000 in his project to build a desalination plant. Cathy had told us one of her sons had some interesting ideas, however we didn’t know it would be so entertaining.
After dinner things got even better when we were introduced to 8 kittens and the cats that gave birth to them. Cashmere was in heaven.
Physio’s toe and foot were finally improving so we prepared to hit the trail and sadly bid farewell to Cathy and her lovely family. Before leaving we got one more surprise when one of her pigs gave birth to 5 piglets, which amazed us but disappointed Frank. As the designated pig farmer in the family Frank wanted 14 piglets.
After the piglet surprise Cathy drove us to the PCT junction with Highway 58 where we left our packs. Then she dropped us to Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road so we could ‘slack pack’ the 8 miles between the roads.
The 8 mile slack pack was very boring. The only notable event was sighting a deer which looked both hungry and injured. One look at the landscape and you’ll understand the hungry bit.
The desolate landscape and hypnotic effect of wind turbines had Physio dazed and confused. Lucky there was a sign to help him get oriented.
After a couple of hours we reached Highway 58, where the next segment of our adventure began. I’ll leave it to Cashmere to document that.