Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hiker Heaven

May 28: Charmin and I slept in especially late this morning. We only had a couple of miles to get into Agua Dulce, which was where both of us planned to stop for the night. If there's one place on the trail that every hiker knows about, it's the legendary Saufleys. Each year, they open their home (or at least most of it) to hundreds of thru-hikers. They provide a place for hikers to shower, resupply, pick up mail drops, and get rides to REI or wherever a hiker needs to get to. I'm not aware of any songs in honor of the Saufleys, but it wouldn't surprise me if they existed. There are trail angels, but these are trail gods. I saw Donna Saufley in the flesh at a PCTA meet in Seattle a couple of years back, though I had never actually talked to her. But I'd heard about her for years, and I was finally excited to visit this Hiker Heaven I'd heard about for so many years there in Agua Dulce.

Charmin lost the PCT almost immediately. Her map showed the trail following a dirt road through the parking lot, so she went in that direction even thought the PCT seemed to veer off in the other direction. I decided to follow the PCT symbols myself. I'm all for cross-country travel when you lose the PCT, but we hadn't even lost it and Charmin was making her own route. It looked like they'd end up in the same place, but I wasn't entirely sure that they would, so I stuck with the official PCT. At a high point, I climbed up on a rock and called Charmin's name, and found her further below down on the road, but still moving more-or-less parallel to me.

We shouted a bit to hear each other, and agreed to both keep going in our own direction, and hopefully meet up further along the trail where the two come together, which eventually we did after about ten minutes of hiking.

Through Agua Dulce, the trail follows along those dreaded roadwalks. This isn't even a detour--it's one of the few places where the trail actually goes into civilization and follows paved roads for several miles. We followed the trail into Agua Dulce, and stopped at a market to pick up groceries for resupply. Charmin, embarrassed, found herself a few dollars short of being able to pay her bill, and I loaned her $5 to cover the bit. She thinks she may have lost a $20 bill somewhere, because she's sure she had more than that. Uh-huh.... Yeah, sure..... =)

We then stopped at the liquor store nearby, which had an ATM so Charmin could get more cash. I waited outside in the shade of the porch, but a few minutes later, Charmin came out, confused about how to work the ATM. "It's asking about savings, checking, or credit," and stuff. "They aren't this complicated in Switzerland!" she said. So I set left my pack outside and went in to help her figure out how to use the ATM.

I have to admit, I'm not entirely sure what would happen if I tried clicking some of the options. What happens if I check to take money out of the "savings account" of my credit card--which doesn't have a checking or savings account? Or if I try to take out "credit" on a debit card that's really attached to a checking account? I don't really know, but I didn't let my own lack of knowledge slow me down. I suggested using the "checking" option since it wasn't a credit card she was using. She seemed a little confused when the ATM said to select an amount of money in multiples of $20, and I explained that the ATM only dispensed $20 dollar bills, so she could only request $20, $40, $60, $80, $100, etc, etc... up to a maximum of $200 which was the limit for the ATM. She punched in a number, and a bunch of twenty dollar bills came out.

She seemed upset that she didn't get any five dollar bills, though. "I still owe you $5," she told me.

"Don't worry about it," I told her. You'll just have to make sure to catch up to me later on the trail and pay it back." =) Charmin was planning to take a zero day in Agua Dulce while I did not, so we both knew this would be the last day we'd be hiking together. It was a little sad--after about a week on the trail together, we'd finally go back to "hiking your own hike" after today. So I rather liked the fact that she'd have an incentive to catch up to me on the trail somewhere along the way, even if it was just to pay me back $5.

We turned down Darling Road, and walked a mile or so off the trail to the Saufleys. John Deere gave us a tour of the facilities, including what to do with our dirty laundry, where to sleep, and the lay of the land. The place was so neat and organized, it was a little intimidating. We bumped into Tradja and Jess on the tour, who I was happy to finally see after not seeing them since Warner Springs.

And this place is a hiker paradise. There is even a row of bicycles that hikers could borrow to ride into town for food or groceries. There was a trailer with a bathroom (and a shower!) and a lounge for hikers to hang in, and the Saufleys even had a few portable toilets brought in for use when the shower was being used. They provided spare clothes for hikers to wear allowing us to wash all of our clothes. A series of hiker boxes were sorted by the type of stuff you can find in it. Information about water sources, trail angels, and reroutes were posted on a board in the garage. The place is simply amazing.

During the tour, Donna saw Charmin and myself and asked if we were a couple. No, we weren't, and Donna went back to what she was doing. I asked John Deere why she asked, and he said that couples get certain privileges, and I asked like what? They get cake or something that other hikers don't get? Heck, I'd pretend to be a couple for that! =) No, just different sleeping arrangements. Ah, well, no, we weren't a couple.

