Friday, April 28 — day 33

PCT mile 454.2 to 471.42

I asked a few people at Hiker Heaven about the Red-Legged Frog Trail Alternate– Nobody did it: many because they missed it but a fai number because it is a a long dry up-and-down. I feel better about modding it 

Last night while I was publishing blog posts some of the crew was piled in in the trailer watching “Petes Dragon”, while a hiker “BeerMuffin” was cooking three tri-top steaks on the grill. The steaks came out fantastic.
I heard a Great Horned Owl last night and remembered that I spooked one into flight yesterday on my way down to Hwy 14. I was also awakened by the neighborhood dogs that started barking all of a sudden. A few minutes later I found out why: I heard coyotes yipping nearby and others farther off replying. It took a while for the dogs to calm down. Then the roosters started crowing. Then the PCTers started packing up — lots if zipper sounds! I was thinking of taking a zero day and sleeping in but that’s not happening. Sunrise was nice though.
BTW, Here’s a view of the Hikers Heaven sleeping area.

I realized my sun hat was missing – I thought I left it with my pack but it was not there. I then worried that it had been blown away in a he strong gusts we had yesterday afternoon, so I searched the yard to no avail. I resigned myself to having to go to town to find a replacement and went back to my tent to check one last time – under the sleeping bag, under the pad and then under the tent.. and there it was sandwiched between the groundcloth and the tent. Yay!

While BeerMuffin was cooking scrambled eggs (18 of them), with a pound of sausage, mushrooms, spinach and cheese, I went to find Santas Helper because he knows how to operate the sewing machine.  

These things are a mystery to me. He made it look so simple and it looked great — from the top… but when he pulled it out it ha a bunch of long loops of thread dangling from the other side, like fur. We tried cleaning out and rethreading the bobbin, but no luck. By a he time I got my pants back on breakfast had been devoured. Oh well I have food and I did score some fresh coffee.  

I also was able to get maps for the next section thanks to our host, so I started thinking maybe I should hike today after all. It feels guilty to just hang out, so I paced up and hit the trail — my latest start yet 9:30 am.

The trail out passed through the rest of Agua Dulce that I not yet walked through. I saw an interesting lawn ornament.

And a street with an awesome name.

And then the trail returned to the wilderness.

I saw a great view of Lake Hughes.

And a good view of Edward’s Air Force Base

I caught up to Medic and we came across two rattlesnakes – the first was at Bear Springs 

​The second one we ran into – almost literally!  Medic was in the lead and then all of a sudden he jumped up on a rock two feet up from the trail exclaiming “Scheisse!!!” (He’s from the German-speaking part of Switzerland) and pointed his poles at the base of a bush across the trail.  There was a big Mojave Rattler just hanging out that did not see us.  Medic had stepped within 2 feet of him/her.  I have a video of him/her but I am unable to upload it to my blog 😦

The flowers were once again pretty nice.

I am still impressed by the size of the Wild Cucumber and the Miners Lettuce.

And the trail on the north side of the mountains was beautiful

I found a nice spot to camp, although a bit exposed, but it was a pretty night.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 27 — day 32

PCT mile 444 to 454.5

I got up early today after the n’th train went by.  I quickly packed and took off.  Today’s destination is Agua Dulce, specifically the home of the Saffleys, known as Hiker Heaven.

But first I cross over the ridge between Acton and Agua Dulce.  I was followed by some ravens.

Along the way I came upon the memorial marking the last section of the PCT being completed

The hills were quite pretty in the morning light

I got to cross under Hwy 14 through that loooong tunnel.

And when I emerged I was in the Vasquez Rocks Count Park, which is an awesome place!

There were some cool flowers too

And California Junipers

At Hiker Heaven I got my clothes washed, opened and sorted my resupply food, showered, recharged my phone, battery and GPS, and ate and ate.

Oh, and I brought my blog up to date.  Tomorrow I may hike out or stay for a zero — not sure yet…

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 26 — day 31

PCT mile 424.27 to 432 (where PCT is closed due to the Sand Fire),
Plus 14.5 miles hiking dirt and paved roads to rejoin the PCT at Mike 444

I digit to post last nights sunset.

Today I hike down to where the PCT is closed yet again, this time due to the 2016 Sand Fire.  From there I will hike on dirt roads and paved roads to rejoin the PCT at the KOA (Kampgrounds of America) in Acton.  Many PCTers are skipping this section and hitching rides down to the KOA, but I intend to hike this route so that’s what I did.

