From the Rock Inn to the LA aqueduct
The Canadians are up and at ’em at six a.m. If we keep hanging with this crowd we might turn into morning people. Ha! It’s cool and delightful this time of day… maybe that’s why so many get up to hike at the crack of dawn…
It’s nothing but road from here to hikertown, so we start walking. Only notable thing seems to be the difficulty of finding a good place to poop and the number of no trespassing signs. They have a little to do with each other. I wonder what hikers from other countries think when they walk down this nice little country road – no trespassing – attack dogs – armed guard – premises under surveillance – do not enter.
It’s fourteen, maybe fifteen miles on the road, but we arrive at hikertown by noon. I’m not really sure what hikertown is, and arriving doesn’t clear that up. We’re outside Lancaster, not really in town, not really out of it. Hikertown has been billed as a hiker hostel, trail angel house, although I’ve had second-hand reports of creepiness.
We open the gate and walk into hikertown. It’s hot, windy, silent. The place is totally empty, except for eleven puppies and a couple llamas, and the property is covered with fake wild west shacks.
We find the hiker lounge in a garage – boxes and boxes of rejected oatmeal and couches. The owner shows up and takes people to the mini mart. A huge crowd of hikers has filtered in, and although it’s still hot, the creepiness has dissipated to quirkiness. Hikers are draped across every surface, sweating.
Late afternoon, it’s finally cooler, and we all start packing up. The next section of the trail is a walk on top of the LA aqueduct through low desert – no reason to walk that in the middle of the day. J and I haven’t night hiked yet, but we’re about to give it a try, to follow the wisdom of the masses.
We head out at 7pm – I’d kind of like to go to bed already. The aqueduct heads straight north for a long time, as the twilight fades and the half moon lights our way and the north star shows the way. We’re starting to doze, so we play an audiobook off my phone, a post apocalyptic novel that seems appropriate for the half light on the long road, the weird shadows of the Joshua trees besides us.
We catch up with Bob and the Canadians when they take a break, and walk with them. Bob has a huge stride and I have to hustle. I’m so glad I bought my hiking poles. I was a skeptical holdout for way too long. Sure, everyone said poles were the thing. I just didn’t understand. I’d never seen a reason for them before this because I’d never thru-hiked before this. I’d always stopped when I was exhausted. I’d taken days off after hard hikes. Some days on the trail, I’m exhausted all day. Days off don’t come for days and days. And the thing about poles, the thing that no one told me, is that when you are totally wiped out, when your legs have nothing left to give, the poles are magical conduits that pull the energy hiding in your shoulders, your forearms, your fingertips (your fingetips!) and turn it into miles.
So trying to keep up with Bob, hours after dark, I’m happy I have my poles to keep me moving forward when my legs aren’t up to the job.
At midnight I’m done. Toast. Kaput. We find a flat spot and throw down our pads. Bob wants to keep going, but the Canadians are seduced by sleep as well. We’ve done 11.5 miles since leaving hikertown. We hiked either 14 or 15 miles this morning – combine the two and round it and you have an even 26.2 mile marathon. Most miles we’ve done yet, and it seems like enough.