Tonight, I’ll be in Hiker Heaven.
After all my research; my blog scrolling and YouTube watching and internet scouring, it seems surreal that I’m reaching the places I’ve read and dreamt about. Before, they were long off waypoints. They weren’t even real. They were names on pages, pinpoints on maps. Yet here I am, checking them off slowly, one at a time. Now I am the one writing about them.
Tonight, I’ll be checking off Hiker Heaven.
Today, I only had to push through thirty kilometres of shadeless desert under a 38’C sun.
I gave myself that early wake up again, and left just after 5AM. Others had had the same idea. Generally when I leave early morning, there is a freshness to the world: I am the first person to walk this path for the day. It’s peaceful, and special.
This morning had a different feel to it: determination and purpose. There were maybe ten of us who left around the same time, each of us pushing to get to KOA (Kampsite of America – a caravan park chain) as quickly as we could, before the heat kicked in.
Sometimes, it feels like my integrity is being tested. At this intersection, I knew the road led fairly directly straight down to KOA, whereas the PCT wound around the mountain unnecessarily. Another example of a silly detour for some ‘nice views’ – but I kept my integrity (with myself – I know I’ve got no one else I need to prove anything to), and walked the real PCT. The long way around.
We all made good time, covering the thirteen km’s within three hours.
Now, I had Speedy already at HH, and Kim and Lynn (the Koreans) were up there too. They had only had until June to hike, so hitched up ahead to say goodbye to us and then would head home shortly after. I wanted to get there as soon as I could – it was only another seventeen km’s – to spend the day with them.
The other hikers here at the KOA were in no rush. They were doing laundry, having showers, making good use of the pool, and ordering in pizza/beer/wine for lunch, to wait out the worst of the heat and get to HH later in the evening.
Annnnd they talked me into staying with them.
As much as I wanted to race ahead and get to the others, I had to have an honest conversation with myself. Go ahead in the heat, or stay with the pool: which choice would I enjoy more?
The pool won out.
If I tried to head up (yes, uphill as well as having no shade) to Hiker Heaven on a 38’C day between 10-3PM with no sunscreen, I’d most likely end up there dehydrated and worn out. If, on the other hand, I chilled here, cleaned off, had a swim, enjoyed lunch and wine and made some new friends, I’d get to HH later than I’d like, but in high spirits and good form. I chose the latter.
We did spend the majority of the day there. It was after 4:30PM by the time we left, and still piping hot, but across the next few hours walking, cooled off again.
Another hiker ahead had called us to let us know if we had to resupply food, we should do it tonight: tomorrow, the tiny local convenience store would be shut. What?! Yep. Apparently, this little town out in the middle of nowhere is used for films and tv shows, and we happened to stop in right in the middle of filming one of them.
I wasn’t too worried; my shoes actually have holes in them, and the bottom tread is totally worn off. Some new blisters have also started growing: the soles on my shoes are so thin now, rocks are affecting my gait. Apparently Hiker Heaven organises lifts out to Los Angeles to go to REI (outdoor equipment store), so I figured I could just get my food while I was out there getting some new kicks. Still a bit bizarre that they film out here though. I love America!
Fred’s a local, who was offering hikers rides in the back of his ire up to HH from the grocery store. It was late – 8:30PM after Squirrel had done his resupply and we had a few beers good to go, but with the hot day and a clear desert night, we opted to chuck our packs in the back and walk the last mile.
It was so good to give the Koreans a big hug and see them again when we got in ❤️ I’m sad they’ve got to end their hike, but they’ve left my heart bigger for knowing them.
It’s definitely dark here now, and apart from a lawn full of tents, I can’t see much – tomorrow will tell what Hiker Heaven looks like.