At some points the road was a wash.

I saw lots of flowers!

And saw this little bunch of flowers

And then a few miles down the road I found a much bigger version

I also found Manzanita in bloom

And Manzanita fruits (Manzanita means “Little Apple”)

And a Sphinx Moth (deceased)

And bones –coyote?

The road I am following will get me way down there where Acton is.

I found the tracks of a snake crossing my he road but was unable to find it

A few miles later I did find this rattler

Just before arriving at the KOA I passed a Big Cat Sanctuary that takes in injured or mistreated lions and tigers.  They were too far away to get a good shot. 
There were quite a few PCTers at the KOA.  We all raided the store, took hot showers — do you think I need one?

We set up tents in the grass but I did not sleep so well due to the busy train tacks nearby.

Tomorrow is a short day to Hiker Heaven – a residence that opens their backyard and house to PCT hikers.  I have a food resupply waiting for me!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 25 — day 30

PCT mile 400.64 to 424.27

Today was again a cold and windy start, but had a beuatiful sunrise.

The trail today continues following the Angeles Crest Highway down towards LA until it turns west climbing a ridge to drop down towards Acton.

Along the way I came across a tree that was fighting quite the battle against mistletoe.  Most of the green is mistletoe but a few branches still have oak leaves.

Speaking of mistletoe, I have seen four types of parasitic plants so far on my adventure — the common mistletoe, above, here’s a closer view

Pine mistletoe

And this one, not sure what it’s name is – note the red berries

And Dodder or Witches Hair

Today was also my first sight of the dreaded Poodle Dog Bush — a shrub that loves to grow in recently burned areas.  It causes a Poison Oak like rash when touched.  I had never heard of this plant until reading up on the PCT.  Here’s what it looks like.

It turns out I would be avoiding touching this for a he next 40 miles!  

I also found the jawbone of a deer, I think.

I also came across these leaves that decomposed into just the lacey structures 

Also I came upon Gooseberry in bloom — later in the summer these bushes will be covered in edible spiny red berries.  They are a favorite of coyotes and bears.

The area I hiked through burned last year but is regrowing fast.  This creates a two-layer look with green below and black/white above

I arrived at my intended campsite at about 3pm, so I decided to hike up the next ridge.  At about 5pm I started looking for a campsite – the problem was that the trail traversed a long ridgeline with very few flat spots.  At last, and just before the sun was about to set I found a good site, but it was too small to set my tent up on.  Someone had lost the green rainfly for their tent, so I decided to improvise a combo groundcloth and windbreak so I could cowboy camp.  I tied two ends to branches on nearby stumps.

It worked pretty well and I had another great sleep!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 24 — day 29

PCT mile 383.9 to 390.2, plus 4.9 Old Endangered Species Alternate trail, plus PCT mile 394.0 to 400.64

The next section to hike has a trail closure to protect the endangered Red-Legged Frog. There are 3 alternate routes to choose from but I also need to consider the water situation of each before I decide. Since most PCT hikers start at the Southern Terminus after me (in April and May), there have been few recent water reports.  I have been posting updates daily to help the PCT herd behind me.

The 3 alternates to avoid the closed trail are:

1) hike on the Angeles Crest Highway (Hwy 2) for 5 or so miles and resume the PCT where it crosses the road — Yuck, road walk.

2) Take a series of nearby connecting trails that eventually reconnect with the PCT — longest option but all trail.

3) Hike the road for 2 miles, but then catch a trail that joins with the #2 alternate above.  Shorter, but road walking.

I chose to do option 2, however fate/chance had other plans for me…

It was a cold and windy morning. I got up and packed up but already most of the other hikers were already gone – wow, they are fast!  The trail rose up, over, and down ridges that Hwy 2 wins around. On top of one such ridge I got another view of where LA should be.

I got a better view of that valley.

I also saw the first of four Snow Plant sightings. These pop up early in the season, sometimes popping out of residual snow, hence the name. They grow to about 9″ tall and then sprout little round flowers.

Well somehow I missed the turn to my preferred alternate and found myself with either a 1 mile walk back to look for the turnoff or hike option 3, so down the road I went.  Luckily there were hardly any cars.  

I did get some cool views

I decided I could make the most of it by picking up trash as I walked.  After just 2 miles I had a pretty full bag.  It’s sad how much litter is on our roads.

