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The Alleged Lakes of Antelope Valley

(2/1/11) Written by Larry Conn
Photo credits: Jeff Cuevas and Jeremy Marble

This one got off to an auspicious start, with Mike actually posting the correct starting time for a change, so I didn't arrive an hour early like last time. To compensate, the GPS (aka Mike) wasn't paying attention, and we missed the very first turn we needed to make on the car shuttle. But we still got off to a fine start, as the PCT meandered and meandered and meandered its way up the hill. (If you've ever wondered how the PCT manages to take 2700 miles to cover a distance of about 1100, you will wonder no longer once you reach your first set of switchbacks).

Another way you know that you're not on just any trail is by the ancient artifacts you discover along the PCT. The highlight of day 1 was coming across the ruins of a civilization that had been established by giant pink flamingos. Jeff took a picture of one that will haunt me in my nightmares for some time to come -- it looked almost carnivorous. Skeletons of shrunken humans dangled from the trees, and Winnie the Pooh clutched in terror to a branch high above the ground. And then there were the lawn chairs, just in case you wanted to sit for a while to really take it all in. Why do things like this exist? Something about being a through-hiker for 6 months obviously affects your mind. Which is why Mike is planning a through hike in two years.

Although I've always thought of this area as semi-desert, it was green from all the rain, and countless little streams trickled across the trail. After making our way over rolling hills, we reached the campsite, for some reason called Penny Pines Plantation. We didn't catch site of Massah, but there was a fire station where they let us use the sink to fill up on water. This was all going well until Jeremy set off a virtual fire alarm by raiding the station's Sparkletts collection. The fire chief came bounding out, insisting that was their last container of bottled water forever. We felt a bit guilty until we later noticed 4 or 5 gigantic Sparkletts containers sitting outside the building.

Sunday morning felt like we had stepped into a giant dry ice machine, lost in bone-chilling fog and mist. The mist soon turned to rain drops and the wind only got colder. As we stood in the freezing drizzle, we admired our preparedness, noting that 3 of the 4 of us didn't bring rain gear. But, luckily, the rain stopped and we only had to deal with an icy mist. It actually made the hike mysteriously beautiful, hiking into the fog and only seeing 25 feet ahead. The drawback to this is we never spotted any lakes, which were the alleged highlight of the hike. Everyone found their way though the fog, although Mike took a bit longer, since he had the crucial task of uploading Facebook photos along the way. I had to leave before he finished his travelogue, but apparently the other three had a great lunch at a "rock house." I would have asked, but this is the PCT after all.