On the Set of an Old Western Film, or, I Wouldn't Sleep in that Bed If I Were You
June 3, 2017
Mile 504 to Hikertown
Hikertown to the LA Aqueduct
Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike: Day 29
Well, we tried to make it 17 miles. In reality, we made it about ten miles before I absolutely had to stop, or collapse while trying to keep going. Al and I tried everything to stay awake while night hiking, but more than five miles without a successful afternoon nap wasn't going to happen. Add to our frustration the difficulty in making miles at night while still being cautious enough to not eat shit. Tried listening to music, tried listening to John Mulaney. The single beam of a headlamp and the tiny illuminated viewing area is both straining to the eyes and exhausting to the mind. We quickly became too tired to make meaningful progress.
Our thought was to go sleep at around 3 am once we found a flat spot. We could see the glow of Los Angeles, but nowhere to camp. The flat spot turned out to be the side of a dirt road. The plan was to nap for a few hours and wake up before the flies so we could hustle into Hikertown for a brief reprieve prior to the aqueduct. Yeah! Wake up before the flies! I'll just set my alarm early and sneak out of here. They'll never notice.
Woke up to ominous buzzing that could only be produced by THOUSANDS of flies. Justin the Kiwi strolled by with his bug headnet on, not a care in the world. I, on the other hand, put my full rain suit on. I'm half genius, half masochist. Flies can't bite through rain gear, but you also can't sweat through it, and we're walking through a desert here, remember? I will always choose heat stroke over swarming insects. Then, I put headphones on so those fuckers can't psyche me out with their incessant buzzing and divebombs. I got out of the tent and went for it. For a solid seven miles, I hustled, music cranked to a thousand decibels.
Like clockwork, the 9 am sun came out and destroyed any chance of continued hustle. Hot. Sweat. Flies. Buzz buzz buzz.
Let me explain that when there are biting flies it does not matter how tired, how deflated, or how thirsty you are. You. Do not. Stop. For anything. Sure, you could refill your water out of that dirty swamp. But is it really worth being eaten alive just to avoid dehydration and heat stroke? No, it is not worth it.
Yes, that did mean that I ran out of water five miles before Hikertown. Yes, it was a completely exposed five miles (that's approximately 2 hours, FYI) in 90+ degree desert heat and direct sun. Yes, if it hadn't been for Justin forcing me to turn around and get water out of a drainage pipe I probably would have had some serious dehydration and overheating issues. Thanks, I guess.
Arrival in Hikertown was like walking onto the set of an old Western film. Dilapidated yet adequately decorated false storefronts. Behind the doors are beds that, I would say, only hikers who have let themselves go (hygienically speaking) will sleep in. I haven't showered in two weeks and still, all I can think about is how many hordes of rodents and swarms of bed bugs must be cuddling up together under all those blankets in all that hot, sweaty dirtiness. I'll take my spot on the ground in the shade of the fake post office thankyouverymuch.
We did catch Sam and Colten, and one by one the rest of our family trickled into Hikertown. The not-post-office and its neighboring fake building are larger establishments, offering plenty of shade (though little breeze) to accommodate group napping before tonight's Aqueduct antics. Rumblings have it that we'll head out around 7 pm, so we took the extra time before napping to run into actual town (aka gas station by side of the road) and grab a few Red Bulls for night hiking round 2.