The Hike Continues

April 29, 2018

We were awake and packing our tent at 6:30 a.m., surrounded by many other hikers engaged in the same activity. Weeks on the trail had conditioned us to rise with the sun, even when camping at a hiker hostel.

Two early morning hours passed quickly at Hiker Heaven. We recharged our phones and talked with other hikers. I introduced one hiker, Special K, to the delights of eating corn chips spread with butter. “Oh, if my friends could see me now!” she exclaimed. “Hiker health food!”

The 8:30 a.m. shuttle carried us to the well stocked Agua Dulce General Store, where we bought breakfast and supplies for the next few days. To make up for my pre-breakfast “health food” snack, our morning town meal was the epitome of healthy; a salad of spinach, goat cheese, boiled eggs, and avocado, with blueberry yogurt for desert.

We sat at tables on the porch of the general store while we ate and organized our food, talking with locals and other hikers. Time flew by as we shared hiker stories until, at 1:00 p.m., the sun, at its zenith, began signaling that it was more than past time for us to get hiking!

Accompanied by a cool mid-day breeze, we set off through 2.5 miles of town, heading for the hills. Two miles later, still surrounded by civilization, I found myself in desperate need of a toilet. Frantically, I scanned the surrounding houses and buildings. I knew I wasn’t going to last another half mile to the relative privacy of trailside bushes. Fortunately, the Shepherd of the Hills Church had open doors and friendly people who gladly let us use their restrooms. I am forever grateful to these cordial and gracious people, and their open door policy!

Once out of town, we enjoyed views of clouds, hills, and bushes while the trail gained altitude.

A hiker named King Kong, from South Korea, took our picture at a bend in the trail.

The trail gained the ridge top, but kept on climbing. The cool wind, so welcome in Agua Dulce, became a bit insistent, prompting me to wear warm hat and coat.

On top of the ridge, but still climbing.

After climbing 2,300 feet, we finally dropped over the ridge edge, meeting a few welcoming groves of live oak trees. Many old cow patties attested to the shelter provided by these trees. The view was spectacular, miles of bushes and oaks, with not another tent in sight. Gratefully, we pitched our own tent and turned in for the night, a nearby screech owl sending us to sleep with an unusual lullaby.

April 30, 2018

Gray sky put a definite tinge of humidity in the cold, early morning breeze. The trail wound around the sides of hills, occasionally crossing a ridge top, sometimes diving through an oak grove. Poodle dog bush and poison oak abounded, slowing our progress often as we stepped carefully to avoid these plants.

6:00 p.m. brought us near San Francisquito Canyon Road. Beyond it, the trail headed uphill again, with no feasible campsites for several miles. A hiker hostel named Casa de la Luna offered shelter and companionship just a couple of miles down the road. But after 15 miles of hiking, all I truly wanted was a flat spot out of the wind. Hiker Heaven and Agua Dulce had given us plenty of companionship, and we were still enjoying our solitude. We found a flat bit of dry creek bed at the bottom of a very short sandy draw and quickly put up the tent, appreciative of the shelter from ever present gusts of chilled air.

Groves of live oaks occasionally appeared over the edge of a ridge today.

Agua Dulce and Vasquez Rocks

April 28, 2018

Happy birdsong woke us at daybreak, and we were on the trail by 6:30 a.m., hiking out of Mattox Creek Canyon in the cool of the morning. We passed a great deal of poodle dog bush in bloom. This plant, endemic to southern California, flourishes for a few years after a forest fire. Pretty as it is, we were careful to avoid touching it, as it can cause a serious rash.

Poodle dog bush. Pretty, but dangerous!

We consumed the last of our food at breakfast, eaten in early sunshine at the top of the canyon. Two tablespoons of peanut butter and a handful of mixed raisins, nuts, and pumpkin seeds would have to last us three and a half miles until we reached a KOA at Soledad Canyon Road.

The trail circled up and over and around dry ridges until suddenly diving over the edge to descend into Soledad Canyon. At the KOA, we bought more breakfast, and lunch to go, while we watched a crowd of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts assemble for morning instructions, then mingle. About a dozen more thru-hikers arrived as we ate our second breakfast, until the porch of the store was crowded with packs.

Nine miles later, we hiked into Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park. This 932 acre park has a rare beauty. The rocks are mostly made of coarse-grained conglomerate and breccia sediments. Their fantastical shapes were formed by active fault uplift combined with rapid erosion of the San Gabriel Mountains. Many films have been set here, including several episodes of Star Trek.

Jay and I enjoyed our walk through this whimsical land. A few pictures might show it better than my words.

The PCT enters Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park.


Jay stands beside a wall of layered stone.

Lunch break in an eroded alcove
Indian paintbrush accents the desert.
Cliff and tree bring grace and beauty together.
Tilted rocks provide a background for a yucca in bloom.

A mile and a half after leaving this fanciful landscape, Jay and I walked into the small town of Agua Dulce. This town has a wonderful grocery store, but is too small to support a hotel.

For the last 20+ years, lodging for hikers has been provided by the Saufley family, on their land, nicknamed Hiker Heaven. There is a suggested donation of $20 per person and a limit of two nights. This money doesn’t begin to cover the ‘luxuries’ provided for hikers!

The Saufleys are incredibly organized, with showers, shelves of loaner clothes, several rented porta potties, chairs for relaxing, a kitchen open to hiker use, and a spacious yard for tenting.

Jay and I set up our tent, took showers, then caught the shuttle back to town to get dinner at the local Mexican restaurant, Casa Bonita. What a treat, to be clean, eat delicious food, then toddle back to our tent for the night!

The moon shone over twenty-six tents that night.

Packs are hung neatly at the organized Hiker Heaven.
The moon glows above many tents!