Mile reached: 535.0 (+31.8)
High: Napping in the shade while the Mojave cooled down
Low: Discovering that there was a dead snake in the water source I was counting on for the day
A tale of two friends: One friend read that my feet were hurting and responded by wanting to bring new insoles out to me. Conversely, another friend (with a relative in nearby Tehachappi) texts to let me know that he “enjoy[s] the low stakes suffering.”
I didn’t sleep particularly soundly as I was prepared to chase off the bear. I even placed a small log next to me with which I was prepared to smack the bear in the night. (I learned later in the day that the bear repeatedly came and nuzzled one woman who was cowboy camping the previous night.) Despite repeatedly waking up at the sounds of branches and twigs breaking, the bear did not make an appearance. The snafflehounds on the other hand found my hat and in a salt crazed fervor chewed through the strap in multiple places.
I was off for the morning and moseyed over to a guzzler, which would be the last water source for 17 miles. However, I was presented with a tank that had a dead snake floating in it. Reluctantly, I grabbed two liters, but I wasn’t all that keen on drinking it.
From there the trail descended thousands of feet into Antelope Valley since land access problems prevent the trail from staying on the crest. It was a beautiful sunny day, and amazingly it wasn’t warmer than the low 80s. Antelope Valley is renowned for poppy blooms. Although this was nothing like last year’s super bloom, it was a pleasant distraction from what otherwise would have been a barren and hot desert.
A little before noon I arrived at Hiker Town, a way station on the edge of the Mojave. It has a reputation for being unsettling. There is a lot of junk everywhere and a faux Western town for hikers to sleep in. Some people worry that they are going to get murdered in the shower or something. In the end, it was a big letdown, and all the stories seemed to be unfounded. Anyway, I caught the shuttle to a nearby gas station, had lunch, and did a light resupply (pretty much all of the convenience store food was cleared out).
The next stretch is 25 miles across the floor of the Mojave Desert with a good portion of it following the LA aquaduct. There is lots of water, but it is frustratingly sealed off underground. Normally, these miles are done in the middle of the night, but with the unseasonably cool weather it could be done in the day. So, upon returning I napped for a few hours to let the sun cool down a little bit after which I’d head out in the late afternoon.
When I woke, “Rainman” and crew came storming in. They were all tired, and he in particular had run out of water miles ago. I goaded him about continuing on, because for the past few days he had been adamant about not staying at Hiker Town. Exhaustion carried the day, and they would hang there into the following night.
With a hat now covered in duct tape I set off into the evening following the aquaduct though the desert. A ran into various other people doing the same. There are some funny characters out there. For instance, one guy made his livelihood by growing weed and day trading crypto.
During a break while taking to people, I could see someone with an orange beanie fast approaching. If I hadn’t know better, I might have thought it was Jenna, but she was still days behind me. A few minutes later he pulled up and introduced himself as “Cheese Stick”. He’d been trying to catch me since leaving Hiker Town (it’s pretty easy to pick me out from a distance too) but was pushing hard to match my pace. With the break over, we left and shortly he and I were the only two left. We hiked the next 13 miles together telling stories etc. It turned out that he is also in healthcare IT and was present when the bear came around the previous day.
Around 10, we got to a water faucet that feeds off the aquaduct. I called it a night there, but “Cheese Stick” was going to press on for a few more miles. I set up camp, but in the low light didn’t realize I was right next to an ant nest. Rather than move camp, I decided to sacrifice an almond to the ants. I figured it was too heavy for them to move, so they would spend all night preoccupied with it and leave me alone. After a quick dinner, I promptly dozed off.