Day 34 & 35 – Huntington Beach Vacation – 0km

The last two days have been a vacation from our vacation. It was kind of random but a couple of days ago Dave’s old hikin pal Danny (who had to get off the trail due to injury) offered to pick us up from Acton KOA and take us to Huntington Beach for some r&r. We drove through the desert hills of Western Angeles Forest and felt overwhelmed entering DTLA and the hectic traffic involved.

Fried Chicken and Waffles at Roscoe

We stopped off at Rosco’s Fried Chicken and Waffles for lunch which blew our brains and Danny showed us around his old stomping ground in Long Beach. We were visiting Danny old house when this funny coincidence happened. This is Meg’s (Layer’s) recount of the story:

 “I was using the computer at this camp ground we arrived at and for the first time in a month I watched tv. It was the news and there was this dumb story on people who had dumped a puppy over a fence in LA county (we were 3 hours from la) . It was breaking news and the biggest thing they were talking about. They showed footage of the dumping, and had reporters outside the puppy audition centre telling accounts of the people whose house it was and who had handed the puppy in with the footage caught on their security camera. I was pissed cos I thought it was the stupidest headline news ever when more important things than that were going on in the world.

Then we drove to la. 

Then our friend who is showing us round took us to past the old place he lived at in long beach, as he pulled up he recognised his old neighbour…he hadn’t lived there for 3 years. We start chatting to this guy, then his boyfriend comes out and they tell us that they have been on the news cos someone dumped a puppy over there fence.”

Small world, fake news. 

We had booked out a nice hotel (which turned out to be in the middle of a vast commercial estate) and took care of business at REI, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sprout Groceries. It was fun to goof around and not worry about walking or carrying water. Whilst driving round rich white neighbourhoods can be boring it was interesting to hear from Dave how the whole area used to be orange groves and strawberry farms, the old bread basket of California. 

Goofin around at Fry’s Electronics

We checked emails, articles on the snow conditions and water reports. Our friend Goliath who hopped off trail at Big Bear City is really interested in hiking with us at Tehachapi and through the High Sierra. He has ice equipment and lots of experience and seems confident that we can get through, so with the combination of a solid 6 person team and his experience we are feeling ready for adventure. 

The hotel had a rly nice spa and pool where we spent our evenings and overall it was a good opportunity to reflect on the last month and reconvene as a group. Now we are feeling better than ever about walking together and so excited for the trail ahead. 

Catching up on the latest real news

Myself, livin it up with my takis 

Below: We even made it for a quick dip in the Pacific Ocean! 

Day 33 – Messenger Flats Campground to Acton KOA, 23kms

Another warm night, another perfect cowboy camping opportunity missed. I really have to try it out, mainly because I want to see the stars all night. Many more people had set up camp in the night, and Papa Rich told us that just after we left camp at 6 a heap of people night hiking rolled in, that’s hardcore. 
Our path all day clung to the side of the hills, we dodged Poodle Dog bush and steep drop offs. None of us got the itch but there was a few close calls when it was hiding amongst thick shrubs.

We had breakfast 5kms in with an excellent view in both directions. The pine trees have been drastically thinning and we are left with only chaparral, heat and sand below. We skipped coffee as we are nearly out of gas, and ate the last of our oatmeal and bars. Meg chatted with her friends while we ate and her questions about eye makeup sparkles seemed so out of place in such dirty stinky company. We have dry camped (no water at camp) the last 2 nights and it’s really helping our pong.

The heat was playing strange tricks with us, it seemed to be blown in small thick clouds up from the desert floor, which you walked into quite suddenly. We are in the middle of a 27 mile waterless stretch and luckily for us the north fork rangers station leave out a heap of office style water, excellent for exchanging trail gossip. We met Cooper there and did just that.

Our descent to the desert floor seemed to take forever after our break. I (Quiz) listened to podcasts on low volume so as to keep an ear out for rattlers, but only saw one racer and 50 million lizards. Meg literally ran down the mountain, maybe the desert heat is making her mad, or she is relishing her rock hard hiking thighs.

At the bottom we made the short side trip to the Acton KOA. Our plan this morning was to make it all the way to highway 15 where Takikas mum Dawn would pick us up and take us to Hiker Haven for dinner. Word at the KOA campground was that Hiker Haven was full up (50 people) due to the glut of people after the bad weather a week ago, so we called Tamika and agreed to meet at the KOA instead. That meant that we are on holiday from our holiday starting now as we are spending Saturday and Sunday in Huntington Beach with Camel/Dave!!! Well that changed our vibe as we lay on the cool shady grass. We all got cold drinks and lazily ate chips while we contemplated washing, mainly so as we could hop in the pool. While doing all our chores followed by pool hangs (us and the kids) Dave hitched into town and returned with beer and pizza (🙏 Dave). We had a hiker party and just as it was dying down Tamika Dawn and Gillian arrived. I brought some happy birthday bunting (it is Gillian’s bday today and Dawns recently) and Pinecone drew them a card. They brought chicken and salad and chips and salsa and beer and we ate all the food!!! It was a fun evening and I hope Tamika doesn’t walk too quickly so as we can catch her. OMG holidays are so good!

