May 4, 2016
Bushcamp (mile 417.5) to North Fork Ranger Station (mile 436.1)
We woke up after a windy night and were walking by 7:20 am. We walked the 1.1 miles to the Mill Creek Fire Station to get water for the next 17.5 miles.
We stretched for 10 minutes before loading up the packs and walking across the Angeles Forest Highway and climbing steeply on sandy trail. Each step took extra effort as we sank into the sand.
The trail parallels the Mount Gleason fire road, an alternate to bypass poodle dog bush. We decided to take our chances with the trail.
We climbed up and up and eventually plateaued as the trail skirted around the hillsides. We called out poodle dog bush warnings to one another as we walked.
“Little guy on the left”
We dodged poodle dog bush as best we could while trying to maintain a steady pace. For the most part the large bushes were far enough off the trail to avoid and the little ones we could step over or around. Thank you trail crews. You rock!
As if the poodle dog bush wasn’t enough, bugs joined the party. We spent at least 4 miles swatting away knats as they flocked to our faces and got stuck on the sunscreen on our noses and cheeks. It was exhausting and frustrating having to walk on uneven trail, swat and avoid poodle dog simultaneously.
For the most part the trail was well established but some parts were overgrown with foxtails and grass. When the wind picked up it looked as if the foxtails were dancing.
For hikers reading this behind us, poodle dog bush is worst between mile 424.9 and 427. All other sections are not bad at all.
At 1:15pm Laurie rounded a corner only to jump back surprised. There, blocking the trail, were 3 horses tied to tree branches.
There was no owner in sight and nobody responded to our yells. Neither of us have much experience with horses and with a narrow trail the likelihood of getting kicked when attempting to squeeze by felt too high.
So, we sat down and had lunch. We tried calling the ranger station to see if they knew of a trail crew in the area but they didn’t.
About 30 minutes later an older gentleman came and started untying the horses. He seemed surprised to see us sitting there. Turns out there was a trail crew cutting up trees that were blocking the trail. Thank you trail crews for all you do!
We climbed up to the top of a hill and then dropped down to Messenger Flat Campground. As we crested the hill we saw an Air Force plane circling above. It came super close and must have been training because for the next 2 hours we watched as it and 3 other planes circled above us.
We continued to descend towards North Fork Ranger Station. The trail narrowly switchbacked down and down. At this point Laurie was getting tired. Her feet her and she had a new blister under the callus that used to be a blister. To make matters worse, there was now poison oak along the trail too. Thank goodness the flies were gone!
Needless to say, today was not our favorite day. Perhaps not the best way to spend our 1 month anniversary on the trail. The Angeles National Forest section quickly became the section of trail to endure rather than enjoy. The goal now is to get out without an itchy rash.
Around 5:45 we made it to the ranger station. We consciously decided to stop for the night and not overdo it like we had the previous night.
As we set up our tent other hikers started arriving. We had not seen anyone all day and within 2 hours 10 additional people had gathered, including Gabriel – a hiker we met a few weeks ago at Ziggy and the Bear’s.
Although we had been extremely cautious with the poodle dog bush, the poison oak was overgrown and almost impossible to avoid. Andy put on gloves and helped Laurie out of her shoes and gaiters before doing the same for himself.
We bagged both of our clothes and will dress in the morning again with gloved hands. The last thing either of us want is an itchy rash for the next few hot days walking in the desert.
It is another windy evening and we are chancing it without the rain fly. We enjoy the cool air and noise of the wind rushing through the trees to lull us to sleep.
Tonight we are grateful for our long pants, trail crews and familiar faces.