Start – Agua Dulce mile 454 8:00 am
End – Green Valley Mile 478 7:30 pm
Miles – 24
Well the chickens woke me up early but it didn’t matter because I forgot to buy stove fuel yesterday so I had to wait until the hardware store opened at 8am to get a canister. Since I was up I had a real breakfast in town at the Sweetwater Grill before setting out, and got going right at 8.
The trail through Agua Dulce just follows the road, so the first two miles were a road walk. I didn’t think I’d mind roadwalks before I started, mainly because I walk along roads all the time in my normal life, but out here I really dislike them. They are bland, usually there’s no sidewalk so you’re either on the edge of the lane trying to get a flat surface, or you’re on the dirt shoulder walking at an angle. All the while trying to make sure you’re giving traffic enough space. Anyway they aren’t my favorite.
After two miles of walking through town we finally set off into the hills for the first of a couple pretty steep ridge crossings. I’ve started to feel more confident about climbs but with a full pack and 5 days worth of food these ones took a lot out of me.
But I finally made it to the Sierra! Ok not the Sierra Nevada, but the Sierra Pelona. These are more rolling hills than towering peaks and I spent the day working my way around Bouquet Reservoir.
My plan for the day was to try to make it from Hiker Heaven to Casa De Luna in Green Valley, a distance of 24 miles. Casa De Luna is apparently similar to Hiker Heaven in that it’s a trail host family that just lets hikers stay on their property in the mountains and according to most of the summaries of previous years, it supposed to be a lot of fun.
Because of my late start I didn’t think I’d actually be able to get in 24 miles, and since I was having to go over ridges in the heat, I really didn’t think it would happen. So I was looking for a campsite that I could get to that was supposed to be 5 miles short, and I got there around 3:30. That would have been an early day but I figured 19 miles was still pretty good. What wasn’t good was the campsite. It was small and narrow and not quite flat. So despite being tired and not sure if I could do another 5 miles plus get a hitch into town to actually get to Casa De Luna, I pushed on.
Made it over the last ridge and into Green Valley by 7pm, which is later than I usually hike. Got a hitch by 7:30 from a woman named Elizabeth who drove me all over the little town of Green Valley before dropping me at my destination around 7:45.
Hiker Heaven it is not. Where that was clean and organized this place is messy and ramshackle. But I see the appeal for most folks. The host, Terri, welcomes you with a hug and gives you a Hawaiian shirt to wear. Her front yard and drive way are a lounge area and she serves free food for dinner and breakfast out of a kitchen set up in her driveway.
Behind the house is a giant manzanita forest, so you just keep going back until you find a place to camp.
She also gives out free commemorative handkerchiefs, but you have to dance for those. Most people just sit in the driveway drinking beer and talking. I got there so late I scarfed down some food and then rushed to set my tent up in the dark. One of the reasons I decided to hitch to this place was that based on the entries in the trail register today I thought some of my old trail buddies might be there but I guess they skipped it.
There are several of these iconic trail stops along the way. I’m glad I took the time to experience these two over the past two days, but don’t know how many if the additional ones I’ll make an effort to patronize. They really aren’t part of the wilderness experience but rather part of the culture of the trail that has grown up around it. One thing I will note is that in both Agua Dulce and Green Valley, without them there aren’t a lot of suitable campsites along this section, which may be one reason why they developed in the first place.
I definitely appreciate the generosity of the hosts, but with so many people these tend to not be relaxing for me at least. Everybody else was having a good time.