Day 32 – Pacifico Campsite to Messenger Flat Campsite – 30 kms

We rise this morning with the sun. It cast long pink and mouve rays across the mountains beside us and down onto the desert floor where the lights of the people flickered below. Behind us, through the pines the moon, full and bright, still illuminated the morning sky. We packed up and left camp by 6 am. I (meg) woke today feeling very happy and refreshed. Harriet however had been to hot an not slept well. Phoebe was somewhere in between. 

Through the pines and soft grasses we trod in the silence early morning brings. Past boulders and some Poodle Dog bush we went, following the trail gently up. Within the hour the trail led us to a saddle in which we could look out the the mountains surging north and the desert expanding out to the east. We left the trail and found a pretty spot to make our coffee and eat our oats and breakfast bars. 

After breakfast we decided to walk about 9 kms to a fire station where we could resupply on water. The trail headed into the desert and led us quickly down. Along the way we went through yet another burnt section. California seems to have endured many burns over the years and the land does not heal easily. At the fire station hikers gathered like animals to a waterhole in a great dry land. A little bit like animals of different species it seemed that this morning bands of hikers kept to themselves. Some groups barley acknowledged the existence of others. it was a weird vibe of everyone being there for a collective purpose but reluctant to engage in any conversation. Dave is running low on snacks and phoebe he mentioned that blogs she has read mentioned snacks being sold from the fire station. He eagerly went down to only be disappointed with news that snacks are not available until well into tomorrow’s hike at the ranger station. 

We continued on for another 10 kms until we can to a road, where there was meant to be water. The track leading to this spot consisted of a long, hot, exposed sweaty climb to begin. My calves burnt as the pushed me along the soft sandy trail and with every switch back I hoped it to be the last. 

Eventually, the trail found itself up in an elevation where pines could grow, chapparell was plentiful and the grass was meadowy soft and green. It undulated along like this for a while and toward the end of this section the shrubbery on the track almost took over the trail. For kms on end we had to push through overgrowth always keeping an eye out for Poodle Dog bush. 

Unfortunatly on arriving at our organised meeting spot the water we had hoped to find was barley existentent. We pushed our hot, hungry bodies into some over grown shrubby trees for shade and ate lunch, pondering how and where we might get water for the next 10 kms and tonight’s camp. At around 2 I decided to pack up my things and head a mile (1.6 kms) down trail to a potential water source. We decided that if I hadn’t come back to the group in 45 minutes that it meant I had found water. I found water, so sat waiting for the others to arrive. They did, water was filtered and we began our final climb of the day. Up the trail went through the same thick shrub. The green tendrils of foliage brushed against our dirty legs and the shade of the pines kept us cool in the afternoon sun. 

Occasionally the switch backs would lead us out the lushness into an exposed sunny ridge but it was rare. As the day stretched out the light filtered through the trees beautifully. It was peaceful and uplifting and I think that despite it being a tough push up we all enjoyed it. Passing over the saddle we entered back into burn area and the trail descended quickly down to our camp. The view coming down the trail was amazing. We looked across the range into desert mountains that stretched seemingly forever into the horizon. Way out back there are a few huge ranges. We don’t know what they are. 

The camp is unassuming and simple. A number of hikers have made it home for tonight. We cooked pasta, and had enough for dave also. Harriet and I are now in the tent and the vestibule is open. Over the hills the sun is setting, all pinks and mouves again. Maybe this time in the opposite order. We can hear hikers rolling into camp. The alarm is set for 5.30 am and a big 20 mile day tomorrow. 

Day 31 – Buck Horn Camp to Pacifico Mountain Tentsite – 28kms

Note: We have definitely entered the lair of the infamous Poodle Dog Bush. 
We arose at 6am to find that Tamika’s mum had arrived the night before. It was awesome to finally meet Dawn and she bought us fresh yogurt, strawberries 🍓 and bananas to accompany our breakfast. Tamika is spending a couple of days with her so we embark from Buck Horn Campground just the four of us. We have a couple miles to walk to get back onto the PCT but the stroll it down a beautiful river gorge with amazing old growth trees and exposed cliffs. It feels moist and sheltered in the gorge and we realise that in nearly 400 miles this is the first time we have been in this temperate environment and we feel quite at home. 

