Sunday, April 28, 2019 – 17.30 miles
Today was aquaduct day! I walked 17.3 miles, most of which followed the Los Angeles Aquaduct, of which eTrails provocatively states: ‘The 233-mile aqueduct, built from 1908-1913 by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power under the direction of Chief Engineer William Mulholland, has a scandalous history starting with the underhanded deals by which LA acquired water rights in the Eastern Sierra. Diverting water from the once-lush Owens Valley, it devastated farming, completely drained Owens Lake, and nearly wiped out Mono Lake. Nearly continuous litigation has followed.’ The open California Aquaduct also makes an appearance in Neenach, the town where I ended the day.
Hiking this section at night is a PCT tradition because the area is hot and shadeless, but the temperature wasn’t high enough to drive me to hiking a mostly flat section of trail in the dark. It wasn’t kill-you-hot, only whining-to-lizards-hot. I started hiking around 6:30 AM, armed with water and salty snacks. The sun was strong as always, but the wind moderated the heat as the day progressed. Unfortunately I was walking against the wind for much of the day, but we can’t have everything. The reflection of sunlight off the pale road and covered LA Aquaduct was bright enough to make me pull out my sunglasses. I could feel my face relax as I put them on. I try to avoid wearing sunglasses because I like viewing scenery in its natural colours, but I wonder how much time I spend squinting at people.
I saw a dramatic scene unfold as a caterpillar intruded onto an anthill, tumbling into the opening to emerge covered with attacking ants. I like both ants and caterpillars and thought the ants might eat the caterpillar if they managed to kill it, so I didn’t intervene as the caterpillar tried to escape across the road. First it just hurried away the best it could until most of the ants detached, then it gyrated to rid itself of those remaining. When it was free, I saw that it was moving abnormally and had clear goo on its side and I felt sorry for it, so I moved it to a branch beside the road. Then I had to help an inchworm that was struggling to climb a dirt wall and kept tumbling. Then I had to harden my heart and ignore the caterpillars being blown by the wind across the cement. There were just too many to save.
I also saw a group of cows to whose presence I was first alerted by a strong cow smell on the wind, tons of hikers in the morning and a small handful in the afternoon, and three groups of dirt bikers. One group stopped to ask whether I was okay while I was taking a break on one of the cement platforms along the LA Aquaduct.
Close to Neenach, when the aquaduct had changed to a pipe with warning signs that a flock of sheep were defying, a car stopped. The driver was holding a beer and seemed slightly incoherent. I think he was drunk. He offered me a ride to town, but I explained that I had to walk there. He said that he gets that a lot. I’m not surprised…
A short while later I heard barking and saw three dogs running towards a fence on the neighbouring property. I thought ‘there’s a fence, it’s okay’. Then they slipped through a hole beneath the fence and chased me onto the aquaduct, barking. When I was far away enough from the property they fell back, but HAVE I MENTIONED YET IN THIS JOURNAL HOW MUCH I DISLIKE DOG OWNERS WHO LET THEIR GUARD DOGS RUN ONTO PUBLIC ROADS.
Neenach is the location of Hikertown, a bizarre property with various buildings decorated like a Wild West town. Hikers can camp or stay in one of the buildings. I hadn’t been planning to stop at Hikertown because last year I heard bad things about it – that the owner (or caretaker?) had said creepy things to a female hiker, that he had threatened the owners of a shop competing with his, and that Hikertown was basically operating as a business under the guise of a trail angel operation – but camping options were limited with the surrounding private land, so I decided to spend a night there. On the way, I walked along the open waters of the California Aquaduct and through a strange section that seemed to be part of someone’s vegetable garden. Is this the PCT or the Heysen?
When I arrived at Hikertown, I was pleased to see Tamara, Peter, Kata and Mosey! Kata was currently in charge because the caretaker had decided to take a vacation. There were set prices for the rooms, $10 for the small rooms and $30 for the posh rooms. You could also purchase drinks and snacks. All of the money went into jars labelled ‘donations’. Rain was predicted for the evening, so I decided to take one of the small rooms, which have beds but no other furniture. Hikertown doesn’t change the sheets after every guest, which is gross. Change the pillowcase at least! I’m going to put my head on my sleeping bag anyway, but c’mon! Otherwise the room seemed fine. I heard from a hiker last year that there was mould in his, but I didn’t see any.
For supper I took a shuttle to the market and bought a few other things, including hand sanitizer. I suspect hand sanitizer of evaporating in the heat, since I’ve been going through tons. I noticed after returning to Hikertown that the new hand sanitizer has strange blue specks in it…