So after a single deep sleep cycle, my phone alarm went off so I could get all of the following done before 2:50am when my taxi arrived:
- Pack up food, socks, knife, hose, poles, electrics
- Remove water, canister fuel
Yes, that’s the actual checklist I wrote for myself to try to make things easier.
The taxi service was right on time, but I hadn’t finished packing yet. We ended up driving out a bit after three, and I got to the Medford International Airport just in time for Alaska Air’s counter to open.
I tried to put everything in my backpack and check it, but it turned out to be over the checked bag weight limit. So I had to detach the day pack, pull the Mio and knife out of it, make sure my lithium battery was in it (TSA rules are so strange), and reweigh. The backpack was then tossed in a giant plastic bag and placed on the conveyor.
Meanwhile, I had clearly been far too proactive with my morning planning because I then had to wait a half-hour for the airport’s one security checkpoint to open. I was first to go through. There were maybe a dozen gates on the other side, so there wasn’t much walking to be done. A half-hour of sitting followed before I was walking across the tarmac to board a turboprop plane via the rear staircase. I had an entire row to myself, both sides of the aisle. I’m going to miss the convenience that airlines have adopted in response to COVID-19.
I had an hour layover in Seattle and didn’t even have to switch terminals. So I bought a sandwich and wolfed it down, then boarded a regular jet to Burbank. Again, I had a row to myself.
I had a hotel booked in Burbank whose website promised an airport shuttle, but when I called them on arrival, I found out they had canceled it for 2020. Well, it wasn’t that far from the airport, so I just decided to walk. I figured I would check in, drop my pack, and go straight to REI, which was about six blocks away. But I messed up the directions on Google Maps and accidentally routed to REI first. Well, might as well, I guess.
So, I should mention here that for the last couple of days, I had been hiking with my backpack’s inner frame broken. Severed. Snapped off right at my lower back. It wasn’t a comfortable carry anymore. Yet another reason why I noped out when I did. So I had come to REI to buy a new pack. The new model of the exact same style and size of pack I had. That would ensure that all my stuff would fit. It wasn’t the only thing I picked up while I was there, but it was the most expensive thing. But I didn’t get everything I needed either because I hadn’t had that moment of downtime in the hotel to go through my stuff and work out what I needed.
Anyway, I walked to the hotel with two backpacks. The old one on my back and the new one in my hand.
Once I was checked in, I made a plan for dinner. I took an hour walk into the commercial part of town to a nice brewhouse restaurant chain. They had managed to put quite a number of tables outside under tents to keep up capacity even while indoor seating was banned. I got myself a nice steak dinner with a couple a nice beers only they sold. And then I walked all the way back to the hotel the same way.
Total distance: 8 miles
Trail progress: 0 miles
I fully intended to be back on trail from Agua Dulce, where I started, by that evening. But first, I had a couple of errands to run.
First, of course, I needed to pack everything into my new pack. That done, I checked out, leaving that pack in the lobby broom closet. I carried my old pack, with a few items I didn’t think I would need, e.g. the microspikes that had so failed me in the snow, to the UPS Store to ship home. The clerk at the store complained noisily about my shipping something that smelled like old piss. Well, I would have thrown it away, honestly, but Mom thinks torn up, smelly hiking gear are treasures worth keeping.
Anyway, back to REI because I totally forgot to buy new fuel canisters. And then to Olive Garden for lunch, but there was a 30 minute wait for seating, so I went to Krispy Kreme first and got a couple of fancy donuts and a frozen coffee drink. But I still had plenty of room for two full bowls of bottomless salad and a chicken fettuccine alfredo.
Then, one last walk back to the hotel to get my pack and call an Uber to make the thirty minute drive out to Vasquez Rocks, just south of Agua Dulce. (Yes, I did start my trip on the north side of Agua Dulce. Yes, I did skip the two mile road walk through town. But Blueberry said that road walks don’t even count for him, so sue me.)
I had to stop as soon as I stepped onto the trail among those boulders to repair the broken clip on one of my gaiters and attach them to my boots. At which point I realized my trust pocket knife had fallen out of my pocket at some point that day, maybe in the Uber. I was able to bite the thread off to do the sewing just fine, but I was annoyed to have to complete this section sans knife.
The Vasquez Rocks area was beautiful, if a bit crowded at first. But it got even more so when I got away from the crowds up on a ridge and could look down on the most television famous part of the rock formation. A character you’ll meet in a week or so told me that the geology of the place was unique in the world.
The trail dove into a canyon with a tiny stream flowing through it under a rock formation I can only call the entrance to Mingi Taw. Then it went under the highway via a spooky tunnel and climbed up a windswept ridge with views of the line of cars stretching to each horizon. I stopped at a dirt patch on a thin spit of semi-flat land far enough from the freeway that I could no longer see nor hear it.
Total distance: 8 miles
Trail progress: 5 miles