Day 31 & 32 – A rattlesnake bonanza and a heaven for hikers
Wednesday 29 May 2019
Location: Mile 424.4 to Mile 444.2
Distance travelled: 19.8 miles / 33 km
After all of the cold weather I have experienced over the last couple of weeks, spring was definitely back on as of this morning.
I have been on the trail for nearly 1 month now and not seen one rattlesnake. Meanwhile, my hiking buddy, Jeff, has seen seven. I was feeling a little jealous. Today that all changed, I spotted not only my first, but second and third rattlesnakes!
It would appear that rattlesnakes all have different personalities because all of them reacted to my presence in different ways. The first was a yellow and black snake, sunning itself right across the trail. Not only was it not fussed by my presence but it didn’t care to move for me. I stood stamping my feet and slamming my poles on the ground for a few minutes. Nothing. I then resorted to a rock thrown near (not at) the snake. At this point it very casually lifted its head to sense the air. I stamped my feet again and the snake very casual slithered off into the scrub on the other side of the the trail.
My second encounter was a little more dramatic. I was walking along at quite a fast pace when a short but fat brown rattlesnake seemed to have been spooked by my walking past. It seemed to either have fallen or thrown itself on the trail in front of me, what felt like only 30cm in front of me. I instantly jumped backwards while it coiled itself, hissed, rattled and looked very threatening. It didn’t waste any time, not even time for a photo as it slid off the trail and down into the bushes below.
From this point onwards I was hyper conscious of any and all movement near the trail, which is how I spotted my third rattlesnakes of the day. This snake was a little more shy, it was hiding in sme long grass beside the trail, almost 1m off the path. When it heard me coming it started moving about, rattling at me. Had it stayed still I would have walked by and never would have seen it. It looked to be around 1 metre in length with very beautiful black and brown patterned skin.
My wildlife encounters for the day didn’t end there, I spotted horned lizards and dozens of hummingbirds flitting about in the sunshine, eating the nectar of sweet smelling flowers on the side of the trail.
There was a lot of climbing and descending on the trail today. I had beautiful views of the desert as I near closer and closer to the Mojave.
The wilderness area I walked through was burnt in a fire a few years back but is rapidly regenerating.
After all of the pain I had yesterday with my chafing inner thighs I got creative and walked the day with a buff around each leg so the sensitive skin was protected from the inner seam of my pants. It was annoying as I had to keep adjusting them every time they slipped down, it was kind of like hiking in a pair of stay ups, but they did the job and I was able to hike relatively pain free.
I spent the night at Acton KOA campground this evening. It was one of those nice instances where the option of of shower, pint of ice cream and electronics charging station is only a few minutes walk from the trailhead.
Thursday 30 May 2019
Location: Mile 444.2 to Mile 454.5
Distance travelled: 10.3 miles / 17 km
I woke up to the sound of lions roaring this morning, yup, lions! As it turns out the KOA shares a boundary with Tippi Hendersons big cat rescue, Shambala. I am grateful the girl at the KOA office warned me when I checked in, otherwise I would have thought there were mountain lions near by.
I decided to hitch into Acton this morning to resupply, although I’d be walking right through Agua Dulce I’d heard reports that that grocery store there was expense and poorly stocked. It took about 40 minutes to get a ride in, I think it was too early in the morning for locals to be driving back into town. I was almost ready to give up when a friendly guy in a truck gave me a lift. I don’t think he was familiar with the trail and was a bit confused about what I was doing, asking me if I was living in the mountains. He must have thought he’d picked up some crazy mountain woman.
There isn’t much to Acton but it had everything I needed, 2 grocery stores, ATM and pharmacy. The grocery store even had a small deli counter where I had a second breakfast of a cheese and egg bagel.
The hitch back out of town was a lot faster than the hitch in. A lovely older local man gave me a lift, he had picked up hikers before. We had a lovely chat on the ride back to the KOA. He validated the time I had spent getting into town this morning and agreed with other people’s reports that the supermarket in Agua Dulce was no longer very well stocked.
Back at the KOA I had an easy morning, packed my food bag, packed up camp and headed out on the trail just before lunch.
It was warm again today so I took it slowly, the scenery was beautiful, back in the desert super bloom with fragrant flowers lining the trail and views across the desert in front of me.
The trail took me to Vasquez Rocks, a famous filming location where star trek and a number of other films were shot. I was excited to learn that MacGyver was film there too. The rocks were beautiful, something different to what I’ve seen on trail to date. I spent some time meandering through them, taking photos and admiring the scenery.
It felt like proper American desert, everything you would expect to see in a western movie I even had a group of women ride past on western horses, complete with stetsons and lassos. They probably thought I was a bit simple the way I excitedly looked at them.
When I arrived at the main car park entrance to the rocks I found a film shoot was in progress. There were trailers and tents set up everywhere. Its funny to think that the PCT passes right through the area.
From Vasquez Rocks it was a short road walk through to Agua Dulce. I headed straight for the market and bought myself an ice cream sandwich and an orange to pack out tomorrow morning. I then walked the 1 mile off trail up to the Saufley’s house.
The Saufley’s are Agua Dulce trail angels who have been hosting hikers for over 20 years. The extent that they go to help hikers is nothing short of incredible. They let us pitch a tent in their yard, shower, they do your laundry for you, post packages and accept packages. They are incredibly generous people with a ridiculous number of people coming through their place every night I don’t know how they stay sane.
The best part about the Saufley’s (AKA hiker heaven) may be their animals, 6 dogs, countless chickens and a few horses. I was glad to get my dog fix in.
I was even more glad when I found my emergency package from REI had arrived and my tights fit!! I was very pleased not to have to walk another day with a buff strapped to the top of each thigh.
At hiker heaven I ran into a couple of old trail friends, Stardust and Spamalicious and made a new one, Squirrel, we all headed out to dinner in town together. It was nice to have the company and 3 women. It’s not often you have such a high concentration of female friends on the trail.
Post dinner we got a lift back to hiker heaven in the back of a locals truck. Amazingly we had 6 women and only 1 man in the load of people. As an older gentleman pointed out to me a week or so ago in Wrightwood, there are more and more women on the trail these days 🤣.