Day 28: Saturday, June 1

On a cot in the Saufleys' backyard (PCT mi 454.5), walked 10.3 miles today

Was up and out of the campground by 6:15 this morning. Knew the high was supposed to be 99 and the 10 miles to Agua Dulce were supposed to be totally shadeless (both were true), so there would be no faffing around and walking in the midday hours today. Got to town around 10:15, walked the last bit with a guy named Safari who used to work the graveyard shift at the IHOP at Gateway Mall in Springfield. He had some good stories, like the brawl between the dysfunctional Samoan family and the lone drug-addled old guy at 2 am. Got to the Saufleys' house after a pit stop for cold drinks and fruit at the grocery.

The Saufleys ... holy shit. This is Ziggy & Bear's house on a x5 scale, and with a few more years' experience behind it. Cot and tent (huge car-camping tent, not backpacker tent) space for 50 in the backyard, Donna Saufley does everyone's laundry, tons of loaner clothes, six loaner laptops, fire ring, an entire trailer with kitchen, about 6 friendly dogs, loaner bicycles to get into town, a grill, incoming and outgoing mail of every variety, loaner guitars, a scale (I've lost 10lb), lawn chairs everywhere, shade miraculously everywhere, all without even he suggestion of a donation. No idea what would motivate someone to do all this.

Hung out for the afternoon with the crew, which now numbers about 25 ... turns out hikers like to stay awhile at places like this. All kinds of stuff was going on - cards, music both live and recorded, an Argentinian lady named 789 producing endless quantities of delicious food from the kitchen, at least 5 haircuts, a hefty amount of bullshitting, breeze-shooting, hooting and hollering. I got a ride in to the grocery store in the middle of the afternoon but didn't get anything important, just some Oreos, a watermelon, a canteloupe and a slab of beer to share with everyone.

Hovering in the background was the fact that the trail is on fire about 50 miles north of here and the detour options all sounded inconvenient--either at least 30 miles of road-walking, or having to take car rides bypassing up to 60 miles of trail. We could see smoke, fire planes and massive steam clouds from the house all afternoon, and when I rode a bike back in from town after dark, the northwestern horizon was glowing orange. At about 10pm the Andersons, the trail angels 24 trail-miles north of here in Green Valley, called to say that the fire had escalated in the last few hours and had overtaken the road and the aqueduct that had previously comprised the re-routing options. Donna Saufley put them on speaker phone and had everyone gather round in the dark to listen ... pretty wild. The only real option left is unfortunately to take car rides around the 60 affected miles of trail; I really didn't want to resort to that because I wanted to connect my footsteps from Mexico to Canada, but that's clearly not going to happen now, and moreover I'm sure there will be more fires and more ride-arounds later this summer. Taking a zero day tomorrow here to give my packages, from Kristin (food) and the Bearikade people (bear canister), time to get to Kennedy Meadows (mile 700, start of the Sierra) on my new accelerated timetable. Before I left for the trail, June 15 was an almost fancifully optimistic date for Kennedy Meadows; now it will probably be something like June 12. At the end of the day, it's hard to really complain about getting to the Sierra sooner than expected.