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Day 31 – May 4, 2022

Mile 485.8 (Lake Hughes Road) to 508.1 (Horse Trail Camp)

22.3 trail miles | 22.5 tracked miles | 4,323 ft elevation gain | 75.2 F / 24 °C

We got up early and started hiking at the crack of dawn in an effort to beat the heat.

The early morning stretch was uneventful, with typical desert views. The trail climbed steadily, but thanks to a few strategically-located water tanks, I was able to minimize the weight of my pack.

Soon, the landscape shifted dramatically and I entered the most dramatic burn area that I have witnessed so far.

A menacing army of dark, emaciated figures stood silently against vast expanses of monochrome sand. The diffuse morning light added a post-apocalyptic vibe to the already dystopian landscape.

The surreal sight was both depressing and oddly attractive to this #DesolationTravel afficionado. Intellectually, there is little difference between exploring Soviet wastelands and hiking through a burn area. The experience is gripping, and there is hidden beauty in the decrepit landscapes.

Dramatic burn area north of Lake Hughes road

In the midst of the desolate landscape, I quietly celebrated my first 500 miles on the PCT! The official mile marker was destroyed in the fire that ravaged the trail late 2019, but as usual, previous hikers had crafted an unofficial marker.

This milestone is especially meaningful, as today is my first trailversary: I started hiking exactly a month ago, on April 4th. I have made substantial progress, and the end of the SoCal section of the Pacific Crest Trail (also known as “the desert”) is in sight.

While I never had a precise plan, I feel that I’m exactly where I was hoping to be, and perhaps even slightly ahead of schedule. Entering the Sierra Nevada mountain range is generally deemed unsafe before May. With just 200 miles to go before Kennedy Meadows, I am expecting to reach the Sierras around mid-May, on what is shaping up to be a record-low snow year. All signals are green!

500 miles, baby!

The trail offered its congratulations by presenting an incredible display of wildflowers. Nature is quick to regain its rights, even against adversity.

We arrived at Horse Trail Camp around 4pm—earlier than ever, despite having walked 22 miles. While we could easily have hiked a bit longer, Horse Trail Camp is the last reliable campsite before Hikertown and thus a logical stopping point. Besides, while its name might evoke a large established campground, Horse Trail Camp is just a small backcountry site with few suitable tent pads. Latecomers will find it challenging to find a spot, and I’m pleased that I was able to secure prime real estate!

Tomorrow, we’re planning on arriving at Hikertown before lunch. We will rest, shower, then go to sleep early ahead of the infamous LA aqueduct walk—a brutal dry and exposed stretch on the Mojave desert floor.

Camping at Horse Trail Camp

The Big Picture

3D path
3D video

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