DAY 40: TEHACHAPI/HIGHWAY 58 (566.4) TO GOLDEN OAKS SPRING (583.3)
16.9 miles (night hiked)
Slow morning in town waiting for heat to go away. Had lunch at the Shed- a great Southern comfort food joint, probably the best meal I’ve had on trail so far. Caught a ride to trail from trail angel Kirk, hope to see him later on the JMT. He gave us a ride to Highway 58, we started hiking around 7 pm at the place Cheryl Strayed of PCT fame started. (I think). Still surprisingly hot late in the evening but not unbearably so.
Beautiful Joshua trees coming up out of canyon in the dusk. The headlights from the highway looked really cool as they slowly got smaller. A long uphill, but feeling well rested from our double zero so moved quick. At the top of the hill, met up with Joe for a snack break but there were ants everywhere, and they were biting, so I pushed on. Him and Sara ended up staying there the night but I wouldn’t figure that out until later.
Saw lots more little scorpions and a palm-sized spider crossing the path in my headlamp beam. Zoned out a bit, long part of tonight was along a rocky dirt road and no scenery to look at while night hiking. I'm ahead of Joe and Sara, so it's my first night camping alone at Golden Oak spring, a rather unimpressive spring and trough. Not the best place to camp but gotta stay close to water. A little jumpy about being alone but its 2am and I'm just mostly just tired. It's a dry, hot section and there's still a heat advisory so probably will hike a bit early tomorrow morning then find a place to sleep in shade if possible.
DAY 41: GOLDEN OAK SPRING (583.3) TO ROBIN BIRD SPRING (602.1)
Didn't sleep much last night, night hikers were coming through and getting water all night. There were a couple people I don’t know scattered around nearby in sleeping bags when I woke up around 6. Was planning to stay and wait for Joe and Sara but bugs were bad so left at 7 and hiked to a shady campsite 10 miles away around mile 593. Not the best idea…since there was no water source at the campsite I couldn’t drink any of my packed water because had to save it for hiking. Not my smartest move.
Definitely the hottest day so far, miserable even just to lie in the shade. My sunscreen bottle got all warped from being left in half sun and I kept having to move everything to follow the shade as the day progressed. Met up with James (Brother) and Marissa (Bearfoot) also waiting out the heat nearby. As the sun started to set, we hiked 9 miles through a pine and oak stand to get to Robin Bird spring in the evening.
It was about 10pm by the time we arrived and the water tasted amazing after all day of rationing. Lots of hikers already sleeping around the spring so we tried to be quiet as we could while making dinner. I intended to keep going but the lack of sleep and water got to me today and I opted to stay there for the night. James and Marissa hiked on, I set up next to trail and am about to crash, still no sign of Joe and Sara.
Day 42: ROBIN BIRD SPRING (602.1) TO DOVE SPRING CANYON ROAD (621.9)
Joe and Sara came in around 11:30 last night so we’re reunited! Mosquitos were terrible in the morning, had to hide out in my sleeping bag until I was ready to be awake. We left the spring and did an easy 7 miles through pine woods to get to Landers campground. Really beautiful trees, not too hot due to the shade, lots of water crossing landers creek and I had a much better time than yesterday.
Met up with Marissa and James at Landers and hung out in the shade all afternoon. Lots of weekend campers, kind of creepy vibe from three dirt bikers who offered margaritas if we came to their camp. Didn't take them up on it. Lots of sleep to make up for the past couple night hikes and I ate tons and tons of food. Still hungry.
Finally got our butts into gear around 6:30pm even though it wasn't too hot this afternoon. Hiked up and out through more pine, had a beautiful sunset. Trail cut through rolling hills, lots of Joshua trees and chaparral, not much shade. We had to carry 6 litres (the most I’ve carried so far) because this stretch has nothing coming up reliably for 42 miles. We’re kind of depending on two upcoming caches which is sketchy but I’m never going to make it that far with my capacity being so small. If the caches weren’t stocked I’d have learned that lesson the hard way but thankfully, the first was fully stocked.
