Thursday, May 4 — day 39

PCT mile 549.00 to 558.51

We awoke before dawn and while packing were joined by Rex, Tatters, Echo and Corky. They were suitably amazed by the Trail Magic at the PCT mile 549 water cache. We hit the trail and soon I was leading with the thought of cold drinks and BBQ on my mind. After a few more miles of up, we finally ran out of mountain and the trail started going down. We saw houses nearby the top that we presume belonged to the Trail Angels.

Here are some view shots: down to another set of wind farms

in another set of wind farm turbines


The fire that raged through here left a lot of tall stumps


And a view of a ranch in a green valley

I started off hiking behind another I will not name but noted that he/she shuffled their feet while waking, creating a dust cloud for those who followed.  I silently gave them a new trail name: Pigpen (from the Charlie Brown comics).  I decided to speed up and stop eating trail dust.

I hiked the fastest so far this trip and by 9:30 am I had hiked the 9.5 miles down to the road. I sat, ate breakfast, drank water and waited for the others to arrive. After a while Medic showed up. We had a decision to make: we can hitchhike to Tehachapi here, or pick off 8 more very dry miles to another road and hitchhike to Tehachapi from there. It was getting very hot, and we know the temperature will be dropping over the next few days, and well, there’s fresh food and water so close, so we wimped out and decided to head directly to Tehachapi.  As we were about to go, the biggest King Snake I have ever seen glided by slowly, but when I tried to get my camera ready he/she took off into a bush so fast – sorry, no photo.

It did not take long to catch a ride, and we learned that the people of Tehachapi are so nice! Our driver is a local who gave us a crash tour of the city and dropped us off at the Post Office. Medic has packages of snow equipment (heavy boots, crampons, ice axe and snow gaiters) arriving here that he needs to forward to Kennedy Meadows.  We found a very helpful guide for people just like us:


Tehachapi is a spread out town and the Post Office is one one edge of town, so we hitched a ride back to town he center where there are restaurants and hotels. We grabbed a room at one of our he multiple Best Western’s and showered and laundered our clothes. Too bad I don’t have extra shorts or I could have gone for a dip in the pool. 

We headed out to the supermarket and the Big 5 for resupply foods. I’ve been eating a dried oat bar and a Lara or Luna bar for breakfast, plus I have Starbucks Via should I want a coffee. I got tired of instant oatmeal and pop-tarts after a few week.

For lunch., which is not at a scheduled time but is usually snacking all day, I have nuts, beef jerky, a Snickers bar, misc candy, and a Knd bar. Dinner is salami, string cheese, corn nuts and a cookies for dinner. Medic gave me a big bar of Swiss Milk Chocolate so I now have 2 squares as dessert. I sometimes have Good Earth tea.  I know, not the best diet, but so far so good!  Anyways, I pig out when in town.

We returned to the hotel to sort the food. I also tried to challenge my food quantity because it looks and weighs too much to be 4 days of food — I cut a few items but still think I have too much.
The sunset tonight was great, as usual


We visited the Tehachapi evening Farmers Market and bought fresh fruit and sampled the local micro-breweries IPA — very good! Dinner was at the Red House as recommended by one of my blog readers who lives here. The pork ribs and brisket was fantastic!


We slept well last that night!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 3 — day 38 — Part 2 (Wed evening)

PCT mile 537.00 to 549.00

I awoke from a delerious dream that I had spent the day eating, drinking and resting in an air conditioned Wind Turbine field office. I was laying in the blazing sun under a dead Joshua Tree. For some reason my mouth was full of sand and my shoes and pack were nowhere to be seen…  

Just kidding!

It was still very hot at 4:30 when we all packed up, slathered on sunscreen, thanked our hosts profusely and started walking. This afternoon’s journey will not be flat like yesterday and this morning, instead we’ve got some serious climbing to do. We expect to find a stream flowing in 4.5 miles and there may be a small creek 3 miles later. After that, there is no reported water sources for the next 13 miles. Our goal is to see how much of all this we can do tonight.

I set up my sun-brella expecting others to do the same, but I was informed that I’m the only hiker still carrying one… oh well, I’m bucking the trend. The sun-brella is great as long as one is not walking towards the sun because it tilts back. Well, we had a lot of walking into the setting sun on this hike so I was constantly shifting the umbrella around to keep my head shaded – not only to keep cool, but also for sun protection since I am sure I sweated off all the sunscreen I applied in the first half mile.


