I'm writing this from Hiker's Heaven, an incredible hostel run by the Saufley's in Agua Dulce, CA. It's known up and down the trail as the must stop on the PCT.
After our last stop while we were in Wrightwood, Moosie and I continued on the Angeles Crest portion up through Islip saddle. We took the side trail up to the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell, named in honor of the founder of the Boy Scout movement, and it was well worth it. Great views and a fun walk through the snow. After another 4 miles of patchy snow we hit the dreaded re-route of the PCT, due to a large fire that swept through the western side of the Angeles Crest mountains. Normally the trail continues up on the ridge through beautiful pines and cool weather. Because of the fire, the trail drops off the side of the ridge and goes along paved roads where the foothills of the Angeles meets the desert. It would be hot (with temperatures nearing 100) and on pavement. Something we had been hearing about and not looking forward to for qite a while.
However, we had a secret weapon. Kevin Lee, my boss and a good friend, was meeting us on the weekend and water-muling/slackpacking us for that stretch so we could bomb out the 47 miles or so of the re-route in 2 fast days. Water-muling means he would be meeting us every few miles with water, and slackpacking means he would be carrying all our gear that we didn't need during the day so we'd be travelling light.
Since we had to wait for the weekend for Kevin to slackpack us, Moosie and I got a hitch to Agua Dulce, where Emily and Steiner were waiting for us. We arrived at the Saufley's (for the first time), picked them up, and headed northward for 2 days. Dry and hilly, we reached San Fransisquito Canyon on Friday night and got picked up by Kevin on Saturday morning, where we went back and did the reroute. While it was hot and grueling on pavement, with Kevin's smiling face (and really awesome shade set-up, with chairs and cold Nalgenes full of Vitalyte every two miles), we were able to bomb out big miles really quickly. Both Saturday and Sunday, due to the heat, featured 2-3 hour lunches to wait out the midday heat. Due to the existence of a car, we were able to take those lunches at spots like the Little Rock Reservoir and a KOA campground, both featuring nice, cool swims.
We also picked up Fireweed for our slackpack weekend section - saw her at Devil's Punchbowl County Park as we started then found that she would pass us the first couple times when we hit Kevin's car. So we asked her if she would be interested in slacking with us since she seemed really nice. And she was awesome! One of the nicest and most interesting people i've met on the trail before, a former Hotshot and Fire Warden in Yosemite and Alaska, she was finishing the re-route to Agua Dulce as part of her section hike which she started in 1976! As of right now she just has Washington left which she'll do in August.
We were able to finish the re-route by Sunday evening, in time for Kevin, myself and the rest of the gang to catch the last quarter of the Celtics game at the pizza place in Agua Dulce. Kevin then took leave of us to return to the real world. Can't thank him enough and we all had a blast with him. Also, Skyward, someone who we've seen a few times, gave him a trail name... "The Boss"! Since i've been explaning our plan to people and always tell them that my boss was coming out to slack/mule us through. Pretty awesome.
Steiner and Emily have been out with us now and have 71 miles under their belt. We're going to slow down a little bit for the next stretch to let them get their trail legs with full packs. They've been doing fantastic and we worked on a couple things yesterday during the zero, including getting new packs and sending some extra gear home to make things a little better. That's what the shakedown is all about and I think the hiking will be a little more comfortable since we're not pushing 20 mile days and packs are going to fit a little better.
We now head to Hikertown in Lancaster, and onward to the Mojave Aqueduct across the desert. Things are going great and we're having a blast! Thanks again to Kevin for an awesome weekend, it was fantastic. Yesterday we zero'd for the first time since Pete Lee's place and Moosie and I enjoyed it very much, including showers, lunch in town, picking up fish and steak to grill along with a fantastic salad last night for dinner. Heading out today for a short day after the midday heat. Sobohobos are rolling now!