We arrived around 9pm, drank as much as I could, refilled and hiked 6 more miles with Marissa to take advantage of the cool night, could still feel the heat of day coming up from the ground when it was pitch black. Everyone else stayed behind at the cache. Best view of stars so far with no light pollution, could see dark outlines of mountains and Joshua trees, no headlamp needed.
Feeling pretty good after the rest at Landers. Marissa and I stopped at Dove Spring Canyon road and set up in a little patch of sand surrounded by chaparral. Hopefully the other will catch up tomorrow morning, there’s no water here so we can’t stay long to wait for them.
DAY 43: DOVE SPRING CANYON ROAD (621.9) TO MCIVERS CABIN (643.8)
Woke to fucking red ants everywhere so packed up ASAP. Got bit on the toe and it stung all day.
After I was packed, ate breakfast and lounged under a Joshua tree waiting for Joe, Sara and James. Enjoyed the downtime while listening to chill music. When they showed up around 9 we all left together.
Hot all morning, plus the uphill and the soft sand was hard to walk on, a trifecta of desert misery. Since this is such a dry section we unfortunately can’t wait out the heat all day, and I was still unsure about next cache so didn't want to drink as much as I should've been. Had to get shade under Joshua trees every chance I could and on the last big push uphill I waited with Joe and Sara under a particularly large tree for a long lunch break.
Clouds started rolling in out of nowhere so we finished the climb in shade. Then came thunder and lightning, it started raining and also hailing. What the hell desert? Ran downhill to the thankfully full water cache at Bird Spring Pass, tons of water and a solar charger. Just like that the storm went away, sun came out and it got hot again. Odd weather.
Had dinner at the cache, listened to Brother play guitar and Joe drumming on empty water container. I should've enjoyed it but I was irritated with everything and everyone after the hot day and in general just grumpy. Around 6 I started the long climb out of the valley alone and although it was four miles of uphill switchbacks, I felt way better after I got going. It cooled off enough to be manageable, there were beautiful views, the climb wasn't too graded and I actually had fun, which I can’t really say about any of our other big uphills so far.
Reached the top just as the sun disappeared and there were a few nice campsites but I felt good and decided to keep going to the spring at McIver’s cabin since it was mostly downhill and it’s always nice to not dry-camp. Crushed miles and hiked until 1am listening to music and singing to myself in order to not get freaked out about night hiking alone. It doesn't scare me if I don't get inside my own head, although I find my imagination goes into overdrive in the dark without anything to distract me. Excellent views of stars again tonight with no light pollution.
The exhaustion caught up to me and the last couple miles felt long and tiring, especially since the cabin and spring are a good half mile off trail. Seemed like every time I would check gut hooks expecting to have gone at least a mile, it would only be 0.10 miles since the last time I checked. Finally arrived at the cabin in the dark, it looked rundown and creepy in my headlamp light. Lots of tents around, but I found a semi secluded spot and set up as quietly as I could in the dark, will be crashing right away. Definitely not eating enough during night hikes. Walker pass tomorrow, option to go to town, although I think I have enough food to push past.
DAY 44: MCIVER’S (643.8) TO WALKER PASS/LAKE ISABELLA (652.1)
Woke up around 6:30, definitely not enough sleep since I went to bed around 1, but wanted to get to Walker Pass early. Not sure where Joe and Sara are but I imagine they’ll get here later today. Packed up and did an easy downhill through lots of shady trees (thank god) and hills to get to Walker Pass, it only took a couple hours. There was an awesome cache set up in the campground, with a hiker box, chairs, water and donuts! A little stale but still delicious. Lounged there to wait for Joe and Sara, there was a trashy WWII thriller in the hiker box so read that for a few hours. Talked to a hiker from Brazil, and he mentioned that Lake Isabella had a Taco Bell and Subway, so that ruined my plan to keep hiking on. Joe showed up around 11, and he was also down to go to town so we decided to hitch to Lake Isabella.
