Saturday, May 28, 2016

Day 28 : Acton KOA, Water to Spare

20 miles today
2219 miles to go

Up early, four thirty am. The temperature has to be in the low sixties. I sit on a log close to my tent heating water for coffee and eating my granola. Ho-hoooo hoooo hoooo, an owl calls somewhere in the distance. I'm on the top of the ridge. Looking south all is dark. The moon waning in the southeast, Mars is visible in the southwest. Other than that it's dark. Facing north I look down into the valley where Acton and Aqua Dulce are. A sparkling ribbon of glowing diamonds defines the highway, I think it's highway fourteen. Street lights outline the towns. Defined more by the dark areas around them rather than any other distinguishing characteristics. Lots of civilized areas are visible from here. Brownie and An Dizzy are in motion in the spot next door. The sky is lightening in the east. Colors of pink and orange outline the horizon. High clouds bring color to the entire eastern sky. We leave my favorite Israelis to their slumber and head down the trail before the sun rises. 

The air is noticeably cooler in the ravines and gullies. I am quickly by myself on the trail. This is a common experience of Thru-hikers. No matter many other hikers you camp with. As soon as you hit the trail it's you and nature. You have to work at staying together. Since everyone hikes at a different speed if two people are traveling together they are not moving at their optimum pace. I am alone, I have time to think. A chance to let my mind wander. I watch the sky, I watch the birds, but mostly I watch the trail. My leg is feeling stronger today, but if I kick a rock or stump it sends shock waves around my knee. 

The first goal today is to reach North Fork Ranger Station. There is water there. I have about a liter and a half. I think that is enough to last me for the twelve miles to North Fork. The day promises to be warm, perhaps even hot. I like days like this. The trail is mostly in a burn area. The poodle dog bushes are frequent and lining the trail in some spots. There are gullies where there are trees that survived the fire. The lower branches are burned but the upper branches and sprouting all kinds of new growth. 

I reach North Fork before ten am. They are selling sodas and snickers. I buy two of each and eat a bag of pretzels from my pocket with the first soda. Then I eat the two snickers with the second soda. I sit is the shade with Miyagi and David. Tom shows up and sits with us. I finish my snacks and head off down the trail again. For this leg I transition to my umbrella. This is the first time I have used my umbrella in a while. It is a perfect umbrella day. The trail is visible for miles, down, down, down into the valley. I follow the trail. The temperature under my umbrella is comfortable. My knee is feeling about ninety percent functional whatever that means. I am really enjoying hiking this part of the trail, it's warm, the trail twists and turns around knolls and into gullies before climbing again in a different direction. It is impossible to tell where I am going next. 

One of the things I am learning is to not worry about things I can't control. A Thru-hiker's life happens at roughly three miles per hour. You can't make things happen any faster and there are lots of things that can make it even slower. Worrying about my knee is a waste of time. I can hike today. I don't know about anything beyond today, so why worry about it. I was watching Bridge of Spies before this trip and I remember one of the major characters asking the other main character if he was worried. “Will it help?” Was his rhetorical response. It's rhetorical because it's obvious that worrying changes nothing. I could worry about having enough water, gear breaking or getting lost, not hiking fast enough, snow in the Sierra, snow in Washington, resupply boxes being lost. The correct response is “will it help?” So don't worry about it. Take life as it comes at you. At three miles per hour you have the luxury to not make snap decisions or doing something you'll regret later. 

The lower I get to more breezy it becomes. I am not sure that it is because I'm lower. It could be because the day is progressing. The desert is heating, the air is being pulled across the ridges I am walking. I expect to see a snake around each corner, but none yet. Down in the bottom is a KOA campground that is rumored to be Thru-hiker friendly. It's also Memorial Day. Will there be any room for me? I arrive in a knoll overlooking the camp. Am I here? No, the trail goes the opposite direction. It's another thirty minutes of hiking before the trail turns and drops me off on the road to the KOA. Coppertone is there, he's packing up, I eat a half a donut and move on. 

Memorial Day is busy at the Acton KOA! I have never seen as many people camping in such close proximity. There is lawn. There are tents side by side. Families camping, families cooking, grilling, barbecuing. There are tables piled high with car camping food. Fruit, fruit of all kinds. Tables with families, friends, people having fun together. This campground has a pool! I walk slowly through the camp, a dirty umbrella toting vagabond. Wait! There are more people like me. Other vagabonds wandering among the celebrating families. They all seem to be moving in the general direction of a building that might be the place to register to stay the night. In front of the building are more hikers.  Sitting in the shade. I go inside and get my arm band. Yay! I'm part of the select crowd of vagabonds that are staying here overnight. Perks? Unlimited hot showers, laundry if you want, a store with snacks. I take a long shower with all of my clothes, foregoing the more traditional laundry option. It's warm, I figure, my clothes will dry. Korinda and I decide to go swimming. There’s a jacuzzi! The perks just keep on coming. I head back to the gazebo and eat more of the food out of my pack. Korinda stops and talks with a family. Then I do too. They generously offer us some fruit and vegetables. I sit and talk about my hike and answer questions while eating fruit. They are a lot of fun to talk with and to share a little bit of what it's like to be a Thru-hiker. We are all staying in a cool gazebo which is the Thru-hiker crash pad. We are all here sleeping under a real roof. Sweep, Mouse, An Dizzy, Brownie, Jukebox, Ballast, Mountain Goat, Free Beer, and others all talking and carrying on until Sweep announces, “just so you know, it's hiker midnight.” Silence reigns supreme as a gazebo full of unusually clean hikers drift off to sleep.

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