Day 29 – May 2, 2022
Mile 444.3 (Acton, CA) to 462.8
18.5 trail miles | 16.8 tracked miles | 3,239 ft elevation gain | 80.6 F / 27 °C
We returned to the trail after an enjoyable night at LA RV Resort in the comfort of our private cabin. As we left the RV park, we crossed the infamous train track that hugs the campground. I realized that the right of way belongs to the Metrolink network, the suburban Los Angeles rail service. Specifically, this line is the Antelope Line, which links Los Angeles Union Station to Palmdale and the Antelope Valley.
Somehow, this simple fact put everything into perspective. I have walked to Los Angeles. Obviously, I knew that I was close to LA, but as long as I was in the wilderness, I didn’t fully appreciate my accomplishment. Seeing a tangible glimpse of the megalopolis’ infrastructure triggered a whole set of emotions. San Diego to Los Angeles is a one-hour flight. I have walked all the way.
On a more pragmatic note, I didn’t know that Metrolink was single tracked. Then, again, the mere fact that public transit options exist in LA should be celebrated.
The desert landscapes immediately returned. LA RV Resort is an island of civilization in the middle of nowhere.
We soon passed the Pacific Crest Trail Completion Monument, which celebrates the completion of the trail back in 1993. I had pictured an impressive structure at the scale of this mammoth trail—the “monument” was just an underwhelming plaque.
It is interesting to note that the PCT was officially 2,638 miles long in 1993, shy of today’s 2,650+ miles. The trail morphs every year as some sections are rerouted away from private property, and others are rebuilt due to damage or in an effort to enhance views or improve the grade.
The next seven miles featured typical desert scenery with rolling hills.
We crossed I-14 in a tunnel. I always wonder which came first: the trail or the tunnels? As far as I know some tunnels happen to be storm drains, which the PCT conveniently uses. In any case, I’m glad we didn’t have to dodge LA traffic.
The I-14 tunnel was a gateway to another world. Beyond us laid Vasquez Rocks County Park, a natural area featuring stunning rock formations created by the San Andreas Fault. I hear it’s been featured in numerous TV shows and movies, though I would have no clue.
At just 932 acres, Vasquez Rocks County Park is relatively small, but it was a major highlight. Besides, the trail was extremely smooth and comfortable.
I would love to come back and walk more around this gem of a park. The PCT crosses the area south to north, though I noticed an entire local trail network that begs to be explored. Besides, I’m a little disappointed in my photos. The downside of a thru-hike is that I have mileage goals to reach and cannot afford to take many detours.
As we left the park, we suddenly found ourselves in an uninspiring, sterile suburban area. This is Agua Dulce, CA, where the PCT follows Main Street on a painful four-mile stretch without sidewalks.
The irony of the location of the completion monument, just a few miles south, wasn’t lost on us.
Agua Dulce has two churches and a liquor store—Sunday essentials. There are also a handful of restaurants, which all ostensibly cater to hikers.
I was tempted by the grill, though Michael really wanted to try Mexican food, on the ground that Mexican fare in California ought to be authentic. I smiled and shared my experiences with bad Mexican food back in college in San Jose. Still, we decided to indulge him.
We sat down and Michael asked the (Mexican) server for recommendations. He laughed and blurted “oh, I wouldn’t eat any of this at home, it’s too Americanized.” His honesty was hilarious. California is, indeed, not Mexico.
In any case, we over-ordered and the portions were enormous. The staff visibly loved having us around and invited us to make ourselves comfortable, spread out, and charge our devices. On the heels of a gargantuan meal, the chef brought a decadent dessert and complimentary tequila—just what the doctor ordered.
I found out that I do, actually, have limits, even when it comes to how many calories I can consume in one seating. I was in pain and had to lie down in an adjacent booth for a moment. But even a slight feeling of shame couldn’t take away the pride of successfully ingesting a meal fit for 10.
We resumed hiking around 3pm, as temperatures started to dip ever so slightly. We loaded over 5 liters of water on top of our full packs, in anticipation for the night and a 24-mile dry stretch.
The mind-numbing, painfully hot, straight-as-an-arrow road walk was brutal.
The eventual return of the trail provided some respite, though it was exposed and felt steep under the crushing weight of my pack.
We paused for a moment to chat with two local equestrians. The PCT is technically a hiking and equestrian trail, although practically speaking, substantial sections are largely inaccessible to stock. Horses always have priority, followed by hikers walking uphill (a fact that I wish casual hikers would know.)
Exhausted by the heat and the road walk, we decided to camp three miles short of our intended destination, in a large, reasonably flat grassy area.