mile 499.4 – mile 521.5
22.1 miles 

I woke up inside of a cloud, little drops of rain splattering my sleeping bag. I looked at my phone and it was already almost 7:00. I should have been hiking already. It was cold!

I piddled around all morning, texting with Hunter, taking pictures at the mile 500 trail marker, calling Hunter, eating a snack. By 9:00, I had barely gone three miles. Time to pick up the pace. 

What’s that you say? Five hundred miles? Oh, yes, I passed the 500 mile marker today! Ding ding ding!

Despite the exciting milestone, I was dragging today and quickly fell behind everyone. That’s okay. I meandered through clouds all morning and most of the afternoon. Towards lunchtime, the trail began to drop in elevation and it got warmer and sunnier. 

Around mile 511, I caught up with everyone, but only because of the roadside attraction- trail magic! My first on-trail magic! Thanks, Yukon! A 2014 PCTer had brought a cooler full of cold drinks, jugs of Gatorade, pop tarts, and oranges! I had a Mountain Dew and an orange.
 
Then, we hiked on toward Hiker Heaven. I quickly fell behind again. That’s okay, I had music to keep me company. I just bebopped down the trail until Mowgli came up behind me. Mowgli had shown up at the trail magic, having hitched around the closure and taken a different reroute than we had. He’s 25, smart, and a bit nonconformist like most of us dirty hikers. He hiked the AT in 2014. We walked and talked the rest of the way to Hikertown. 

What is Hikertown, you ask? I’m still not completely sure what the story is. Have you ever been to a carnival where there is a little Old West town set up, like a movie set? It’s kind of like that. There was a sherif’s office, a school house, a hotel. Each of these sheds was a room with beds. Then there were a bunch of old mobile homes and travel trailers, as well. It all sounds pretty cute, and it was. But it was pretty dirty and run down, too. 

I got there around 5:00, beat down and tired from a 17 mile day. A group of us shuttled down to the convenience store for food and wifi, but we didn’t have any time to use the wifi before shuttling back. 

I got a corn dog and some fries, which I was eating on the way back. A girl from England looked at me with disgust and asked me what in the hell I was eating. Everyone chimed in and tried to explain to her what a corn dog is and she just looked more and more disgusted with me. Why me in particular, I don’t know, because there were at least two other people in the van eating the same thing. She said she’d take a hard pass on the corn dog experience and we all laughed. 

Back at Hikertown, Blazer and I conferred about our plans for the night. We decided to camp there and get up before dawn to hike out. We have about a 20 mile walk across the L.A. aqueduct coming up. It’s very exposed and there are some long-ish water carries. 
I walked over to the camping area and tried to pitch my tent, but the ground was hard and there was dog poop around and I got frustrated. I already didn’t have a great feeling about staying there and wanted to hike on, but you’re not supposed to camp on or near the aqueduct and I was very tired from the day and feeling in need of some sleep. But, I knew I wouldn’t sleep well there, so I talked to Blazer again and we decided to get some miles under us and just assume that we’d be able to find a camp spot. 

Heartbreaker had finished up his business at Hikertown, too, so he decided to come along, and off we went. As soon as we left, we felt better! Is it the relief of making a decision, or was the energy just really weird there? Both?

It was beautiful and cool and not too windy this evening. We walked along the open aqueduct for awhile, the sun beginning to set, the reflection of the sky bouncing off the water. My feet hurt, but I felt lighter and so happy to be there. The guys walked ahead, talking animatedly about who knows what. I couldn’t keep up, so put on Taylor Swift’s 1989 and bounced along behind them. After a mile or so, we did a zig and a zag and began following a huge pipe. This is what we will do for the next many miles, through a wide open field. We can look ahead of us and see exactly where we’ll be going for a very long time. 

When we were about four miles from Hikertown, the guys decided they wanted to stop. I could have pushed on, mentally, but my body needed the rest, so we all made camp, cowboy-style, underneath the aqueduct pipe where it bridges a small distance over a little dirt road. 

As we were all laid out like little sausages, drifting off, we heard little drops begin to hit our ground sheets. Oh no! we thought, but it never turned into anything, though the wind picked up as the sky cleared. 

Today I met Mowgli, a 25-year-old teacher from Massachusetts. I’m amazed by how present and wise the young people are on trail. I was an idiot when I was 25. 

Today I learned that if it doesn’t feel right, I should move on. 

Today’s hike was powered by interesting conversation, Playlist #6, Vulfpeck, The Notorious B.I.G., and Taylor Swift. Music, it’s just the thing.  

   
Just kidding!