San Francisquito Canyon Road (PCT Halfmile 478.2) to Vasquez Rocks (PCT 453.5)
(24.7 miles, +4,000/-4,900 feet).
Time to continue my adventures on the PCT!
Except for the Mountain Fire Closure, I have completed everything up to Acton KOA, so ideally I would have started from there and headed north. But I only had two days this time, and if I headed north, I’d finish at the remote Green Valley fire station where I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be any cell signal. No signal = no Uber!
So instead I decided to head south. This morning I arrived at the Acton KOA trailhead, parked my car, and called an Uber. An hour later (and a very nice conversation with my driver Earlene!) I was at my northern starting point ready to hike.
The day was warm and calm, and unlike my last couple of trips, my knees were feeling great!
After about 5 miles I came upon a memorial bench for Bob Kimberly, founder of the Leona Divide 50 ultramarthon. The winners of the race and their times were also listed on a nearby sign. I laid on the bench for a while wondering what it would be like to do 50 miles in 7 hours. Crazy!
After my break I passed a hiker headed north who said howdy but did not stop. A short time later, two trail runners passed me heading south. We were on an uphill, and they ran out of gas about 100 yards ahead of me, so I followed them for quite a while until they hit the next downhill and took off again.
Soon the Bouquet Reservoir came into view, and I stopped for lunch.
This is a very dry stretch of trail, but there is a semi-reliable water source at Bear Spring. We just got our first good rainfall of the season last weekend so I hoped that would get the spring flowing again if it had stopped. I took a chance and only packed 3.5 liters of water (I would ordinarily pack 4 liters for 20 miles and an extra liter for over night). I reasoned that if I was wrong, I could probably stretch the water to last until I reached Agua Dulce.
But as it turns out, I would not learn if the spring was flowing or not. Because I got lost!
Yes, lost on the PCT!
This part of the trail criss-crosses with lots of bicycle trails, and I was pretty good about checking my map at intersections, but the one time I didn’t check I apparently took the wrong path. Soon I was a half mile off course.
I needed water, but not badly. Looking at the USGS map, I noticed I was near a feature called “Big Oak Spring” so I decided to search for water there. But to no avail.
I did find the oak grove, but there was no water at the surface yet. This made me think Bear Spring would also be dry, so rather than backtrack I headed cross-country straight up the mountain on a bike path to a road that would reconnect me to the PCT.
It was pretty amazing to see how much more damage wheels do the environment. The bike trail was so deep in some places that the surrounding ground was waist-high.
When I found the road on the ridge, I also found water. But I decided to wait.
One reason I was not worried about water was that the ridge marked the beginning of a long downhill that would last the rest of the day. The sun was strong, but the temperature was only about 70, so it wouldn’t be too sweaty.
The golden hillsides really started to shine in the late afternoon sun
After 20 miles, I made it to the valley floor at about 5pm where I intended to camp. But there was still about an hour of daylight and I wasn’t quite ready to stop, so I kept walking. The trail headed straight into a glorious sunset.
By the time darkness started to fall, I was in the outskirts of Agua Dulce, surrounded by ranches. There were some reasonable places to camp, but the PCT follows underneath some very large power lines here, and I know from past experience that it’s a little creepy to sleep underneath that crackling sound all night.
The weather forecast also called for high winds this evening, meaning the power lines would also probably create an eerie high whine.
And I was practically out of water.
And Agua Dulce, with its fine eating establishments right on the PCT, was just 3 miles away.
And who cares if I can’t see much during a road walk in town?
So I just kept walking! The PCT follows a wide flat sandy shoulder on the road into town and there was just enough light from the twilight and the passing cars to make a headlamp unnecessary. There was only one narrow 100 yard section where I felt the need to run to make sure I was through it before a car passed me.
And in no time I was at Maria Bonita’s eating a humongous taco salad and sipping on a Dos Equis Amber (with lime, yum!). There were multiple kids’ birthday parties raging in the adjacent booths, and toddlers would occasionally escape to approach my table, give me a wide-eyed stare, giggle, and run away.
After dinner I filled up my water bottles in the bathroom, paid my bill, and headed back onto the road through Agua Dulce, this time with my headlamp. I only needed to hike one more mile, and it was good to stretch my legs after dinner.
As soon as the PCT left the road, I started searching for a place to camp — a task easier said than done in the dark! I found a flattish place nestled between a tree, a bush, and two agaves (ouch!) and prepared my tent for a windy night.
As I settled in I was so happy I had done the extra miles. My belly was full of delightful food and I looked forward to the beauty of pre-dawn light on the Vasquez Rocks that surrounded me.