Morning’s walk down Cooper Canyon

We reach the PCT again at the endangered species trail closure (the PCTA have closed part of the trail due to a rare species of frog). Dave suggests we do a small side trip to Cooper Canyon Waterfall and we are all impressed with its proximity to the desert! 

Cooper Canyon Waterfall

This morning’s walk it very pleasant with gentle ups and downs, quiet a contrast from yesterday which really took the wind out of our sails. We cross highway 2 a couple of times dipping in and out over spurs and ridges. It’s a nice change to find the walking easy and for me (Pine Cone) it been restoring my faith in my legs, we also pass a marker denoting mile 400 which is always encouraging. 
As we trek further west we catch glimpses of the LA basin covered in cloud. We are actually very close to Pasadena however the last few days all we have seen is a dense overcast sky. The high desert Angeles National Forest acts as a barrier to that weather system with clouds seeping into the valleys and then being evaporated by the harsh sun. The cloud play today was spectacular and made walking through burn forest far more entertaining. 

Just before lunch we dip into a gully and notice the pine forest grow thin and the element of the desert creep back. Parts of the forest are burn and an abundance of Poodle Dog Bush begins to pop up all over. As you may have read about in past posts, Poodle Dog Bush causes a nasty painful rash with swelling and pustules if it makes contact with the skin. It also causes lung problems if the bio-waste is burnt so it has become as very difficult weed to deal with. Funnily enough it is very comedic looking and smells like marajuana. I like to joke that it’s called Poodle Dog Brush, so that it just sounds like you’re talking about a dog brush. 

The culprit to looking out for

Myself (Pine Cone) frolicking in a sea of deadly Poodle Dog Bush

For lunch we find shade near Sulpher Springs. We are all in good spirits from the days ease and spend the hottest out of the day drinking water for our next climb. After lunch the Dog Bush increases again as we climb out of the valley towards the billowing clouds of LA. At one stage our path enters the cloud and we feel it’s cold moist atmosphere on our hot skin. We soon exit the cloud to keep climbing. Our camp is perched on a tall hill with very scenic views north of the desert floor in sunset colours! Overall it has been such a surreal day with bizarre weather and drastic changes in environments. 

Last of the LA basin clouds

Day 30 – Vincent’s Cabin to Bighorn Campground, 21 kms

We awoke early by cute lil Vincent’s cabin and packed up quickly partly because it was cold and partly because we wanted to get up ol snowy Mt Baden Powell before it gets too warm. We headed up the trail to Vincent’s Gap in dribs and drabs, Tamika urgently needed to contact her mum who had flown in from Australia overnight and I (Quiz) needed the dunny.
We reconvened and started our long 800m climb to the top of Mt Baden Powell by about 50 million switchbacks. 1/3 of the way up we stopped at a bearly flowing spring for breakfast and to collect water. There has been plenty of snow on the ground but no freshly running water. At about the half way mark the trail started to become covered in snow and by the last 1/3 we had given up on the switchbacks all together and just started following all the other footprints straight up the mountain. Even with nice firm snow and microspikes we were all feeling the climb in our legs (they are not Sierra trained yet). At the PCT intersection with the peak trail we ran into Dave by a 1500 year old tree . It was gnarled and wizened half in snow with chipmunks running around in it sending snow and ice cascading to the ground/on our heads.

We quickly dumped our packs and made one last short push to the summit. There was an American flag there, we made appropriate America fuck yeah jokes and poses. There was also a memorial to Baden Powell who started the scouts movement, and lots of quotes about how scouts makes boys into men. I wonder if girls are allowed to join now? The view was mainly of dense clouds in the LA basin and mountains rising above them. Harry was sure she could see the observatory above downtown LA. 

Our descent was far less snowy and we bearly beaded our microspikes. After solitary walking this morning we ran into heaps of people on the way down, mostly flaked out in patch of sunlight tired from the slog. We walked and talked with Papa Rich for a while about how he and his wife help raise service dogs, he has a stuffed toy pup on his backpack. Joe sped past us and told us he was not walking with us anymore. He was pissed off, Meg saw him later and tried to clear things up somewhat successfully. 

We followed the ridge from the summit through excellent scenery and steep drop offs to Little Jimmy Spring where we had lunch. The sun was shining strong overhead but the cloud from the basin was slowly creeping up the mountains. By the time we had descended to Islip Saddle it was moving in thick and we were plunged into wet fog. Just as we had all finished in the bathroom a car pulled up asking for directions. Dave used to live around here and knew how to answer, we Australians had no idea! Stacy and Rae told us a thunder storm was due at 4.30, we were about to climb another steep mountain, and the weather looked dicey. A delema presented itself, camp here in the saddle and wait out the storm or walk along the highway around the mountain. Just as we were talking our options over Stacy said let us give you a lift, so we all piled in (Dave in the boot) and ‘walked 6miles with our thumbs’ to Bighorn Campground.