Up through the Wind Turbine farm and over a few ridge-lets, we arrived at our first, and possibly only remote water source: a creek in a deep canyon. Double prizes: water and shade!


We snacked here a I drank two and a half liters of water! Then Medic and I were off again while the others were still snacking and packing. We are about to climb up 4,000 feet and will be looking for places to camp along the way.


We hiked until the sun had set and then we hiked by the moon (half moon) light until the trail got a bit uneven.  The mountain side in many places was very sandy.  When this happens the trail is often just a set of footprints on the slope in front of you and you may slide downhill an inch or so.  This is both annoying and worrisome during the day but even more hazardous in the dark, so we broke out the headlamps.  

Every now and then on the trail I would see a blueish reflection and learned that at least some spiders have reflective eyes!  It was so cool!

After a few hours we had great views of the lights of Lancaster and Palmdale (although I don’t think this picture captures it well.


We hiked over and down a ridge to the second potential water place and found that it had a slight trickle of water.  We still had plenty of water and felt the need to reduce tomorrow’s hike distance, so we decided we would keep hiking until we feel we need to stop and then start looking for campsites.  We climbed and climbed into the evening.  

As we climbed we could see the headlamps arrive at the ridge summit before the creek and we were wondering who it was when we heard Rex give her T-Rex call across the valley :).  

At 9:30 we checked our maps and apps and found there is a campsite in over 4 miles.  We assumed (Correctly) that was the summit of this ridge, but agreed that If we found a suitable campsite sooner, we’d take it.  

We crested the summit And started tracking to PCT mile 649, where the campsite was located.  At 11 pm it was quite pleasantly warm with a slight intermittent breeze, we found a few small sandy patches right on the trail and started worrying that this campsite may not be ideal.  Then just a few feet away and on on the other side we found a large campsite complete with visitor log, water, snacks, fresh fruit and when chairs.  OMG!  I grabbed a bottle of water, a bag of cookies and a chair and relaxed.  It was awesome because we also had a view of the city lights of Lancaster and the red wind turbine lights.  Here’s a picture Medic took Thursday at dawn when Tatters, Rex and Echo arrived.


From left to righ:  Dale, Echo, Rex and Tatters. And check out that view!

There really was no wind, which is surprising because we are on a mountain top surrounded by Wind Farms, so I cowboy camped again. 

I got an email via my blog from some of the people that maintain the Trail Magic at mile 549, affectionately called the “549 Bar&Grill” and I just want to give them a huge “Thank You!” for your efforts here — it is really appreciated!!!  I did not print your names because you sent me a private email, but you deserve public recognition!

I slept great!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 3 — day 38 — Part 1 of 2 (the first half of Wed)

PCT mile 529.42 to 536.98

The night was calm and warm. Medic and I awoke around 5:15 am and started packing. We greeted Echo as he came sauntering by, and in a minute or so heard him greeting Doc and Zero who unbeknownst to us had camped about 50 yards down the trail.  

The sunrise was glorious!


We passed an abandoned water cache (note the empty jugs) — the PCT Water Report is continually reminding us not to rely on water caches — sometimes the run out and/or are abandoned.


We hiked the few miles to the water source which was a tap into the LA Aqueduct.    The PCT Water Report warns that this source will be dry if the acqueduct is not flowing.  It had water, but looked cloudy and had lots of vegetable matter flowing in it.  I drank all my remaining water and filled up again and Doc and I had Breakfast.  We found Rex and Tatters camping here — they arrived at 2am.

We were discussing the days plans when Tatters pointed out that the PCT crossed land managed by a local Wind Farm Company, Manzana Wind, and if we head over to their main office nearby we could score good, fresh coffee.  Medic and I thought about it for a second and agreed “We’re in!”.


Along the way I captured some of the local flowers: here is creosote 


And more:


While admiring the flowers I came across a Sphinx Moth


These moths are the size of hummingbirds, hover and dart around like hummingbirds, and feed on flower nectar.  They are so cool.  This one was still trying to warm up so I was able to carefully pick him up.

We followed roads, motorcycle trails and some cross-country terrain to get to the building and were warmly greeted.  They offered us coffee, water, Gatorade, shade, wi-fi, air conditioning and even put us in an office.  Rex and Tatters were already here, Echo arrived with Medic and me, and Corky and Doc arrived soon after. 

