Miles: 18
Camping: KOA Acton PCT mile 444.5
Hikers seen on trail: 5

Set my alarm for 3 am in order to take in the meteor shower before getting up, but it was cloudy so I let myself doze back off. We all finally woke up at 4:30 and got to hiking by 5. Since we had decided on the detour from the nasty poodle-dog bush, we faced a road walk for 3 more miles. It was unfortunately a steep uphill climb, and we huffed our way up and up for what seemed like eternity. At some point Ninja told me to turn around, and the sky was aglow in a beautiful golden sunrise. We took some pictures and rested our lungs and legs before trudging back up the road for another eternity.

We eventually met up with Blisster and made it back to the PCT. “Feels good to be home.” I thought.

The poodle-dog bush was a nightmare again, and often felt like a video game. Sometimes we would walk through overgrown brush on both sides of the trail which Ninja called the carwash. Just as you broke through the claustrophobia inducing stuff, a poodle-dog bush would be waiting on the other side, keeping you on your toes for sure. It was exhausting!

Just as we thought the battle was over, the trail decided to add poison oak to the equation. Video game indeed!

We hiked and dodged our way to a ranger station to collect water, and we sat in the shade with some other hikers. There was a cooler with Snickers and cold cans of Coke for $1, and I indulged in both. I made a deal with myself to give up soda again after the desert, but right now, the sugar helps me truck on through the heat. Truck on through the heat we did, the afternoon was HOT. We’ve been spoiled for the last few days with cooler than average weather, but today reminded us how hot it can get. Sand, sage and red rock formations made up the scene, and we left the cool alpine climes once again for the aridity of desert hiking. I drank more water than I have in days, and finally stumbled sweaty into the KOA.

The manager immediately came to our aid and showed us the grounds. The place was packed with families with giant tents for Memorial Day. There was a Mariachi band and a taco truck, a swimming pool packed with kids like a fish tank in a pet store, an equally packed hot tub and so much food! Food was being consumed everywhere, and we salivated through the place before being deposited at the office/store. There were so many kinds of ice cream, chips, snacks and cold beverages; take out menus and people. So many people. I couldn’t bear the idea of being alone among the throngs, it was so overwhelming. So, when Ninja decided to go to the taco truck I followed along. They had authentic tacos with fresh onions, limes, cilantro and salsa…and they were 3 for $5. We each bought 6 and ate them with fervor. Ninja quickly went back for 3 more, while I set my sights on a shower. I got sidetracked by an ice cream bar, and then we pooled our laundry while we took our first showers in days.

With clean bodies and clothes we began to feel human again, and recruited Tink to join us for pizza. The place was filled with hikers at this point, and it began to feel like home. As we were in the office calling in our order, a woman stepped on my foot and happened to land right on my bad toe. It was a shooting pain that immediately induced a steady flow of tears. Gypsy acted quickly, getting me a bag of ice and a chair to elevate my foot as I sat there and cried like a baby. It felt good to cry and I was unapologetic, as I knew I was getting rid of more baggage than a crushed toe. It was a euphoric cry, and Gypsy and I sat and discussed the emotional roller coaster of the trail. It was a lovely moment, one of my favorite person to person moments on trail yet.

After pizza we all went to retire in a giant gazebo. Some people opted to drink beer in the grass, but most of us had our sights set on an early morning hike to the famous hiker heaven. Rumor has it the place fills up, so with a pack of people around us, we wanted to make a point to hustle. A group of pre-teens surrounded me on my way from brushing my teeth, and I didn’t know what to expect. They ended up being extremely curious about us and our hike, and I stood there answering their eager questions. It felt so good to teach them about our hike, as they complained that they have to walk 2 miles to school every day. I hope above all else that a seed was planted that will get at least one of them to take a longer walk in nature some day. It was yet another beautiful human moment, and I can feel my faith and love of humanity growing.

With an alarm set for 4 am, we will all doze off beneath the KOA gazebo.

photo credit to Ninja