May 5, 2016
North Fork Ranger Station (mile 436.1) to Vasquez Rocks (mile 453.2)
Laurie had a very restless night. The howling wind, the flapping of nearby tent flies and the static from the power lines above woke her up many times. Andy, who uses earplugs, slept soundly.
We were up at 5:40am and walking by 6:45am. We had a goal of hiking 17 miles to Vasquez Rocks by 3pm. We were on a mission for lasagna, salad and showers! It’s Cinco De Mayo but Andy’s mom had promised to make us lasagna, and that’s what we’ve been thinking about all week.
The trail in this section affords great views of the valley and hills beyond. We walked on the right of one hill, then climbed up and walked along the ridge before dropping down on the left of another. This pattern continued for 8 miles; we could see the trail slicing through the surrounding hillsides.
We watched as the clouds rose out of the valley below – playing hide and go seek with the sun.
The Acton KOA was a green oasis in a valley surrounded by brown, dry hillsides. It was our midpoint and water source for the day. Within 1 mile of starting this morning, we could see it down in the valley but the trail frequently took us in the opposite direction.
As Andy reminded Laurie “this is what the PCT does, all these miles count, enjoy them.” Once again the trail reminds us it is not about the destination but the journey.
Laurie likes efficiency. She’s very straightforward and the trail is not. The trail’s wandering ways plus the continued pain in her knee made her a little grumpy.
Grumpy or not we arrived at the KOA around 9:30am. Eight miles in 2 hours and 45 min – not too shabby! We were ahead of schedule and that brought the smile back to Laurie’s face. Being ahead of schedule in Laurie’s mind means she’s winning. And she likes to win.
Getting to the KOA meant we were past the majority of poodle dog bush. And this we were very thankful for!
At 1030 we left the KOA and started walking uphill. The trail was steep at first and then leveled out into long switchbacks. We were back in the dry, arid desert and despite the breeze, it felt hot!
Laurie pulled out her umbrella but Andy still didn’t have a system to attach his umbrella to his new pack. We continued to make our way up and up towards the ridge and the darkening rain clouds.
We crested the hill and gazed down onto highway 14. This would be our second opportunity to walk under a major highway.
The 2 miles to the tunnel went on for what felt like forever! The increase in noise, trash and sand made the walking less enjoyable.
Finally we saw iron pillars and a tunnel. It felt like we were miniature people walking through a drain. There were a bunch of branches and other debris piled up on the outside of the iron posts like a dam, as if a flash flood carried them here, but the posts stopped them from going into the tunnel.
Nevertheless, we walked around the debris into a long dark tunnel. Towards the middle we could see the light on the other side but could not see our feet or the ground. It made both of our heads feel a little funny- good vestibular training!
We passed 3 hikers having lunch on the other side of the tunnel and exchanged hellos.
“Have you paid your toll?” A hiker asked us jokingly.
We continued walking (it’s what we do) and made it to Vasquez Rocks County Park half an hour ahead of schedule.
Vasquez Rocks are featured in Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Little Miss Sunshine and many other movies. Who knew?!
We walked through the beautiful rock formations in awe, not caring about the few drops of rain falling from the sky.
Andy’s friend Tony came to pick us up and we changed out of our dirty, stinky and possibly poison oaked clothes.
The Saufley’s are popular trail angels that cater to hikers in this area. Their home is referred to as “hiker heaven.” We wanted to go see their set up and experience the place Andy has read all about but we decided that Andy’s parents home would be our hiker heaven.
Being only 45 minutes away from the Dischekenyan household we opted to spend the night there instead. No lines for showers, ability to do laundry and home cooked meals – all the thru hiking essentials under one roof!
Shushan (Andy’s mom) made her famous lasagna and we enjoyed each bite! Laurie and Shushan later made cream cheese frosting to go on a carrot cake. Yum!
Tomorrow we may go back to the trail or take a zero. We will decide in the morning based on how our bodies feel.
Tonight we are grateful for comfy sofas and cream cheese frosting.