Day 30: Heaven at Last

Day 30 (Monday, May 16). North Fork Ranger Station (mi 436.08) to Hiker Heaven (mi 454.5), 18.42 miles. (up/down: +3421/-5710)

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I was one of the earlier risers this morning, I even got a peak at the sunrise. I left camp around 6:30 while most were still in their tents. I wanted to try to beat the heat and get the 18 miles to Hiker Heaven ASAP! The morning started off with a nice walk and great weather, but I could feel it getting warm quick. During my walk I thought of various trail names, a daily occurrence – I still don’t have one! I also thought of what town food I would get. Watermelon sounded delicious.

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The past couple days, the tendon (?) in my ankle was hurting quite bad. With some steps, I got a shooting pain. I just kept telling myself I could rest when I got there! I passed by Acton KOA, skipping the stop for water. After there, it would be a bit of a climb and at 11 o clock it was getting uncomfortably warm. Thankfully, I found some solace in a cave down the side of the trail and took a little break in the shade.

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Finally after going up, I started to drop back down. I kept nearing the highway, and I saw there was really no way out. I knew at some point in the near future I would have to go through a tunnel, but I wasn’t exactly sure what mile marker it was at and if it would be today. I was now right below the highway; I saw a tunnel, but from my angle it looked way too small to walk through. I scanned for another trail, but did not see one. Sure enough it was the tunnel, and I did fit!

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Walking through the tunnel, terrified I would step on a snake in the dark.

As I came out the other side, I was in Vasquez Rocks! Super cool to see and so different than everything else I have been through so far. There were signs along the trail, labeling all the flora. Too bad they didn’t have all the signs earlier along the trail – it would have been cool to know what I was looking at from day 1. I was running low on water, but knew I was coming close to a faucet. I made my way though the rocks and to the parking area where there would be a horse faucet. It didn’t work, bummer! I was only a few flat miles away from my destination though – I could make it.

Holy cow – so many trails, but none labeled as the PCT. I got lost in Vasquez Rocks. Finally, I pulled out the GPS map on my phone and started to walk in the direction of the trail; though I only ended  up walking in more circles. I eventually just followed a gravel road that would eventually lead to the trail. Now I was on the trail, but it turned to a road. It would be a road walk through town and all the way to the Saufley’s aka Hiker Heaven. After a mile or two on the road, a van pulled up to the guy behind me asking if he wanted a ride. He denied, so they came to me. Sure! So I hopped in what turned out to be the REI shuttle, full of freshly showered and laundered hikers – sorry guys.

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I had made it to Hiker Heaven – a heaven indeed. A beautiful site and so well organized. I set up my tent, got my name on the shower list and chilled. I was reunited with people I had already met, and met many new faces. A few hours later I got my shower and went to town to explore and get some food. Pizza, beer, and watermelon for the next morning.

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I had arrived to Hiker Heaven on a special day. It was the Saufley’s 24th Wedding Anniversary and the hikers and volunteers planned a special moment for them. We shined our headlamps on them for an awesome photo and enjoyed some cake. As night fell, hikers surrounded the fire. I joined for a few minutes, but wasn’t feeling social (the usual). Instead , I went and cuddled with the dogs and headed off to bed.

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