I’m awakened by Michael Jackson’s tiger growling. The animals from his menagerie are retiring at a complex not far from the KOA. I wonder about their post-celebrity life as I stuff my sleeping bag in its sack and fold up my sleeping pad. There are a number of other hikers – Driver, Waterbug, $inyk, and Seahawk who camped in the soft green grass with me. We have an easy morning together, drinking coffee and eating snacks.
Today I’m headed for the Saufley’s, aka Hiker Haven. They are a well-known trail angel couple who invite hikers to take a couple of zero’s in their yard. It’s another blistering hot day and $inyk, Waterbug and I are making our way up the hills towards Vasquez Rocks. At one point, we find a small cave to hide from the sun.
We cool down a bit and resume some good, but sweaty, hiking. Before long we are in the labyrinth of the Vasquez Rocks where a notorious California bandit hid from the law in the 1800s.
It’s also the location of scenes from Star Trek and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and episodes of Bonanza.
We make our way through the maze and then on to some rural streets. Pretty soon there is evidence of “normal” life and then cheers and clapping from a cafe. It’s Tour Guide and friends. They’re having lunch at the Sweet Water Cafe and call us over. Hamburgers, icy-cold beverages, and salad! We join them and feast. I drink lemonade, coke and a beer. I can’t get enough liquid.
We’re only a couple miles from Hiker Heaven and get picked up by a nice woman in a minivan almost immediately. Once inside the gates, Donna Saufley, den mom extraordinaire, greets us and shows us around. She and Jeff, her husband, have turned their home in to the ultimate, organized thru hiker haven. There are bins of loaner clothing to don while a Hiker Haven volunteer does your laundry for you. The garage has been transformed into an ops center and post office. There is a shaded computer area and an air conditioned trailer cottage with bedrooms, a shower, kitchen and living room. In the yard are shade tents with cots, hay bales around a fire ring, and happy hikers hanging out everywhere.
At least once a day, a driver/tour guide named iPod packs people in a van and drives a route between the grocery store, REI, In-N-Out Burger and walk in clinic.
I’m told that today iPod is running a special trip to Malibu. This sounds dreamy. 14 of us pack in the van. Two hours later I’m swimming in the ocean at sunset.