Camping: On a cot in Hiker Heaven, Agua Dulce, PCT mile 454.4
Hikers seen on trail: 5
The air was warm at 3am as I lay in the gazebo with about a dozen of my companions. I wasn’t quite ready to make a move on the day, but there was a lot to look forward to. It wasn’t long before we made the decision to move though, so Ninja and I donned our headlamps at 3:45 to start the 10 mile trek to the Saufley’s.
We started hiking through sage brush that was taller than us, and were soon facing yet another early morning climb. The air was still and warm, and we were feeling the sweat forming before the sun even shone the tiniest ray of light from the east. It was work, but that’s hiking, and soon you know the endorphins will take over, which is akin to the runners high. I guess it’s just a hikers high.
We started naming breakfast foods as we walked, shouting into the wind; biscuits, pancakes, eggs, coffee with half & half, bacon, hash browns! All words that motivate me, along with; shower, foot bath, outlets, trash cans (they have become a valuable resource), REI run…it is a moment every hiker dreams of. Hiker Heaven is an oasis you read about, but can never fully grasp until you live it. We imagined it all as we walked, melting the miles between us and this Sangri La.
Just a couple of miles before town we reached the Vasquez Rocks State Park. Simply amazing! Beautiful rock formations and abundant desert plant life surrounded us in a wonderland unlike anything we’ve seen on the trail to date. I was in awe, walking while looking all around me at the cool rocks, colors and plants, oohing and aahing.
We soon ran into Blisster, Tink, Drew and Little Spoon, and we all did the last couple of miles together, anticipation growing. We passed the sign telling us that Hiker Heaven was open, and we knew we had made it in time to get our coveted spots in Eden. This helped us on the mile long road walk to our destination, and we hurried along to check in. It did eventually fill up, and sadly, some hikers turned away.
It has turned out to be everything wonderful we had heard and more; a huge yard full of tents and cots, trailers, a shower, movie room, kitchen, barbecue, mailing facilities, loaner clothes, computers, bicycles, dogs to love on, and so much more. Every detail of hiker needs and wants has been anticipated by the angelic Saufleys! We checked in and claimed our cots and were quickly offered a ride to the cafe in town (the 20 loaner bikes had already been taken out). We descended on the cafe in a swarm of hunger, ordering everything on the menu; banana bread french toast, eggs Benedict, bacon, sausage, hash browns, omelets, entire pots of coffee, all of the things that we have been dreaming about in the trail miles since the last town. All of the food. The poor waitress was swamped, but somehow managed to get us all fed.
We returned to Heaven via a quick hitch and began the wonderful rituals of cleanliness. I took the best shower yet, using shampoo for the first time since Big Bear, and I even shaved my legs! There was body butter to use afterwards, and Q-tips…really, they’ve thought of everything! You really don’t realize what you once took for granted and now covet, no matter how simple. Sometimes it is relaxing in a chair, hearing music, having electricity, a sink to wash up in, a bike to ride to town, seeing your normally grubby companions in a somewhat civil state. It’s all so lovely, and it feels great to be a part of this whole thing. The tough miles pay off in a lot of ways, from accomplishing difficult climbs or long mile days, to moments among kindred spirits on a vast lawn next to a cactus garden…in a chair.
After my shower, Tink joked that they couldn’t call me Dust Bunny anymore. Funny enough though, soon after my shower I was combing my hair in the shade. I was savoring the lovely post shower smells, the fresh air, the shade, the company, the chair…when out of the tree above, something plopped down in front of me. I felt the splatter before I realized that I’d been shit on by a bird! All I could do was laugh with my companions, and accept that it is my fate as the Dust Bunny. I attract dirt (and sometimes bird shit).
Now I will sleep in a cot after a few warm meals, singalongs, ice cream, showers, bike rides, foot baths, sitting around a fire on hay bales and so much more. It is all so much more than can fit in my heart, and yet it does.