 

(Rex, Medic, Tatters and Corky)

I was happy too!


The site manager was filling us in on how the wind turbines work, about the site, the company and everything.  We were so grateful for everything we kept thanking them.  He asked how long we might be staying, as it is getting warm outside, then quickly offered to set up cots in the conference room so we could take naps!  It gets better!!!  He then said he’s driving into town to get us all lunch and returns an hour-plus later with 6 pizzas, root beer and ice cream!  

Since the name Hiker Heaven was already taken, we dubbed this Hiker Nirvana!  While scarfing pizza and root beer someone suggested that in reality we actually are all lost in the desert, dehydrated and delirious eating sand and thinking we’re sitting and feasting in an air conditioned office.  Oh, and only one day away from having had a shower we all stink…

Well nap time — we head out at about 4pm to log more 10 miles!

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, May 2 — day 37

PCT mile 517.60 to 529.42

Today I tried to sleep in but the sunlight just would not let me, so I got up, took a shower and packed my pack. Medic arrived yesterday afternoon and we decided that since the temperature will be in the 90’s today, we will leave after 3pm and hike as far as we can into the night. We’ve got a 16 mile journey to the first water across the desert. Well try to do half of it tonight and the other half tomorrow morning.

Doc, Zero and others arrived late yesterday so we crammed about 7 people into an old minivan to get breakfast at the cafe down the road.  While waiting outside for our eggs and such Doc made the rounds giving shoulder massages.  He’s got a good sense of where the tightness is and some powerful fingers to deal with the muscle knots he finds.  Ahhhhh…

We returned to HikerTown to chill and await lunch and our departure time.  I updated blogs, recharged my electronics and napped in the breezy shade. At 10am it did not seem that hot and I entertained the thought of heading out early, but then it suddenly started getting warmer and I could see the wind turbines 15-20 miles away where I am headed spinning quickly- so lots of wind too… soooo, back to napping!

Doc showed us his sunburn treatment:  juice from a can of French-cut Green Beans… Here he is treating Goat’s face, Tatters’ nose and Corky’s forehead.  They reported that it worked!


We crammed 9 people into that same minivan and drove down the road to get a late lunch.  One lunch offering I have never seen before was deep fried avocado slices…


By the time we got back it was 4:00. Medic and I headed out.  

We quickly came to the California Aqueduct, a cement sided river running from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Los Angeles, which we followed for a few miles.


Then we the came upon the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which crosses the California Aqueduct.  The LA Aqeduct is a semi buried steel pipe with the PCT on top.  First here’s looking to where we are going and then where we came from (with Medic)


You know you are truly in the Mojave Desert when you see Joshua Trees


I came across this cool bug – I think it iscalled a “True Bug”


Our shadows grew long as we hiked into the evening.


We came upon a herd of range cows as the sun was setting 


At about 8:45, wit 12 miles logged and with a half-moon lighting out way, we decided to make camp.  We found a nice sandy spot for me to lay out my groundcloth and Medic his tent and we drifted off to sleep interrupted by coyotes yipping and some late night hikers passin us by (Rex, Tatters, Corky, Doc and Zero).

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 1 — day 36

PCT mile 503.05 to 517.60

The pre-dawn bird chirping awoke me as usual and so I started packing.  I slept great last night, due in big part, I am sure, to yesterday’s long uphill workout.

Today I thought should be easy:  15 miles and 4,000 feet downhill to the Mojave Desert.  The PCT had a bit more of a workout planned for me….

Here’s the Mojave Desrt in the morning sun with the reflections not from lakes but from solar panels


The hike started nicely enough, passing through shady forests of Black Oaks carpeted with more Miners Lettuce than I have ever seen


The lichen growing on the trees was also very colorful


I also admired the handiwork of Acorn Woodpeckers on a piece of Oak  bark


I was surprised by how much more “up” these mountains could find for me to hike, but eventually I dropped down to a lower vegetation zone (Upper Sonoran) and finally the desert.


At the base of the mountains I encountered a small shady stream. It was nice and cool sitting in the shade and drinking copious amounts of fresh, cool water.  I just needed to be mindful of the Stinging Nettles.


Even after the trail wound through another four miles of dry desert hills as the morning turned to noontime.  It was hot and there was very little shade.  Luckily I had my sun-brella to help create my traveling shade.

