Date: Wednesday, 24 May 2017
Start: Camped by trail and puddles at Mile 510.9, 3839 ft
Finish: Camped by the trail at Cottonwood Creek at Mile 534.9, 3093 ft
Daily Miles: 24.0 PCT, 2.0 extra through navigational error.
Total PCT Miles: 534.9
Weather: Hot, partly cloudy and windy
Dinner: Spaghetti and meat sauce and salad, and watermelon, pineapple and cookies
Aches: Very tired
Highlight: No contest! It was finally reaching my destination in the middle of nowhere after a long hot day, to find “trail angels”, Tom and Jo, set up with their RV offering weary hikers food and cold drinks out of the goodness of their hearts. I had been dreaming of a cold Coke all day, and miraculously, two rapidly appeared followed by a spaghetti dinner and other delights. There were about eight other hikers there, all of whom had arrived in the morning and stayed all day. Tom and Jo wouldn’t accept a donation to cover their costs, and pancakes are promised for breakfast.
Lowlight: Two to choose from.
First was reaching a faucet on the Los Angeles Aqueduct that reportedly had water available to find there was none. I could have filled up a mile earlier from the open aqueduct, but rather than clamber down the concrete bank I thought I would wait for the faucet, which came after the open aqueduct had become a sealed pipe. With no water left, 14 miles to the next water source and the temperature already in the high 80s F, I was in a fix. Fortunately, I was crossing the valley floor and there were a few houses around. I tried the closest, couldn’t raise anybody with a knock on the door, and let myself into their unlocked backyard and filled my water bottles.
Second was discovering in mid-afternoon, 1.5 miles too late, that I had missed an unmarked turn off the aqueduct road the trail had been following. Rather than retrace my steps, I decided to continue following the road, which had become quite hilly, because the map showed it rejoined the trail a few miles ahead. A mile or two later, I came to a sign that said Road Closed – No Trespassing. Tired and wanting the day to be over, I ignored the sign and continued on hoping no survivalist had me in his gunsights. Nothing happened and after another couple of miles I left the private property and got back onto the trail. I would guess my detour added an unwelcome two miles onto my day.
Pictures: Click here
I knew I had a long day with few water-sources to reach a water-source where I could camp, and that it included crossing part of the Mojave Desert, so I was determined to get a good start. By 9am, my first break, I had covered seven miles and was onto the floor of the valley just past a major road. There were a few houses around, but generally everything was very dry.
Soon after the break, I reached the Los Angeles Aqueduct, an open channel taking water to LA, and followed along its bank for a while. It then became a large buried metal pipe and I walked along the top, planning to replenish my water supply at a faucet the trail notes referred to, but alas it had no water available (see above). After sneakily refilling at a nearby house, I continued north on a hot dry dusty road paralleling the aqueduct with the unique Joshua trees all around, confirming the desert status. The aqueduct later became a flat concrete roadlike slab surface and I walked along that. My breaks were taken crouched in the small patches of shade cast by some of the concrete infrastructure. I saw no other hikers at all during the day. Only mad dogs and Australians go out in the midday sun.
Nevertheless, I wanted to see the desert, rather than hike at night, so didn’t regret my decision and was confident I would have no problems. I did make a navigational error (see above), that added some unwanted miles to my day, but I still arrived at my target destination at 6pm after a satisfying day. As reported above, I was totally surprised to find “trail angels”, Tom and Jo, at my destination and they really looked after me, and brought a wonderful end to my day in the Mojave. I’m now camped behind their RV and been told they will be up early cooking pancakes for breakfast. The location is in the middle of a windfarm and I can hear the blades quietly swishing from my tent.