The campground is freezing but very pretty with a stream right by our tents. The fog lifted at about 6 and low and behold no thunderstorms today, but the fact that we were all happy to hitch meant we were dreading another climb after such a big one this morning. We have lit a campfire and are busy cooking our fuel consuming lentil burritos. What a topsy Turvey day. Xx

PS. Tamika has been waiting for her mum all day sitting by the road at the entrance to the campground. She stayed till 7.10 and was sad when she returned to camp. Just as we had all gone to bed Dawn (Tamika’s mum) and her friend Gillian arrived! Apparently they made it to the entrance of the campground at 7.20, 10min after Tamika had left. She even managed to find our campsite in the dark.

Day 29 Wrightwood to Vincent’s Cabin – 15 kms

On waking this morning we could see blue sky and sunshine, luckily it has remained this way all day. 

We rose at 6.30, restless and ready to leave the cabin. With a little effort the cabin returned to its initial state (almost) which was a releif after it had been home to so many people over the weekend. We breakfasted, had some coffee and begun packing our packs. During this time the girls and I (meg) couldn’t find a bag which had our microspikes. We turner the place inside out only for me to unpack my food bag, for a second time and find them there.

Two days previous i had been given a lift home by Brittany, a local mum. She and her husband moved their young family up here for an affordable life out of the big smoke. She gave me her number and said if I needed anything to call…so I did and she very happily agreed to drop us at the trail head. At 8 am our trusty ride turned up our the front of the cabin, and shortly after another local mum and real estate agent came too as our party of 6 people and packs was too much for one truck. Brittany was really excited by the PCT hikers she had met so far. She had another couple staying at her place and had decided that she would help out as a trail angel this season. At inspiration point we bundled out of the car, took a photo for Brittany, waved goodbye and headed up onto the trail. 

All the snow in town had melted but the trail up this little bit higher was covered. In the early morning then pines were beautifully adorned in icy white snow. Pine trees, usually a little stark for me, really are lovely in the snow. As the morning sun begun to melt the snow away it fell heavily from the canopy of trees as we walked by. Doubt worry, no one got hit by any. This beauty could have been all the more enjoyed if our packs hadn’t been so heavy. We are carrying food for 6 days, and also we are dry camping tonight, which means we are carrying 5-6 litres each. My pack clung to my back pulling me into the earth, every step taxed my body and put me in a grumpy mood. The trail wound it’s way back to the highway, we crossed it flung our packs down organising the next little leg of today’s journey. As we ate snacks many other hikers rolled into the parking lot either on foot or in rides (some decided to skip the first 4 miles of the day). 

Our plan today was to leave the PCT at the car park and walk 2 miles to Big Horn Gold Mine. The mine was set up long ago and is been closed for quite some time. It was Dave’s idea to take us, as he has been there before, and in doing so will allow us to summit Mt Baden-Powell early tomorrow morning when the snow is still icy. Icy snow is crunchy, you don’t posthole and your microspikes are able to get a good hold on the surface so you don’t slip too much. We walked off track along an old road. It seemed to be going up and up forever, and I was getting increasingly ambivalent about our choice….and then the road turned a corner and there it was. The mine, or what’s left of it, which is lots of steel frame and some corrugated iron, and some old hardwood juts out over an incredibly steep slope. If you were to step out of the steel frames that act as glassless windows you would fall to the river valleys hundreds of metres below. We dropped packs and enjoyed the first room of the mine. Afterwards we climbed up behind the building to the entrance to the mine which goes back into the mountain. You can  climb through some steel fencing and wander the dark, dank and cold pathways. They are reinforced with steel and still have the old trolley lines running down them. There are pools of water, some graffiti and lots of rubbish. I was pleased to get back out into the day light where you can look across the valley to Mt Baldy. 

We ate lunch in the sun and slumbered in the afternoon sun. A number of day hikers came in and out and at one point I curled up in the shade of a tree. It was so hot! Eventually, Tamika’s friends Chris (Jacob) and Mia turned up. After they did some exploring we followed dave almost back to the car park but not quite. This time he was taking us to Vincent’s cabin. It was built by the man who started the mine and has since been restored. It is a delight. A sweet pine cabin, dirt floors and surrounded by trees. We set up our tents, had some much needed tent time and then all gathered in its enterior for dinner. I was tired today, so I have come to bed early. Ready for an early rising and tomorrow’s summiting.