May 20, 2017
Total miles: 19.6 miles
Start: Sawmill Camp (0.3 miles from mile 498.2)
End: Hikertown (mile 517.6)
Total elevation gain/loss: 2631.6/4794.6ft
Another long day today. It was a struggle getting up this morning, but after a few hits of the snooze button we were ready to go at around 5:45.
Within a couple of miles we hit a big milestone: 500 miles!
This morning’s walk started out rather scenically, with lots of oak trees and greenery. The only annoyance were the multitude of pesky bugs that seemed attracted to my face. I can’t entirely blame them, because it’s not like I smell particularly great at this point, but their obsession with getting up under my sunglasses wasn’t appreciated.
Our first water source of the day was another guzzler, although this one had a higher level of water and a simple scooper could be used to get water. We filled up there for the next 12 miles or so and then continued on. The occasional shade kept things cool for the first several miles until we started to head downhill and the trees started to disappear.
Just as it started to get hot, I nearly had a heart attack. I was walking along when all of a sudden I heard a rattle from the grasses next to me. I ran away from the sound and when I looked back I saw a very angry rattlesnake. It was coiled up in an attack position and continued to rattle for quite a while. Slowly my heart rate returned to normal and I decided to wait, well out of reach, to warn Michael. By the time he got there the snake was nowhere to be found, I guess he decided that his spot in the sun wasn’t worth it anymore!
It got hotter and hotter as the day went on. As we were crossing a road we came upon a little trail magic — a sack of apples and oranges! A nice, crunchy apple in a bit of shade really hit the spot!
We planned to stop in another mile to get water and have lunch, but it turned out that we couldn’t find the water. The water report indicated that there was water at mile 512, but I think it was actually describing the water source at mile 511 (which looked dry to us). This meant another 5 miles before the next water source. Luckily we had extra water (which was becoming increasingly warmer), so instead of stopping for lunch we decided to push on to Hikertown.
The next five miles were hot and seemed to wind around without going anywhere (and with town in view the whole time). I got another scare as a swarm of bees flew over me. I stopped in my tracks and looked around, trying to figure out which direction I should run in, but luckily they continued on and I wasn’t forced to run for my life. Michael was within view and I could see him stop and try to figure out what was wrong with me — crazy woman. I was relieved when we finally made it out of the hills and onto a dirt road leading into Hikertown. I even managed to squeeze in a call to my parents on the straight road.
Hikertown is an interesting place. I’ve heard it described as creepy, but that wasn’t quite the vibe I got. Physically, it’s a collection of small buildings/trailers that are done up as a Wild West town. There’s a Post Office, hotel, etc. When we arrived, there were some hikers out on the front porch, but no one knew where Bob, the guy that runs the place, could be found to get our resupply box. I walked around a bit and got the impression that the place was generally run down and offered only minimal protection from the intense mid-day heat.
Finally, Michael was able to track down our resupply package and a special care package from my friend Alyse. It was exciting to open a package that I didn’t pack — it was complete with cookies, cheese, flavored tuna, and even TP! Perfect for a couple hikers. Awesome, thanks Alyse!!
Soon after going through our resupply, a shuttle for a nearby cafe showed up. We decided to head over there for a late lunch and ice cream and then head back out to start walking the aqueduct when it cooled down in the evening.
The Cafe/convenience store has a great setup for hikers, with plenty of indoor seating. I ordered asada fries and Michael had fish & chips.
All was going well until Michael went up to purchase another soda. While waiting in line he started to feel nauseous and faint and rushed off to the bathroom. Heat exhaustion or dehydration was our best guess. The woman running the Cafe got us big glasses of water and even came by with a cactus juice that she thought would help. We pumped him up with fluids and waited a couple of shuttle cycles to make sure that he was feeling okay.
By the time we left the Cafe, it was clear that hiking out tonight would not be a good idea. If it turns out to be more serious, it would be better to still be at Hikertown, where we can get help, than out in the desert heat without a supplemental water source.
We thought about just pitching our tent at Hikertown, but decided to see if a private room might be available. We found Bob in the “schoolhouse,” where he seems to hide (he doesn’t seem to really interact with the hikers much). One room was left, for a $10 per person “donation.” It seemed okay and we took it. The donation part cracked me up because it was more of a demand — but we honestly leave more than that for the other trail angels that have hosted us, so I can’t complain.
The room came with a shower in one of the trailers (not that Bob bothered to show us where that or the bathroom was located). It was totally rundown and disgusting, but it was better than nothing. Basically, a general sense of neglect was pervasive throughout Hikertown, but we were in no shape to move on tonight and there are no other options nearby.
Our plan is to set our alarm for 3:30 tomorrow morning. If Michael is feeling okay, we’ll head out and try to get to a bridge (i.e. shade) before it gets too hot. If he’s not feeling well, we’ll have to wait here until tomorrow evening. My fingers are crossed that we can leave in the morning because I think that it would be miserable to spend the day here (the room would be scorching hot I’m sure). He seems to be feeling better right now, so hopefully the extra liquids have done their job!
Elizabeth: none, feeling good.
Michael: heat exhaustion.