Day 30: Monday, June 3

Cowboying in the Cottonwood Creek creekbed (534.9), walked 17.3 miles today

Woke up at six because someone was supposed to come to the house at 7 a.m. to shuttle six of us around the fire to Hikertown (mile 517.6). The ride got there at 8:45. It was Linda from Lancaster, and while she was very kind to drive so far out of her way for us hikers and not charge a cent for gas money, we all agreed afterward that her driver's license should probably be ripped out of her hands and flung into the burning hills. Walking through the fire might have been a safer bet than riding with her. We skipped 63 miles of trail ... This genuinely doesn't bother me except for the fact that at least twelve of those miles were still open, but walking them would lead to a dead end at a probably closed road that would be impossible to hitch from. An hour or so after arrival at Hikertown, Julian walked in ... He had been leaving the Saufleys when I got there two days ago and in the meantime had somehow trail- and road-walked almost the entire way north to Hikertown, including walking through smoldering hills and places where the trail had been completely washed out by slides of hot gravel and sand. The plastic locking mechanism on his trekking pole had melted from spending too much time plunged into the hot ground. He seemed pretty happy about having been the last person to walk through the fire area probably for awhile.

Wanted to leave Hikertown and get moving the instant I got there, but it was too hot and bright outside and water is sketchy to non-existent for the 24 miles after there. Prudence ftw over impatience. Took a two-hour nap, read stuff on my space phone, generally lazed about until 4:30. Walked out finally around 5 with Bow and Andy. The 18 miles out of Hikertown are almost completely flat because it's the desert floor, most people do this in the evening or at night and we had decided similarly. It was a fantastic walk before, during and after the dark set in. No headlamps except to occasionally read trail signs. In the last mile we entered a wind farm and a hundred red lights blinked on and off at us at once. It's not actually windy here, but we're probably just lucky because I've read a lot about the wind in this next 200 miles of trail, namely that it drives one insane. Got here about 11:15. At 4 a.m. a guy named Kelso might, key word might, come by and wake us up so we can pace him for the last 22 miles of his 24-hour, 40-mile hiking binge, but he could have been talking out of his ass. Guess I'll know in 4 hours.