Day 23-31 (Mi. 369 to 558.5)
Hello hello! What a dream these past few days have been. Incredibly tough, but also so rewarding. One month and over 550 miles complete. Whaaaaaat?! So crazy. Again thanks to everyone for the support. It seems like everyday I'm being reached out to by someone new- whether a stranger or an old friend. It means the world, so thank you. Anyway, here's an update from the trail!!
DAY 23: Wrightwood (mi 369) to mile 390.2
After a slow week of hiking and a brilliant Zero in Wrightwood, it was time to put in some miles!! Evan, Inanna, and I woke up and headed to the Cinnamon's Bakery in the AM. For fuel, I scarfed down a spinach pastry, two donuts and a cinnamon roll. Again, the hiker hunger is REAL. We met up with Shades, Shakedown, FunDip and ViPR at the bakery, said our goodbyes to Inanna, and scored a hitch to the trailhead by our friend Blue.
The climb up was a beast. A day off, steep switchbacks and 5 days of packed food worked together to slow down my pace. Eventually, I crested a ridge to hands-down my favorite view on trail yet. I scooted up to the summit of Baden-Powell and was able to spot some of the hardest miles I've traveled since hitting the trail.
Southeast, we were able to see Mt. San Jacinto, the first mountain we traveled across a few weeks back. Closer, I spotted San Gorgonio pass and the spot where it unexpectedly snowed on me around mile 244. Just around the ridge, I spotted the climb around Mt. Baldy, the pass where my gang got DUMPED on with snow.
A little teary, I thanked the Lord for the miles traveled and the lessons learned. If I was a cairn guy, I'd probably stack some rocks. But... I'm not, so here are some photos to serve as an Ebenezer.
Coming down from the summit, I threw on some Disney music and JAMMED down the hill. I was recently telling my sister Catherine how much Disney has contributed the hike. I mean, what's better than listening to Moana, Tarzan and Pocahontas while out in the wild? Not much.
Yes, Pocahontas, I HAVE heard the wold cry to the blue corn moon. Thank you very much.
I must have been jamming pretty hard, because the rest of my group, just a few minutes behind me, ran into a small bear in the middle of the trail. My singing probably scared him off a bit. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Evan and I found a camp spot around mile 390, just before the detour up ahead. Our site was a little windy, so I used the outhouse as protection from the wind. A little smelly, but one of the best sleeps on trail yet. 🤘
DAY 24: Eagle's Roost (390.2) to Mill Creek Fire Station (418.6)
Not tooooo much happened today. But I do want to brag on the PCT Association.
The Pacific Crest Trail does very little road walking. In the hundreds of miles traveled, I've only walked along main roads a few times. Today, however, was a little different. Evan and I started out the day with a 6 mile road walk, detouring around a closed part of the trail. This is where it gets cool- the trail was closed to protect an endangered frog species! I will gladly walk a few miles on pavement for this. Way to go, PCTA. Save the frogs.
Stocked up on water at the somewhat-abandoned Camp Glenwood, just after the 400 mile marker. The stretch from here was converted in Poodle Dog Bush.
An innocent name, this plant will send you to the hospital with a single touch. Exponentially worse than poison oak, the bush has been sending hikers off trail all season. No thanks! Also, it smells violently of weed, so at least we know when it's nearby!
We camped at a Fire Station just after mile 418. After chatting with a few new friends, washing socks, and making dinner, I cashed out hard. The desert steals all energy, y'all.
DAY 25: Mill Creek Fire Station (418.6) to Acton KOA (444.3)
Woooooof. Today was a HOT ONE.
Descending from the highest elevation we'll have until the Sierra, we were eager to get down and start our trek across the Mojave. To my surprise, I had no idea this would be one of the hottest days on trail yet (or maybe I've just been spoiled with good weather since the Anza-Borrego).
Into the hike, I ran across this letter. Yep.
