The section of trail between Acton and Agua Dulce is reputed to be one of the hottest, the start of the long, hot dry hike through the Mojave Desert. But with clouds covering most of the sky, we caught glimpses of the sun only occasionally and stayed cool all morning.
In late morning we reached the Vasquez Rocks, beautiful red sandstone rock formations. Occasional rays of sun poked out from behind the clouds to light up the rocks with a soft golden hue. And as we hiked past, brown wooden signs helped us identify a few more of the desert plants whose names had, thus far, eluded us. As we approached Agua Dulce, a hiker named iPod joined us, and the three of us followed the trail into town together.
Most hikers visit the Saufley's Hiker Heaven when in Agua Dulce. The only place in town to pick up a resupply package, the Saufley's also provide hikers with a place to stay, hot showers, and laundry. One side of their garage is devoted to hiker packages. Stacks of plastic bins hold clean loaner clothes and towels. A large board provides trail information, ride information, and copies of the latest water report. But on reaching the Saufley's we learned what we already suspected: the Saufley's were full. There was no room at the inn.
A kind neighbor offered to let hikers camp in clean, empty paddocks at her family's commercial farm, the Browning Farm. She also provided a shower, electricity, and food on the farm's outbuildings, and invited hikers to collect fresh eggs from the hens, and to pick and eat berries. The farm was full of interesting sights and sounds: a goat in the milking stall, the pounding of the horses kicking against the stable, the clucking of the chickens, the plaintive cries of the two week old "kids" (baby goats). But after we sorted our resupply and stuffed ourselves with Big Mouth Pizza, we ultimately decided to hike on.
With timely redirection from Chris, another friend of the Saufley's, we soon found ourselves in a quiet camp in the hills above Agua Dulce. Although I was very disappointed to miss the opportunity to get to know Donna Saufley, a wonderful person and trail legend, I was grateful to find such a beautiful, quiet camp by the trail. We fell asleep to the gentle sounds of a light breeze rustling our tent and the coyotes, yipping and howling off in the distance.