I spent a wet, semi cold night in the mountains after leaving the Andersons and met Popsicle. She’s doing 30 mile days, and makes sure everyone knows it. I also made it to mile 500! A milestone. I booked it to Hikertown, which everyone described as being “creepy as hell and bizarre beyond description”. I’m not sure I can describe it better.
After descending from the mountains to the desert valley, you cross a busy highway and arrive at an old western town movie set in the middle of nowhere… I think it’s a hostel, but nobody’s really sure. Sometimes you can stay the night. Sometimes you can’t. They had water, electricity, wifi, showers, laundry, and everything else a hiker would need. I didn’t ask questions.
They drove a group of us to a store and grill they owned, which involved walking through somebody’s house. In that house were paintings of Michael Jackson and naked women. I whispered to Ace, who’d already been there a day nursing shin splints, asking what was going on. She said she still didn’t know. We asked employees if they knew the owner or what he did, but nobody could answer. They just shrugged and looked annoyed that we would even wonder something like that. They did have a lounge for hikers, where people were watching Zombeavers. Zombie beavers, I think.
Back at the hostel-that’s-not-a-hostel, Holiday was telling us about this crazy guy in her cabin during the snowstorm at Idyllwild. Lawless, from upstate New York, started making fun of a guy from New Jersey. At first it was pretty mundane, but it escalated quickly. Soon he was screaming threatening to kill the New Jersey hiker, and said he better hike slow or he was going to drag his face through the dirt. Then he started repeatedly yelling, “NO TRAIL MAGIC FOR YOU!” They kicked out Lawless, the crazy guy, and told him not to come back to the cabin.
Hikertown was a cool place, but I wanted to get started on the aqueduct walk so I left after a few hours. The trail follows the California aqueduct for 12 miles (20km) or so. Honey Stick found a kitten in a bush there and carried it for 40 miles (65km) to Tehachapi, where the post office woman adopted it. She carried it in her jacket pocket, and it only peed on her twice.
The roving bands of barking feral dogs made me nervous, and I had a fitful night of sleep camped near a grove of Joshua trees by myself. I was convinced a pack of dogs were going to tear off my face in my sleep if I cowboy camped, so I set up my tent. After a couple hours of my tent flapping and keeping me awake I ended up collapsing it and cowboy camping on top. Exhaustion > irrational fears.
The next day I met Purple Princess and his boyfriend Donezo. Turns out Purple Princess is friends with one of my coworkers from Yellowstone, Ariel. Small world! They were really fun to hike with, and the three of us camped together with Ronin. I overheard the guys, who have been together for most of a decade, talking about checking online and waiting for the Supreme Court ruling to find out if they could get married back home in Texas. I joked I could perform the marriage on the trail with another hiker with whom they have this weird obsession with and fear of as a witness since I’m an ordained minister. Ronin got upset and said I wasn’t taking my “duties” as an online ordained minister seriously. I’m not sure what that meant. She’s pretty fun, though, and I’m glad I camped with them.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day, and since the post office will be closed I have to wait until Tuesday to ship out food drops to two remote places in the Sierra Nevada. I can’t believe I’m almost done with the desert! I have just six hiking days until I reach Kennedy Meadows, where I might have to wait a few days for the snow to melt. Finishing the desert is a huge trail milestone, so a lot of people celebrate there and wait for their friends to catch up so they can all enter together. That’s where I’ll pick up my bear canister and enter black bear territory. For some reason, in two weeks on the AT I saw six black bears. Moonbeam, this older hippie woman, told me it was because I had a lot of “bear energy.”
The last desert section is supposedly the hardest. This year it involves two waterless sections of 44 miles (71km) in a row. Depending on the temperature, I’ll be carrying six or seven liters of water in addition to six days of food. That’s around 13% of my body weight in water alone. Then I’ll be back on the John Muir Trail and summiting (hopefully, depending on if the recent snow melts soon enough) the highest peak in the continental United States. The next two to three weeks I won’t have wifi or cell service. I’ll send another update from Independence, California.