Adventures, Sustainability, and Technology

PCT Update #3 - The Desert

adventure // backpacking // pct

Posted on

Reading time: ~6 min

This update comes to you from the rocking chair on the back porch of Hiker Heaven at mile 454. There's a cool afternoon breeze, the occasional chirping bird, and a calm, relaxing banjo melody coming from somewhere near. It's soothing, relaxing, and idyllic in all the ways the last 180 miles of hiking weren't!

Chapter 3.1 - Ambition

After the last update, we left Big Bear Lake feeling refreshed and ready for big miles. "Ready" might even be an understatement - to cross the Sierra Nevadas when the snow conditions are most favorable, we would need to actively seek out the big miles most days for the next month. "We're ambitious now," is the hiking mantra we bandy about most days, in our ongoing effort to talk ourselves up for the challenge to come. So out we went in the afternoon, somehow managing to do 9 miles in under 3 hours (a reasonable pace for the 20somethings, but GREAT pace for us). Two 20+ mile days followed that 9 mile half day of hiking. We're ambitious now!

Chapter 3.2 - The Pizza Party

Right on queue to celebrate our newfound ambition, an opportunity presented itself to take things a bit... easier, hike a half day and order afternoon pizza to a serendipitously placed day use and rest area. Serendipitous because, well, any time you find tables, chairs, or bathrooms on trail, it's a joyous moment, but also because this rest area happened to be both in range of Verizon cell towers, AND within a certain pizza place's delivery radius. Hikers strung out along the preceding 20 miles of trail trickled in throughout the day, and let me tell you, not many left the same day. Dozens of us stayed up past our bedtime for not just the pizza, but also the card games, and stories around the campfire.

Chapter 3.3 - Golden Arches

We woke early the next morning, ready to do the 13.6 mile decent into Cajon Pass. As we meandered our way ever downwards towards the desert floor, and the hot midday sun meandered its way ever higher above our heads, we were eventually greeted by a simple wooden sign, where the trail crosses a road. It informed us a McDonald's was 0.4 miles down said road. I don't normally care much for fast food, but... I'm not even sure I have the words to tell you how much I enjoyed my Bacon QPC and Oreo McFlurry this day. It also gave Andy and me a chance to be nerds for a few minutes and contemplate the engineering effort that went into the current form of the McFlurry spoon.

We hiked up and out to the sights and sounds of frequently passing trains, spending those plentiful fast food calories on another 20 mile day that bright us back up to 5000ft of elevation.

Chapter 3.4 - Town Vortex

Wrightwood. The town that sucked us in. All of our newfound ambition has gifted us with an extra helping of trail wear, so we hiked into Wrightwood with extra sore feet and ankles, already talking of a potential DOUBLE zero. Perhaps we were on the fence, but that was only until we met a retired JPLer (NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory1) at the local pub. We were both a bit starry-eyed, and thought for sure in a tiny town like this we could find him again if we stayed just one more day. At which point we would ply more delightful stories out of him. We were right!

Planning our hike out of town, we heard from a couple locals about road closures that would complicate a meeting with some NYC friends who happened to be in the area (hi Jen and Sandy!). We turned that double zero into a triple zero, and didn't look back. By the third day, a local couple we met in our favorite pub had metnioned the possibility of selling us their house, so they could move ahead with their dream to buy and live on a sailboat. We really enjoyed Wrightwood, so we hiked out considering ourselves lucky that we escaped the town without a mortgage.

On the way out of town, we managed to get some spectacular views from above the clouds, and just like that, I was excited to be back on trail!

Hiker Heaven

The dreaming and remembering are worth the doing.
--- L-Rod

Allow me to wax poetic for a moment about Hiker Heaven. As I mentioned at the very beginning of this post, it's truly an idyllic place. It's run by one of the kindest families around, hosts hundreds (thousands?) of hikers every year, and is an absolute legend on trail. It's a family with a large property in the town of Agua Dulce, CA, who let hikers stay in their back yard, for a start. Not only that, but they also do your laundry for you, send and receive packages for you, have a big old truck that someone usually volunteers to drive in and out of town every hour, dropping hikers off and picking new hikers up.

Upon arrival, we saw our friend Euro sitting on the back porch. He and his hiking partner were a day ahead of us, so we quickly made plans to get dinner together before they left us in the dust the following morning. After that, and our own day of rest and relaxation, we hiked out, sad to leave such a wonderful oasis in the desert, but comforted by the knowledge that only a few days' hike ahead of us lay Casa de Luna, another hiker stop of MUCH renown.

Happy trails and until next time,

Section Photos



JPL has been responsible for a LOT of the NASA work I consider most meaningful and impactful to the future of humanity. For example, the Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity rovers, all of which have done good research on Mars, as well as the Voyager probes, which are the farthest man-made objects from earth (and still going strong!), and the Galileo and Cassini probes, which gave us wonderful new data about Jupiter and Saturn, respectively.