After the tour was over, I put my dirty clothes in a bag, left it in the garage, and took a shower, then lounged around in the trailer chatting with other hikers. There were a lot of hikers there I'd never met before, and the names started to overwhelm me, but a good number of the hikers I had already met already. I didn't recognize Yellow Pants at all in the spare clothes provided while his real clothes were being washed. Charmin suggested he use "Highlighter" as a trail name, which I really liked, although we kept calling him Yellow Pants to each other even though he actually wore shorts, not pants. He didn't seem too interested in the trailname, however, and so far as I know, everyone else still calls him Brian.

I was able to get on the Internet briefly, where I saw in a headline that Gary Coleman had died. Bummer for him, I thought, then went on to check my e-mail.

I started the movie Best In Show playing on the television, trying to convince the other hikers that the movie was hilariously funny, but they seemed in doubt. "A dog show?"

"Really! It is a funny movie!" "No, it's not a real documentary...." Blah, blah, blah....

I don't remember what it was, but something outside called my attention, so I left about 10 minutes into the movie. I figured they'd pop that movie out and put something "good" in now that I was out of the room, but whatever. I didn't really want to force anyone to watch a movie they didn't really want to see anyhow. If they weren't enjoying it, I'd just as soon that they did pop the movie out.

When I came back about five minutes later, I saw that my clothes were finally done washing, so I picked them up and put packed them up with the rest of my stuff by the cot near the horse stable, returned the basket, and finally went back into the lounge where Best In Show was still playing--and in fact there was a larger audience than when I left. My seat on the couch was gone. *sigh* Oh, well.... Glad at least some people were enjoying the movie. =)
Then I noticed that Donna was sitting on the couch, watching the movie as well. I'd been seeing her working all afternoon, vacuuming and running chores, and I was glad to see her sitting down and relaxing. And watching the movie I picked out. =) I sat down on the floor to join the crowd, when Donna pushed everyone on the couch over to make room for another person, which I happily jumped up and accepted.

And drats, I'd have loved a photo of my sitting next to Donna on the couch watching Best In Show, but I had left my camera with my stuff by the cot. At least I have the memory. =)

After the movie ended, I wandered outside where a few hikers, including Charmin, were around a campfire pit. There wasn't a campfire going, but Charmin was playing the guitar that was provided for hikers, and sounded quite good. Running Wolf started a small fire, which I nearly snuffed out by accident when I put a larger piece of wood on the pile that collapsed the whole thing. Danimal had also arrived that afternoon, and was already drunk off his ass, which was kind of funny to watch him stumble around. At the same time, I thought it seemed pretty rude. I wasn't sure if the Saufleys minded hikers getting drunk off their ass, but Donna seemed so nice and energetic helping out hikers, it seemed like a slimy way to return the thanks.

Running Wolf was telling us about how strange it seemed to not know anything about that was happening in the "real world," and I told him, "You aren't missing much. Gary Coleman died today, but that's about it."

"He what?!"

"He died."

Another hiker asked who Gary Coleman was. Another wanted to know how he died, and I had to admit that I really didn't know. I just saw the headline, I didn't actually read the article.

Running Wolf just said, "Crap, I didn't have to know that. Why did you have to tell me that Gary Coleman died? I don't want to know that."

Charmin started playing the guitar again, and we all just shut up and listened.

Special 41 sat by the fire, sewing a zipper that was coming apart, and Hurricane started the "zipper song" to Charmin's music. I can't say I remember any of the words, except for something like, "Oh, zipper! Oh, zipper! Why have you failed me, poor zipper?" An ode to a zipper, and Hurricane made up most of the words, saying them as fast as they entered his head. He may get lost easily in the snow, but that man can think up lyrics off the top of his head faster than anyone else I know.

Finally, long past hiker midnight (sunset), we called it a night and headed to our respective cots to sleep.


Anonymous said...

What a nice respite for all of you!


Anonymous said...

Met a lot of thru hikers on my journey to summit Mt. Whitney. Almost everyone I talked to knows you! :) I told them all to tell you that Scraphappy says hi! I thought about you my whole hike and was really wishing I had had a thru hiker to pack my pack for me. I made summit on the 3rd! Yippy! Happy trails to you and all the other PCT'ers and thru hikers on the trail.

Unknown said...

Personally, I thought Best In Show was awful. But there's no accounting for taste!

bogman said...

"They provided spare clothes for hikers to wear allowing us to wash all of our clothes. A series of hiker boxes were sorted by the type of stuff you can find in it."

I had to read it twice to get my head round the fact that you were talking about boxes and not boxer shorts. You can understand now why it made me laugh. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bogman only my mind was trying to figure out what kind of boxes were hiker boxes.... vs. letterboxes and trying to think back did I miss something in the journal entries! That's what happens when an AQ person reads a hiker's diary!


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow. That guy on the far right in the photo with the spaghetti looks so familiar! I swear I know him from somewhere!

I'm so amazed at the generosity of trail angels who offer up their time, money, gas, food, water/drinks, assistance, and even their homes to complete strangers.

Thru-hiking would obviously be so much more difficult, expensive and challenging if it were not for the help and generosity of all of these amazing trail folks.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers