May 17: Miles 454 to 475 (21 miles)
May 18: Miles 475 to 478 + 20 mile detour to Mile 518 (23 miles)
It always blows me away how fear of road walking spreads on the PCT. Whenever there is a trail closure, rumours of how deadly the roads are quickly spreads, likely originating from hikers trying to justify a hitchhike to themselves. Before long stories are flying around describing roads without shoulders that feature “guaranteed death zones” and corners so crazy that even travel in a car is like playing Russian roulette.
Soon everyone on the trail ends up hitch hiking around instead of walking the road. That’s fine if you’re not after a continuous hike, but it sucks for people that really want to walk the whole thing but end up getting scared away from their goal. We’ve already met a lot of people who wanted to walk a continuous hike from Mexico to Canada but ended up hitch hiking at the first closure because of the fear mongering and now regret it.
Today (May 18) T-Fox and I road walked the third and perhaps last closure, a 20 mile detour around the Powerhouse Fire closure area. It was awesome. Anyone on the fence should definitely walk this.
The road walk started with conversations with several locals who were super interested on our hike. They asked us if we needed anything and treated us like local celebrities. Soon we met Jay, a Vietnam veteran, who walked with us for an hour and told us wild stories about snakes in Vietnam and the history of the local area.
After Jay turned back we started talking about stopping for lunch at the Rock Inn. Restaurants are in great feature on road walks that you don’t find on the trail. However before we could make it there Running deer and Boufolo (local trail runners) pulled over and offered us pop and half a large pizza. These guys were some of the nicest and most excited people we’ve met.
After a nice tailgate session, we walked on to the Rock Inn and spent two hours having coffee and another breakfast with Lucy, Mandy and Josh. After leaving there, we ran into Theresa (?) who lives along the road and showed us her little free range hen operation complete with chicks born just hours earlier. She has a Shiba (dog) just like T-Fox, so she was in love.
Our walk continued through the afternoon, which featured short naps in the ditch and free Popsicles from LoveLetter who was driving past. Overall it was an eventful day packed with chance encounters, fleeting celebrity and free food. It was actually one of the most fun days yet in a section 2/3rds of hikers will hitch hike around.
So if you’re thinking about the road walk, go for it. The previous walk from Paradise Cafe to Idyllwild featured a laughably safe “death zone” and the 5 mile walk on Hwy 2 around the endangered species closure was beautiful and so low traffic we saw about 3 cars in 2 hours.
While I’m on the topic of fear mongering, everyone should relax about the Sierra’s. I cringe when I talk to people in nice trail runners that have been convinced to mail clunky hiking boots ahead for the Sierra’s. Yes the mountains are rugged, but the PCT/JMT thru the area is some of the most manicured backcountry trail in North America. It’s beautiful sidewalk tediously chiseled out of the granite. You can walk it in Crocs. Oh and the Poodle Dog Bush is grossly overhyped too. We walked it all, brushed it many times and no one died.
With that out of the way, I should mention yesterday. Perhaps the highlight was when T-Fox told me that when I whistle songs “it’s pretty much just one constant note”. I’ve never been a great singer, but I always thought I whistle better than I sing. Apparently not.
The trail has been a great chance to spend more time in conversation with T-Fox. I walk pretty close behind her so we can easily talk – so close that 2 days ago I stepped on and snapped her hiking pole. Sorry hun.
On May 17 we left Agua Dulce and the Saufley’s and started section E. This section is described as the hottest and least characteristic section of the PCT as a result of a decades old land dispute that led to the trail being routed across the Mojave desert instead of along the crest. This day wasn’t too bad though, as the trail doesn’t really hit the desert until Mile 518 and the temperatures haven’t been ridiculous.