Gnat Attack

Hikertown (PCT Halfmile 517.6) to Maxwell Trail Camp Guzzler (mile 493)
(24.6 miles, +5500/-3900 feet).

For this hike I originally planned to drive to Hikertown and get an Uber around to my starting point at San Francisquito Canyon, hiking north on the PCT.  But I woke up at 2am last night and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I hit the road much earlier than I expected.  I got to the trailhead at 5:30am and had no luck enticing a driver to come pick me up.

By 6am I gave up and formed an alternate plan: hike southbound.  The only problem is that I already know there is no cell service in San Francisquito Canyon, so tomorrow I will have to hike up to the pass above Green Valley and cross my fingers.

So a little uncertainty to start the day.  But what a day!

I love, love, love hiking early in the morning before the sun comes up.  The predawn light treated to me a gorgeous view of a pineless Pine Mountain.

No pine trees here
Sunrise over the Mojave
Last bit of rosy glow

A big sign at the beginning of the trail warns hikers to stay on trail because the PCT passes adjacent to a hunt club.  Fortunately I was there before the posted hunting hours so I didn’t hear gun shots until I was nearly done with that part.

The trail here meanders through grassy hills and then up to some lovely chaparral.

Dried red flower buds
A grassy curve
That’s me
View north towards the distant Tehachapi Mountains

One thing that was really nice on the hike today was the way new shoots of green lined the trail right underneath long yellow stalks.  Small signs of spring after an otherwise-very-dry winter.

Follow the yellow-green non-brick road
An emerging bud

Water is a big problem on this stretch.  The only two reliable sources were at the beginning and end of my 40 mile section, so I packed in 7 liters of water (heavy!).  But I did run across a couple of caches where I quenched a little extra thirst.

A parking area below with some cached water

After crossing Oakdale Canyon Road I had a big 1500 foot climb to do.  It was dead calm, getting hotter, and soon I was being attacked left and right by gnats.  At one point there were literally a hundred of them following my head, each one trying to divebomb my eyeballs to suck the juice out.  I should *always* bring my head net….

Gnats not shown

When I finally got to the top of Liebre Mountain I found the slightest breeze and I luxuriated in the gnatless air while I munched on one of my six peanut butter sandwiches.  After lunch I laid back, closed my eyes, and listened to the woodpeckers tapping and squawking in the grove across the way.

Where’s Woody?

The views on the ridge were spectacular, with seas of green chaparral stretching out to distant peaks.

Pretty view 1
Pretty view 2

And then I came upon a big milestone for the thru-hikers.  The 500 mile marker!  Most people need a month to make it from Mexico to here, and it must be quite a feeling.

You can hear the whistle blow….

Soon my ridge bliss was over, though, as the trail wound to the north side through pretty oak forests.  The breeze disappeared and the gnats returned, with a vengeance!

Beautiful but buggy

There aren’t a lot of photos for the rest of the afternoon as I kept moving to outrun the bugs.  By about 4pm a breeze picked up and they were done for the day.  Whew!

Around sundown I made it to the Maxwell guzzler.  It had water in it, but it was a little murky and didn’t taste that great.  I was glad I had packed in my own!

I set up my tent and climbed up to a saddle nearby to eat dinner and enjoy the setting sun.

My bed at Camp Maxwell
Good night sun!


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