Day 23: Chilling in Wrightwood (369)
Day 24: 369 to Little Jimmy Campground (384)
Day 25: 384 to Camp Glenwood (401)
Day 26: 401 to Mill Creek Fire Station (419)
Day 27: 419 to near Acton (444)
Day 28: 444 to Agua Dulce / Hiker Heaven (455)
Highlights: Great views from Mt Baden-Powell; partied with the staff of REI in Burbank; saw a snake eat a rat.
Lowlights: Lower mileage than previously; the desert heat has finally arrived.
Chilling in Wrightwood
I took a full day off in Wrightwood, my second zero day of the trail so far. Mostly my body was bit wrecked from doing bigger miles in the days previous, so I sort of spontaneously decided it was best to take the whole day off, especially given the huge snow in the Sierras that could use some time to melt.
Wrightwood is a cute, small mountain town with a few bars/restaurants and lodges. I ran a few errands and napped a bit, then headed to Reverend’s 30th birthday at a local bar. We had a bunch of hikers out on the patio and then went inside when it got too cold, and watched the national spelling bee championship, with the whole bar choosing their favorite competitors and chanting out the letters as they read them.
Up to Mt Baden-Powell
I got a semi-reasonable start on Day 24, and hitched out to the road junction where I’d hitched into Wrightwood two nights previous. The main agenda for Day 24 was to hike up to the top of Mt Baden-Powell, at 9,407 feet the highest point of the trail in Southern California.
Much of the trail was covered in snow which had been tempered with a freeze-thaw cycle, so it was pretty slick. I didn’t have any additional traction on my feet (i.e. micro spikes), so I had to kick steps pretty aggressively. The slope was never too precipitous though so taking a ride wouldn’t have been disastrous.
The views from the top were pretty epic, with very clear views out to the Mojave Desert, and a smogged view of LA.
Baden-Powell to Agua Dulce
Not a whole lot to report over the next few days. There was a lot of up-and-down, with some snow on the ground, and I’m not in a huge hurry to greet the Sierra snow pack, so I mostly stuck to below 20 miles per day.
Most of the trail was following the crest of the San Gabriel Mountains, gradually descending to the west. This seems to be the main mountain escape area for the LA area, so there were a lot of campgrounds and day hikers on the weekends.
At the end of day 25, a bunch of folks from REI Burbank were up at a cabin owned by a non-profit that one of their managers volunteers for, giving out hotdogs and beers. I spent the night there, and hung out for the evening chatting around a fire pit with a bunch of those folks. It was pretty fun to hang out with REI folks, as they are all very knowledgeable and understanding about what we’re doing, while still having some connection to the real world.
Later in this stretch, we dropped out below the pine forests into mostly hot, sunny areas, and shady stretches became in high demand.
The last day into Agua Dulce was suddenly super hot, but also really cool. I saw a gopher snake devour a rat or a gopher in the middle of the trail, which was pretty neat to see in the wild. I watched that for a while, but it looked like it might take another two hours for it to finish getting it down, so kept going along.
The last bit into Agua Dulce got to be very Hollywood-Southwest-y, and looked like it was out of a movie set for a western. Incidentally, a bunch of the “planet” scenes in Star Trek were filmed here.
Agua Dulce (Hiker Heaven)
Made it into Agua Dulce on Day 28 around noon, following some oppressive heat, then immediately went to the Mexican restaurant for as much horchata as I could manage, which is exactly what one needs in the heat.
Soon after, the group I was with headed over to Hiker Heaven, a house in Agua Dulce whose owners host hikers daily in their yard.
It’s an incredibly well-oiled machine, run on donations and staffed by volunteers, with shuttles into central Agua Dulce in the back of a pickup every hour and a half, outdoor showers, and a guest house for hikers. I don’t know how the owners, Jeff and Donna Saufley, have managed to keep this up over the last 20-something years, but I am very much in awe of them.
I hung out there the rest of the day, socializing with a bunch of other hikers, then headed to REI in Burbank to run an errand the next morning (didn’t see any friends from the campfire sadly).
Now that the desert has arrived, I’m going to do more evening/night hiking, so heading out of here later this evening.