I turned off the road to a campground with a trailhead that will connect me with the desired PCT alternate.  There were a fair number of forestry personnel felling trees and cleaning things up in prep for the summer campers. 

There were not that many flowers along the trail, but I did capture these shots

I’m not sure what the top flower is, but the bottom one is the ubiquitous Lupine.

During this hike I crossed another milestone! 

I arrived at my intended camp site, a closed for the season Boy Scout camp. I had the entire place to myself.  As it was again cold and windy I set up my tent and was in bed before sunset.  Here’s a view of my tent.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 23 — day 28

PCT mile 369.4 to 383.6

My weekend with Liz has been fun, but as she says “_somebody_ needs to be bringing in a salary to pay the bills”, and so she will be driving back to Silicon Valley and I’ll be getting back on the trail. Liz did want to do some hiking with me so we packed everything up and drove to where I exited the PCT on Friday morning.  

373 miles — nearly halfway!

We hiked up a small ridge and were rewarded of views of the desert to the north. I see some big clouds and some snow covered mountains far, far away and a bit to the west — is that the Sierras on a he left?

My goal today is to hike to a trailhead where I will then hike to the summit of mount Baden-Powell and then descend along a ridge to a campground and spring named Little Jimmy. The ascent started off well enough — lots of long switchbacks rapidly bringing me up the mountain. This is a popular trail and there were a lot of day hikers.  

Higher up the mountain the trail became increasingly covered in snow and many day hikers decided that it was not what they were prepared for and turned around. I donned my microspikes and kept hiking. Somewhere around switchback 19 the footprints I was following gave up trying to track the trail and just went straight up the mountain. And so I did too.

Baden-Powell has a false summit, so just when you think you are near the top, you glimpse the real peak further away.

I climbed that peak and found the top to be free of snow. My shoes and socks had gotten a little wet from the snow climb but they are already drying nicely.  

Soon after I summited, “Medic” arrived on top. He’s really a plumber in a small Swiss village, but he got that trail name Medic because he hangs a Swiss flag on the back of his pack. The flag resembles, but is the color inverse of, the medic insignia.

There were 3 day hikers on the summit who had hiked up from the direction we are going so we tagged along. They knew the route to avoid snow fields which was awesome! No frozen shoes tomorrow morning!
One the day at down to our campsite we had a good view of where LA was, but it was covered in clouds.  

Medic and I got to the springs and camp and found no other PCTers there. We chose our campsites, set up, ate dinner and discussed tomorrows hike.  

Four PCTers arrived and started a fire in the fire pit to dry their boots and socks.  I’ve not yet enjoyed a campfire on this trip.  I rewarmed myself and chatted but soon felt the need to retire, so I said my goodbyes and retired to my tent for a great nights sleep.

Thanks for reading!

Soon 4 other hikers showed up and setup camp. One group started a fire in a fire ring to dry out their soaked boots and socks.  

Saturday, April 22– day 27

Zero day! With Liz, Yay!

Today was a full day of non-hiking.  We slept in (relatively), grabbed a quick breakfast, Skyped with daughter Nicole in Berlin, then hit the road down the hill to the nearest REI in Rancho Cucamonga to return my failed Superfeet Shoe inserts (the PCT did then in!) and to get a Titanium cook pot to lighten my load.  We also stopped at Trader Joe’s and Vons to get my food resupply. Lunch was At del Taco, which I have not had in soooo long.  My combo burrito was as good as I remember it used to be.

I packed my food bag for the next 5 days to Hiker’s Heaven in Agua Dulce.  The bag was over full and weighed a ton.  Sigh, I’ve got to get better st food planning…

We drove up to the Pass where I resume and lazed around in the shade of pine trees.  

I was obsessing about my food situation:  i arrived in Wrightwood, as I did in Big Bear, Idyllwild, and Julian with more than a day or two’s with of food.  I decided that I need to make a more brutal food culling plan — I’ll not just pack all that comes in the packages I bought, but will I instead take a day less than I think I need.  I’ll have Liz send the rest to my resupply place (Hiker Heaven (HH)) for next week.  My food bag is now half as full, but I’ll bet I walk into HH with extra — just you watch!!!

We ate calzone at the Mile High Pizzaria and Are settling down to bed.  Liz will drive me up to the trail tomorrow morning and join me on a bit of the hike before the long drive back home.  I hope to continue on to summit Mt Baden-Powel.  It is supposed to be icy, so wish me luck!?

Thanks for reading!