The day's views were pretty scenic, with views of Los Angeles to the South and Acton to the West. I got to the see the ocean, which was a treat. For some reason, the ocean puts my soul at ease. Something about things that are completely overwhelming, I guess.
Continuing the descent, my feet began to take a beating. I felt my toes hitting the front of my shoe, a sign of sweaty feet and too small shoes. Luckily, I have a new pair of larger shoes waiting in my resupply tomorrow!
In this stretch, I almost stepped on a snake and accidentally ended up flicking it off of a switchback with my trekking pole. Yeah, that happened, and it's squirm was one of the most satisfying things I've seen on trail. That's it.
I know I've said this, but the descent was so hot. I surprisingly scored service and called my friend Elisa to catch up life for a few miles, but had to bail on the call to unsuccessfully find shade and reapply sunscreen once the sun started sizzlin' the skin.
Evan and I rolled into KOA in the late evening and immediately went the the convenience store for snacks. Evan says he nearly passed out in line, which I don't blame him. Again, today was brutal.
I downed a coke and a Gatorade, followed by a pint of Ben and Jerry's in an alarming amount of time. I went back for a root beer and a ginger ale. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Oh, and I found this book in a Hiker Box.... same textbook I used in 6th grade.
I remember reading a segment in class one day, stumbling over some words, and a classmate pointing out my flawed verbal reading. She wasn't trying to be malicious, but it definitely stuck with me through middle school and high school. Funny how words stick, ya know? Friendly reminder: let's be mind.
As a reward for the day, we bought a frozen pizza to split, treated ourselves to laundry (I forgot to wash my underwear........ #doofus), and took advantage of the free showers. A Boy Scout Troop rolled in around bedtime (8:00 😬) and fumbled with their bigass Coleman tents for what seemed like 2.5 hours. It was probably only 30 minutes, but when you're trying to catch those Zzzzzz's , each minute drags on.
DAY 26: Acton KOA (444.3) to Hiker Heaven to Martindale Ridge (462.6)
[wpvideo 6wf92tOO] Evan and I left KOA around 6:15am in order to beat the sun's rise, hoping to get to the famous Hiker Heaven around 9:45 or so.
Rolling up the Hiker Heaven, I quickly realized that everything I had heard of this place was dramatically understated. It was AMAZING.
[wpvideo wVpQHGSl] The Saufleys host hikers at their home, converting their place into a paradise for hikers. Entering in the gates, the volunteers checked our permits and gave us a brief tour. Here's the rundown:
-Their entire garage is filled with resupply packages! 😳
-There are 4 bubble tents. One has laundry, one has computers and charging stations, one has refrigerators + sewing kits, and the other is a shower.
-There is a small house for hikers to take over. With a TV, infinite movies and a full kitchen, this place was filled to the brim the entire time I was there.
-A large yard for hikers to camp
-ALL of this is free!! Of course, donations are accepted. I heard a quote the other day, "if you can afford to hike the PCT, you can afford to tip trail angels." Amen, amen.
-Check out more of the Saufley's HH at HikerHeaven.com
I picked up my resupply containing a third pair of socks, a handful of Clif bars, Cookie Butter from Trader Joe's, a sleeping bag liner, and a new spork (no more chopstake 😭)!! Shoutout to the best parents ever, the amazing Catherine Glenn, and the lovely Melissa McNamara for gathering and sending out my resupplies. You guys rock. After digging through the resupply, I cruised social media, congratulated friends on their recent launches (looking at you @corey @mica), and laid back into bliss knowing that I wouldn't be hiking until evening.
"Is andrew here?" I heard from around the corner.
Hooray! My good friends Sarah and Beau Blake came up from Los Angeles to have lunch with me!! I've known Sarah since Elementary, and the Blakes have been family friends for ages. Sarah and Beau got married almost exactly a year ago, so it was SO fun to see them, as I haven't seen them since their wedding.