Despite the arid heat, there were still many poppies in ones and twos but also in large bunches


At the lower elevation I also found this interesting but tiny flower


And this one


I finally reached my destination after the noon hour, the home of a local Trail Angel named HikerTown.  


The owner has created a number of small cottages, some of wood, some out of containers, some out of trailers, that he rents out for $10-$20 per night and makes them look like an old west town.  I scored my own trailer for the night


He provides sodas and beer for a small cost and drives up 4 miles to town for meal runs.  I did my laundry and took a much needed shower and then, while sitting in the shade, I updated blogs, chatted with fellow hikers, greeted new arrivals and said happy trails to people heading out.
Sleep came easy!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 30 — day 35

PCT mile 478.23 to 503.05

I got up before sunrise to get a jump on the day. Even so, I was not the first, but the second one to hit the trail. I’m still feeling guilty about my day of sloth.

This town seems to be very movie oriented – the owners and son of Casa de Luna were set designers in Hollywood. They have a lot of celebrity stories. I started hiking to the trailhead with my thumb out and after a bit was picked up by, surprise, someone in the movie business, dressed in a black Newsboy Cap and black cape.

Today’s hike looks to be a 5,000 foot uphill and 3,200 foot downhill hike over a 20 mile distance. Ugh – that means the trail goes up and down a lot in order to get over the ridges.  This is going to be a tough day…

The trail took me by an old mine… not sure what was being mined…


I’m back in the desert — here’s my view.

And I saw more great flowers 


Water is starting to be an issue so sometimes I need to be creative in how I gather water. At one spot there was a 15 foot diameter cylindrical water tank that feeds a pipe in a small cement container below. The upper container was nearly empty but the water level was 10 feet down from the small opening on top. The lower container only had a 3 inch pipe exposed, but it was filled with clear water. In the lower container was. 1/2 gallon jug an a the re foot length of tubing. I realized this was a logic problem and figured out I needed to siphon water from the pipe into the jug. I was able to collect 3/4 of a liter!


The other water sources refs in thee mountains are called guzzlers – structures resembling tin roofs that capture rain water and transfer it to a holding tank. To access the water you simply crawl under the tin roof, remove the tank lid and scoop out water. I have never seen this before.

I got a view of my next challenge — crossing the Mojave desert…

And I completed another milestone — 500 miles. So hard to believe!

I ended up hiking 25 miles today, a new personal best!

I SS looking for a campsite near Red Rock Tank, crawling through Manzanita bushes and finding small sandy spots that were not level or were full of anthills when I heard a voice call out to me.  It was hikers Doc and Zero, two guys my age setting up in a spot big enough for all of us.  I set up my tent and ate a small dinner wth them until I got too cold and had to climb in my sleeping bag.  I liked chatting with these guys and we agreed that we would chat more at our next destination: HikerTown, a Trail Angels home at the base of a he mountain and the start of the great Mojave desert passage.

I slept great!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 29 — day 34

PCT mile 471.42 to 478.23

Today I had originally planned to log another 20 miles and get a jump on the last uphill these mountains have to offer.

I was persuaded by the lure of Casa De Luna, however… It is the celebrated Hippy PCT overnight stop where they feed you all you can eat pancakes and coffee for breakfast and taco salad for dinner.  

A largish (8) group of hikers left Hiker Heaven just before me and camped near me last night. This morning as some of them passed me they were all talking about how cool Casa De Luna is… And it is still early enough to get breakfast today, if we can hitch a ride.  

So, in the interest of getting the complete PCT experience, and since the snow in the Sierras is still not melting away, I decided to visit Casa de Luna.

I did get coffee and pancakes! The laziness hit me immediately after I donned my Hawaiian shirt. We walked to the market to get Chocolate Shakes.  
The shake was awesome! The rest of the day was spent sitting in the driveway on sofas and chairs with about 20 other PCTers, just chatting. Dinner was served outdoors so I only had to shuffle about 25 feet to get dinner. Each serving. It was simple, plain food, but I ate two and a half plates.

That pretty much was the whole day. At dusk we all sauntered off to our campsites.

We all slept in the huge backyard along a winding path thorough the Manzanita decorated with painted rocks. Every now and again there is a little alcove that fits a tent. 

I felt guilty for logging only six miles today, but I can say I have had a full experience.

Sorry for the short blog…

Thanks for reading!