From the Acton KOA to Hiker Heaven (aka the Saufleys’)
The sun is coming up on our hiker sleepover in the gazebo – one early bird packs up and jets, the rest of us gently stir. It’s morning.
We’ve only got ten miles to go today to arrive at the Saufleys’. Located in Agua Dulce, they operate a thru-hiker waystation at their home. Some operation – they ask that no more than 50 hikers a night come through. (!) They also hold mail and send mail for hikers, which is what I’m particularly excited about. Besides a box of extra food that we sent ahead, and our bounce box, which is full of extra gear, and a box of goodies that my mother has sent, I’ve ordered a brand new pack which should also be waiting for me.
Up till now I’ve been using a Gossamer Gear Mariposa. In many ways it’s a great pack. But… obviously there’s a but, or I wouldn’t have ordered a new one. I have two buts, actually. The first problem with it is how I’m using it. It’s an ultralight pack, and I’m just not quite an ultralight backpacker. For weekend use I bet it would be perfect for me. Or even use someplace where there was more water. This is a long trip through a desert, though, and with five days of food and five liters of water (that’s 11 lbs of water alone) the pack sags badly onto my shoulders.
The mariposa is designed to carry more of the load on your shoulders, so theoretically this is not a problem. The shoulder straps are extra wide and the pack hugs your body beautifully. Too bad I have narrow little girl shoulders. The straps are so wide they hang off the edges, and I can’t swing my arms forward. The sternum strap seems similarly designed for a big, burly man – when I cinch it all the way my straps can still slide completely off. A lot of recommendations for this pack online were from women, so this surprises me. Anyhow, my shoulders are really, really tired – I’ve been hiking for a month and the tired keeps accumulating. I just want my hips to share some of the load. I love the rest of the pack – it’s pockets, how it loads, having the sit pad as the back panel, the size – so I hope the ULA Ohm 2.0 can measure up.
Before I can get all my presents, I still need to walk ten miles though. J and I get packed up and depart at the back of the hiker horde we’ve ended up in.
Walking out of Acton takes us up and over another set of hills. We saw these hills up on the top of Baden Powell, but can’t pick out the peak from here. The hills are the rounded remnants of the debris and sediment that has come down off the mountains: big interbeds of alluvial deposits and debris flows. I recognize the big boulders – there’s the Dalmatian-looking gneiss, banded schists, granites that I’ve seen, days before. The sloped hills have hazes of pink flowers, clouds of yellow poppies.
J and I catch up with a bunch of hikers at the culvert running underneath the highway. It’s auspiciously shaped just like the PCT blaze. We are caught up in the crowd and the momentum and end up blasting the rest of the way to the Saufleys. We blast straight through Vasquez rocks, big beautiful outcroppings of upturned alluvial beds, but hardly notice or stop. (You’ve seen these rocks – think Captain Kirk telling Scotty to beam him up from a hostile, rocky desert, or even the Flintstones movie. LA isn’t really so far away.)
We come cruising into Agua Dulce and find a big crowd of more hikers loitering in front of a cafe. There are packs and dirty people everywhere. (That’s what they get for putting up a sign that says: welcome PCT hikers!)
J, The Don, and I stop and get ourselves an all you can eat Sunday brunch. The Saufleys can’t compete with bacon, eggs, and pound cake. I’m getting so hungry lately – hiker hunger snuck up on me. I haven’t acquired a magical ability to put away food though, which means that sometimes I’m hungry even when I’m stuffed. I just can’t pack enough in.
A local woman gives us a ride for the mile from the cafe to Hiker Heaven. Showers, packages, and clean clothes – time for a real break.