Anyway. After giving a brief tour of Hiker Heaven, the Blakes, Evan and I jumped in their car to the restaurant in town.
Ohhhhh what a joy this was. Jumping into real conversation without the typical "what's your Trail name," "where are you from," and "where are you camping" prefacing it was a DREAM. These two are completely killing the LA dream and I couldn't be more proud of them.
They might have me sold on SoCal living. But we'll see. 😉
After scarfing down our lunch, Evan and I said goodbye to the Blakes as we headed to resupply at the grocery store. Smaller towns usually up the $$$ on our typical items, which is a bummer.
Six days of food would be our longest stretch yet. We plan to resupply in Tehachapi, just 112 blazing hot miles away. Once again, tortillas and bagels were the carbs of choice. Nature Valley (aka: crumbs) snuck its way into my basket, as well as an apple (#treatyoself), tuna, quinoa, mashed potatoes, ramen, and other classic hiker items.
With a quick hitch back to Hiker Heaven, we repackaged our food, snacked a bit, and patiently waited for the sun to fall before making our way back to the trail. Most hikers stayed overnight, but we were eager to get up and out of Agua Dulce before the temps rose too high.
Around 6pm we shoved off, getting a hitch back to the trailhead. Our packs heavy with 4+ liters of water and the most aggressive food list, the ascent out of the valley was brutal.
Soon, we were pulling out our headlamps and navigating our way to a campsite on top of Martindale Ridge. We had planned to crush a few more miles before cashing out, but our feet were begging for an audible.
DAY 27: Martindale Ridge (462.6) to 489.9
Waking up at an early 4:30 alarm, Evan and I got hiking around 5:10. As I was packing up, I quickly realized I left my Patagonia wind jacket in Agua Dulce. Something I definitely didn't budget for :(. On another note, this is my favorite piece of gear. Patagonia Houdini Jacket. Just the best and miss it already.
I can tell that the desert is taking a beating on me... my pack's hip belt is all the way tightened and still loose.
I'm beginning to break in new shoes! There are a few blisters popping up, but overall, I'm psyched by the extra bit of room in these shoes.
On the way up the ridge, I passed by a pair of trail runners- two women out doing some day running. On the descent, only one had made it down from mountain, and they were considering calling emergency services if she didn't show up soon. The desert is a BEAST and hot, so I'm hoping everything is okay!
Evan and I ran into Monk at our siesta spot- a ranger station at 478 in Green Valley. He pointed us to a closet full of Gatorade, and headed back on trail. Homeboy always chooses the hottest parts of the day to hike. Ha!
After a good siesta, and some trail magic from a passerby (hello slim jims!!), we hit the trail. Hiking for a while, we chose to camp on the side of an unpaved jeep road around mile 490.
The site wasn't magical or anything, but the stars were incredible!!
DAY 28: 489.9 to 510.9
Woa woa! Today we hit the 500 mark and I saw TWO rattlesnake today!
This stretch was a dry, hot, and a little boring, so it was pretty thrilling to have a little action. At mile 500, I took a lonnngggg siesta under a bush, sleeping off and on as the powerful sun sank deeper in the sky. I rolled up to our proposed campground at mile 508, but Evan and I chose to continue to 510.9 to put a few more miles in before sunset.
[wpvideo KkBkWcqG] [wpvideo WFqEadds]
DAY 29: 510.9 to Cottonwood Creek (534.9)
Aqueduct day!!! This stretch of the PCT is infamous. The trail follows the Los Angeles Aqueduct for 20 miles straight and flat, making it one of the hardest stretches- both physically and psychologically.
I rolled into Hiker Town, a quirky hostel before the aqueduct, around 7:30am to grab some water and camel up before the day. I was planning on doing a 33 mile day, so hydration was key.
Before I knew it, I was wrapped up into the vortex of Hiker Town, riding in the back of a truck for gas station breakfast, and pushing my aqueduct departure back until 3pm. This ended up being a GREAT call.
