Total Miles: 529.3
The sky feels so imposing, massive, as though it threatens to press down on you ever so gently from above. The first time I ever saw sky like this was on my first trip west of the Mississippi, on a canoe trip down the Missouri River from Great Falls, Montana. I had heard the name “Big Sky country” before, but never could discern its purpose. How, after all, could the sky appear any bigger than it does at all other points of the globe? When I set foot onto those Montana plains, I understood. It was as if there was a new sort of geography, a very particular set of planetary characteristics that governed only that place. The sky envelops you and you see its brilliance with a wonderment approaching something most of us haven’t felt since childhood. Today, I found that same sky, thousands of miles from where I last saw it.
By 9:30am, our 20-mile roadwalk was, blissfully, at an end and we found ourselves at one of the stranger trail stops I’d ever seen: Hikertown. Like a neglected movie set from an old western, Hikertown has a number of facades labeled “post office”, “hotel”, “bunk house”, etc., and is essentially a way station for hikers to rest, collect resupply packages, and stay overnight, if desired. But in every other sense, Hikertown is in the middle of nowhere, a last haven of shade before striking out into a broad, hot valley where the trail follows the course of the Los Angeles aqueduct.
For the remainder of the day, we walked along the aqueduct, which was open for several miles before transitioning into an old, 12-foot diameter black pipe and then again into what you’d be forgiven for mistaking as a single lane concrete road. All the while, the trail followed on or alongside.
In exchange for sun drenched trail, the walking was very flat, and with moderate temperatures in the mid to upper 80s and the predictable desert breeze, it could have been far less comfortable even as we left Hikertown during the worst of the heat.
Despite the oppressive sun, I’ve found that my obviously disgusting single change of clothes isn’t nearly as bad as it was on the Appalachian Trail. The utter lack of moisture in the air means that even the most sweat soaked clothes will dry within minutes. I stink, but it doesn’t compare to sweating into the same shirt for days on end in the hot and humid summer of the northeast.
Groves of Joshua Tree made their first appearance of the trail and seemed like our best bet for catching a touch of shade as the late afternoon shadows grew long. With another two days of warm weather before reaching Tehachapi for a rest day or two, we’re cowboy camping under the stars and planning for a 5am start to make miles in the cool of the morning.