May 12, 2017
Mile 427 – Acton KOA (427 – 444.3)
I slept in til about 6am this morning, which was super nice. It was cold, but I was super warm in my quilt. I seriously love that thing so much. It’s so hard to leave it every morning. I got up and staggered around the corner from the other campers to pee, my legs protesting the movement after yesterday’s big miles. I got ready surprisingly quickly and was hiking a bit before 7am.
As soon as the sun crested the hill and touched my skin, the cold disappeared and I was immediately hot. I climbed up 100o feet through the burn area, dodging a ton of poodle dog bush. When I got to the top of the hill, I could see Messenger Flats Campground far below. I got really excited when I saw there was an outhouse, and ran down the hill, only to find it was locked. Damn it. I was at least happy to eat my breakfast at a picnic table and throw away my trash. Gummies caught up to me there and we pressed on together to the next water source.
In the burn
As we wound down the ridge, we got some awesome views of the desert. The landscape had changed significantly from the pine forest of a couple days ago. It seriously blows my mind how much the environment of the trail varies from day to day, or even within the same day. We reached the North Fork Ranger Station and found a bunch of hikers sitting around drinking water from a legitimate water cooler, like the ones in office buildings. It was amazing. The water report said there was water 4 miles away, so I grabbed a litre from the cooler, stuffed some snacks in my face, and moved on.
The views just got better and better as the day went on. We were really entering the desert now, and we spent the later part of the day descending about 4000 feet in elevation. Crazy rock formations loomed out of the hills, and it got hot. When we made it down to the canyon where the water supposedly was, it was totally dry. Oops. We sat in the dirt and quickly stuffed tortillas into our faces, and kept moving. Luckily, I had only drunk half of my litre of water, and there were only 4 miles to go.
Soon, we started seeing signs of civilization below us. All day, I had been super excited to swim in the pool at the KOA. Below, we saw something that looked like a campground, and something that looked like a pool… Then we rounded the corner and saw that the pool was empty. It was heartbreaking. When we got to the road I checked the map… And the thing we saw wasn’t the KOA! Hope was rekindled!
We crossed the road, walked through a field filled with disused RVs, and finally made it to the KOA. The pool had water! There were showers! And wifi! And a store! It was amazing. There were already a ton of tents set up on the lawn outside the office, and we joined the pack. I got a half iced tea half lemonade from the store and chugged it, it was sooo good. Then I showered, and immediately leapt into the pool. It felt incredible. I was so happy. I laid on a lounge chair in the sun for a while using the Internet, before I got hungry and headed back to the camping area to make dinner. I had peanut butter ramen supplemented with chips and root beer from the store. Dinner of champions. Afterwards, I made my third visit to the store and got weirdly excited about the fact that they had creamsicles.
Just before bed, I made my way over to the bathroom, which involved winding my way through a maze of giant McMansion tents on the other side of the campground. There’s a road going through the middle of the place, and on one side there are all of these absolutely massive pop-up tents, and on the other is a sea of tiny one-person backpacking tents. It’s pretty funny. Tomorrow, I can sleep in as late as I want, because there’s only ten miles to Hiker Heaven (aka the Saufleys house) in Agua Dulce. Super excited.