Today had a high of 98°, and by the time we pushed out, the temp had gone done to a chilly 95°. In all seriousness, there was a nice breeze that helped out this exhausting stretch.
Monk, Evan and I hobbled along the aqueduct, and a bit into the trek Evan's knee gave out on him. I traded him my brace for some baby powder (chafing is REAL) and we kept trekking. I called my sister Catherine and caught up. Y'all. So. good. I'm convinced if I was dehydrated, I would have peed my pants from laughing. There's just nothing like family, ya know?
After the call, the chafing went up to ANOTHER LEVEL. Sorry if this is TMI, you guys. But wow. I didn't know this pain was possible.
I made dinner on trail and pushed another few miles to camp. I sacrificed the 30 Mile day (once again), but happy to...
a) no longer be in pain
b) camp near water.
Listening to the Wind Turbines overhead, and the aqueduct underneath, I fell asleep pondering the creativity of man matched with the power of nature.
DAY 30: Cottonwood Creek (534.9) to 552.8
In trail standards, today was fairly uneventful! However, oddly enough, these 17.9 miles were some of my favorites on trail.
Knowing I had a short day ahead, I waved goodbye to Monk and Evan as they pushed 24 miles towards Tehachapi. I wanted to drag out the day and arrive in town tomorrow (Thursday), which took a ton of pressure off.
The climb to the stretch's peak covered most the day. I sat and ate breakfast in the shade of a wind turbine, actually getting slightly chilly with its incredible force.
I listened to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on audiobook for a few hours (Jim Dale is my FAVORITE narrator of all time), snagged some water from a small brook, and continued up the trail. From here, I only saw one other hiker the entire day. It was crazy awesome.
In addition to HP, I also listened to some of Hillsong's latest and some classic worship songs that were my jam in 9th grade (Cory Asbury, Laura Hackett, etc. [thanks @avery]. There was one point in the hike where the trail swung around a ridge, facing south. From here, I had all eyes on the Angeles National Forest from across the desert floor. This forest was home to the majority of miles covered on trail so far... and in hindsight, and at elevation, they looked more dazzling than ever.
Dropping to my knees, I thanked the Lord for the past month on trail... from the aggressive, shitshow moments to the calm, majestic ones. With each callused footstep, I feel my heart becoming softer. That's a good feeling.
Continuing on, I found a single tree in the middle of the dunes to take a 45 minute siesta + lunch. This tree was incredible. No matter where the sun went, I was completely casted with shade- a rarity in the Mojave. Five chapters of HP and a wonderful 3.5 hour break later (oops), I hit the trail.
As anticipated, the rest of the trail was tough and uneventful. There was a bit of trail magic at the top of the hill, which was a brilliant surprise. My love for Oreos has absolutely rekindled on the PCT.
I ended up camping around mile 553 in some burn area, hiding from the wind. I messaged with my buddy Jason for a second while eating dinner, popped on the hypnotizing narrative voice of Jim Dale, and was asleep before the sun. A good day in the desert. 🌞
DAY 31: 552.8 to 558.5
One month! One month! One month!
Waking up this morning was surreal- I am officially one month into the PCT! Lying in my sleeping bag, I retraced footsteps. Back to Hiker Town. Back to flicking snakes off cliffs. Back to Inanna. Back to McDonalds. Back to unexpected snowstorms. Back to meeting Evan, Shakedown, FunDip, and ViPR. Back to the brief encounter with Jordan and Trudy. Back to driving up to the terminus with my dad, eager for what was to come.
It's been a really, really crazy month. Can't believe there's 3-4 more of these suckers. 🙌
With these memories in mind, I skipped down the trail for the last 6 miles to the road to Tehachapi. I stuck out my thumb and snagged a ride into town after a bit and HERE we are!
So many more updates to come, y'all. Just can't wait to share. 😊
Ps- here is a before/after of my current shirt.