Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

Day 29: Getting to Aqua Dulce

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Date: May 28, 2017
Miles: 18,4 miles (29.6km), from North Fork Ranger Station to Hiker Heaven. 
Health: Feel stronger and better every day.

 Note: as my camera is still broken (see day 25), all photos here are from iPhone 7 Plus.

Town day! Although we were far away from the small town of Aqua Dulce, it's still an awesome feeling to get to go to town. You start fantasizing about all the proper food you're going to eat, and being able to drink cold drinks. And getting a shower. And ice cream.

Getting to town gives a little extra umph to your step.

I first woke up around 4am. My sleeping bag wasn't as dry as I thought it was and all the moisture had transferred to my clothes during the night. It was still dark and only one tent was being taken down, with the headlamps fully blazing and shining around the entire campground. Ugh. I pull my moist sleeping bag over my head and fall back asleep.

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I wake up again at 5am and people around me are also starting to wake up. Pony and Queso are slowly getting up, I see some movement in Sunshine's sleeping bag. Wait, Blü is gone? He must have sneaked out somewhere between 4am and now.

Everyone seems moving kind of slowl again. I eat my breakfast in bed. What a luxury. Queso, Pony, Sunshine, and I all get our things packed up at the same time and head for the trail at the same time. I feel like I want to try out my morning speed so I push forward with music  blasting from my headphones.

I spend the morning leapfrogging with Hot Sauce and Sunshine. On one of the ridge lines my phone comes alive and I notice I have connection for the first time in a while. I call my family, and many friends, and spend few hours hiking while talking with everyone back at home. It feels great to be able to speak Finnish again.

Morning hike along the ridge line.  

Morning hike along the ridge line.  

I've been kind of frustrated with not being able to properly communicate with people around me lately. I feel like I only communicate things that I know how to say, not things that I want, or feel.

The morning flies by in a instant and I soon arrive at the KOA campground junction. From here you can get water and either go to the campground and use their store, or move onwards and go directly to Aqua Dulce, which is about 10 miles away.

Sunshine and a bunch of other hikers are staying at the KOA. There's a rumor going around that there will be free margaritas at the KOA today at 10am. I feel like I should push on and get to Aqua Dulce and to Hiker Heaven.

This is how we often see the trail.  

This is how we often see the trail.  

Hiker Heaven is the home of Saufley's and they host PCT hikers on their large backyard. There are no good camping spots, or any other lodging within 10 mile radius to Aqua Dulce, and people are saying that there's a 50 hiker limit at the Hiker Heaven, so I kind of want to get there early.

Morgan, Laurel, Kristen, and Pig Ben, or The Girls, are pushing straight to Aqua Dulce so I gang up with them. But as we get to the small stream that's the last reliable water source, I start looking at the description of KOA and the promise of ice cold soda, ice cream, and free margaritas is just too much for me to resist. It's not about the destination but the journey, right? So I turn around and hike the 0.4 miles to the KOA campground. The Girls don't share my enthusiasm for ice cream and instead continue to Aqua Dulce.

KOA campground

Ice cream! 

Ice cream! 

I pass by Hot Sauce who's sitting under a tree drinking an ice cold Mountain Dew. He tells me where to find the small grocery store and I head towards the way he's pointing. It's weekend and the campground is full of people camping and barbecuing.

Pretty soon I notice a punch of people who look nothing like the people enjoying their weekend here – thru-hikers. I head over and find everyone there. Of course right next to the grocery store and the charging station. Two things that are always sure to pull thru-hikers.

Margarita time! 

Margarita time! 

I buy chips, soda, and a large pint of ice cream. A snack. As I get out, Sunshine points out that the chips and ice cream I bought are both low calorie. Damned. Only when thru-hiking you're disappointed that the junk food you bought doesn't have enough calories.

We sit in the shade, constantly popping back to the store to buy more food. It feels great to eat something other than bars and tortillas.

Kippis! 

Kippis! 

Pony reads me the poem her father wrote to her before the trip and I basically spend the entire time crying against her shoulder. It was such a beautiful poem. It's funny how words can have such a powerful reaction.

Soon the margaritas appear and this is starting to shape up to be an awesome afternoon. Now if I could only yogi some barbecue from some of the campers around, that would be perfect.

Soon the realization that we still have over 10 miles to cover, and it's starting to get late, hits us. Pony, Queso, and I start preparing to head out. It's not the greatest timing as it means we'll be going out at the hottest part of the day. But we really want to have spots at Hiker Heaven.

Start of the climb.  

Start of the climb.  

Sunshine is going to LA with a friend of hers so we leave her at the store and head out. I start first, and Pony and Queso behind me. As soon as I get out of the shade the heat hits me.

I start to climb out of the valley and back up to the hills and it's really hot. But I feel like it doesn't bother me as much as it used to. I'm soon up top and see the campground far below. No sight of Pony and Queso though. Wonder if they changed their minds.

Warning about poison oak on trail.  

Warning about poison oak on trail.  

I watch a section hiker someway ahead of me and he seems to be struggling. He takes a lot of pauses and has no sun protection. Soon I catch up to him as he's stopping on top of one of the climbs. I ask if he needs any help and if he has enough water for this section and he reassures me he's fine. I quickly assess how much water he's carrying and feel like he doesn't have enough with the rate that he's consuming. I offer to give him some of mine but he declines. I feel bad for him as there's no shade anywhere for miles and he has no way of protecting himself from the midday sun. I'm somewhat cool under my umbrella.

I keep hiking and hope he finds some shade.

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At one point I receive a phone call from Pony and she informs me that they stop and look for shade to wait out the heat. I still feel fine so I push on.

While I move slower than usual in the heat, it doesn't seem to bother me that much. I've hardly touched my 2.75 liters of water and there's only 4 more miles left.

Vasquez Rock

See people for size reference.  

See people for size reference.  

Soon I arrive to the Vasquez Rock park. This is the place where many Star Trek episodes, Bonanza, and many more films and TV shows have been filmed. It's beautiful and I wish I could come back here during better light, like during dusk or dawn.

I take the mandatory tourist photo of the actual rock and continue to the mile long road walk to Aqua Dulce. The town is small, only few houses along the main road.

Road walk to Aqua Dulce.  

Road walk to Aqua Dulce.  

Soon I notice a pile of backpacks against a terrace fence. It's never too hard to find thru-hikers in town. As I head over I find Blü, Kelley, Derek, and Airplane Mode. I haven't seen her for awhile.

God bless Dick! 

God bless Dick! 

Before I get to take off my pack, everyone starts pushing me towards the parking lot. A ride to Hiker Heaven. We all hop in on a pickup and after few minutes we're at the legendary Hiker Heaven. I'm too tired and hungry from the heat to properly process any information. So as soon as I get in, and get the lay of the land, I find my spot, pitch my tent, and hop on the next ride back to the town.

Don't leave your tent open! 

Don't leave your tent open! 

Before I go I see a familiar face in the crowd, Fyre! It's so good to see her again! She hitchhiked here through LA and has been waiting for us. We also get a message that Blis is back on the trail, only few days behind us.

One of the more popular activities in Hiker Heaven.  

One of the more popular activities in Hiker Heaven.  

Once back in town I head over to the pizzeria and again order way too large pizza. I fill myself with ice cold sodas and take the rest of the pizza to go. At Hiker Heaven I get a haircut, take a shower, put all my clothes to the washer, and enjoy few beers with everyone. Tomorrow's my birthday and I'm super tired so it's time to go to bed.