May 18, 2022
Acton KOA at mile 444.3 to Bouquet Canyon Road water cache at mile 465.6
I’m the first one to be packed up in the morning. Turns out, getting breakfast in Agua Dulce is the motivation I need! We all set out as a group, wearing our headlamps and meandering over some nasty little creeks, over the train tracks, and then finally back up into the dry desert mountains. I’m home! Back on trail.
The group spreads out after a while, and I walk with Andy for a bit. Ah, just like old times. It feels good and right. DLT catches up with us and I teach the two of them some new games, including Green Glass Door. It goes like this: you make up a rule for what can go through the Green Glass Door, like “things that are red” or “words that have an ‘n.’” No one else knows the rule, so they have to guess objects that can go through until they find the pattern. Thanks to Max and Ellie for reminding me this game exists! While my other games didn’t seem to excite anyone much, this one is very popular. We play it all the way across the rolling hills as the sun rises and through the leafy valley approaching Vasquez Rocks.
Later Beetle joins us, and we play another game that Max taught me: you think of an animal, and then the next person has to say an animal whose name starts with the last letter of the first animal’s name. For example: “Lemur,” then “rhinoceros.” This is surprisingly difficult, and at multiple points we end up in absolute stitches, mostly over Beetle’s animals.
We walk through another tunnel under a highway. Andy whistles at our insistence (he has an extremely powerful whistle), and then Beetle sings his signature “OHhhh my GoOOOddd” while the tunnel echoes. Why are silly little things like this so much fun on the trail? I love these weirdos.
After the tunnel we wind up in a dense green path beneath huge rock formations. There are signs every few hundred feet indicating different plant species. It’s shaded and funky down here in this conglomerate rock tunnel. It looks like we’re getting close to Vasquez Rocks!
The trail turns upwards and gets really steep for a few moments. We pass a day hiker who tells us about a side trail to the largest rock at Vasquez, so we take this trail instead of the PCT and wind up at the base of the formation. I’ve been here before, but the rock looks even more impressive than I remember. It’s huge and it slices upwards at an angle into the sky. Beetle, Ishay, and I climb all the way to the top. The view is gorgeous, but it’s so hot and we’re just a mile and a half from breakfast at Agua Dulce, so I don’t stay up there for long. I climb back down and follow the group into town.
Our first stop is the Home Made restaurant for breakfast. I opt for an iced tea, but multiple people at the table get strawberry milkshakes and, after trying a sip, I order one too. Breakfast is an omelette, hash browns, and biscuit and gravy. I inhale it all. We sit around talking and consuming calories for a long time, eventually pay, and then migrate to the Mexican restaurant down the street. Andy, DLT, and I order various frozen margaritas. Mine is peach and it sends me to heaven.
Eventually we’re joined by the rest of the tramily, and I order tacos and another marg. By the time the tacos get there, I’m exhausted. I had a good night of sleep for the past two days, but I’m so hot and I just can’t keep my eyes open. I put my head back and end up falling asleep right there at the booth for a few minutes. I hastily eat one taco, decide I don’t like the other one and give it to Beetle, and then pay. Then I go outside, put down my food bag as a pillow, and fall asleep right there on the concrete in the shade outside the restaurant. I just can’t handle this heat. It seems like this is how my body manages being hot: it just shuts down. I don’t know how long I slept for, but I wake up feeling like a new person.
Around 5:00 we get water from a spigot, pack up our bags; and head down the road. It’s two miles of road walking followed by a steady climb this evening. We walk in a big group at first, and then we spread out and I walk the rest with DLT. It seems like we’ve managed to avoid the worst of the heat, but it’s still a steady climb and it takes over four hours for us to get there. On the way, we get to witness a beautiful sunset over the mountains. What is it about the sun in the desert? It’s magic.
We start the final descent to camp with Knuckles (Christina) and Power Plant (Andrew), but I can’t keep up the pace and I fall back. They end up camping before the end of the hill, and DLT and I continue well after it gets dark. I’m anxious to get to camp and not really paying attention to my feet, and I roll my ankle on a rock. We take it a little slower after that, see an adorable kangaroo mouse, and are joined by a very energetic downhill Carless just before Bouquet Canyon Road.
When we finally reach it, we cross to the water cache and find a minuscule spot to set up for camping. It’s dark and cramped, so DLT and I just squeeze in and cowboy camp next to a few already-sleeping hikers. Unbelievably, I’m hungry, so I shove a couple of quick sad tuna wraps into my face and brush my teeth before finally crawling into my sleeping bag.
It’s amazing to me that we can do this kind of distance and still take eight hours in the middle of the day to hang out in town. My shoes are definitely wearing out and I’m feeling the ground with every step, but apart from that and the wild heat, I feel pretty good. The physical challenge is as much a part of this hike as the scenery, the friendships, and the town days. I’m so amazed by what our bodies can handle.