Took a while to get a ride, hot af on the road. Everyone was going on wrong direction away from the lake as it was Sunday. Finally got picked up in a nice BMW I had guaranteed wouldn't stop for us. The driver just rents nice cars and goes on 3 day road trips across the desert so that made for some interesting conversation. He drove us to Lake Isabella and the three of us had Subway. Checked in with family at home, hung out at Subway charging our stuff until Sara showed up. The Subway served beer and the owner was very friendly and gave me extra cheese slices, heck yeah America.
Resupplied at the local grocery store and went to the slightly sketchy cash-only Kern motel. AC stopped working, one bed, not a great place but we had fun. Lake Isabella is kind of a crappy town but we’ll be gone tomorrow. Not worth the detour in my opinion but who am I to turn my nose up at a chance to eat pizza and have a beer in town.
DAY 45: LAKE ISABELLA/WALKER PASS (652.1) TO CAMPSITE (665.2)
Slept until 10am after a late night. Packed up and went to Burger King for “breakfast". Intended to catch the 5pm bus back to trail, Chad texted from Kennedy Meadows that Kristen had left two packages at the Lake Isabella motel so we went and picked them up for her. At the motel, a trail angel offered to give us a ride to Walker Pass so we changed plans and went back to trail at noon. Hung out under the tarp there for a few hours waiting out heat. Really windy. Of Mice and Men was in the hiker box so I read that while waiting.
Hot ranger intern came by in a truck to ask about trail conditions etc. 10/10, definitely would've banged but also stole his job. Also met an elderly couple driving to Kennedy Meadows to start a section hike, super tempted when they offered a ride and skip the last 50 miles of desert but held strong.
Finally left around 4, low motivation as always when leaving town late in the day. Went straight uphill into Owens Peak wilderness. So much wind but that helped counter the heat. Climbed to 7000 ft and the views were great, especially around sunset.
We had all three planned to meet at a spring, but Joe has no regard for sticking to the plan, he wasn’t there when Sara and I arrived. The camping wasn’t great so we went another mile and found a spot that was very flat but exposed to wind, had to pile rocks on all our gear to keep it from blowing away.
We’re 35 miles from KM, so tomorrow will be the last full day of Southern California/the desert! Nervous for the Sierras and snow but hopefully we can hike with a big group- I think almost everyone we’ve spent time hiking with should be just ahead of us at Kennedy Meadows, but we’ll see when we get there
DAY 46: (665.2) TO (687.2)
22 miles. Last day of SoCal!
Woke up with Sara and hit the trail to try and catch Joe. Ups and down climbing today, good practice for next 400 miles. As Sara predicted last night, we found Joe sleeping just off trail about halfway up our second climb.
Was pretty tired and sore through the late morning, stopped under a pine tree and stayed a long time to eat and nap which helped a lot with energy levels, I’ve never slept so much in my life and I still can’t get enough. Last climb was the longest but had a gentler incline and it really cooled off as the sun went down. We stopped at the very top and made camp. Probably could’ve pushed on to KM, but it’s out last night in SoCal and the views were beautiful so we stayed there for early sunset dinner.
Tomorrow, Kennedy Meadows and on to the Sierras!
DAY 47: CAMP (687.2) TO SHERMAN PASS ROAD/KENNEDY MEADOWS (702.2)
Cold and windy night, didn't sleep very well. Stars looked fantastic every time I woke up though.
Got going at 5:45, no breakfast, just headed out while Joe and Sara were still waking up. A long downhill to begin, feeling good but impatient to get to KM and couldn’t really enjoy the hiking. Good sunrise views. At bottom of the descent, started feeling the effects of no food or water but pushed on stubbornly, 700 miles in and I’ve still learned nothing. There was a stream somewhere just off trail but it was tricky to find and I didn’t want to waste any time.
Came across the Kern River, the first proper sized river I’ve seen in a long, long time...it was almost shocking to see so much moving water and I sat on the bank with my feet in the water for a while just enjoying the feel of leaving the desert behind. The rock and mountain and sand turned into meadows, which I should’ve been enjoying, but again, impatient. Seemed like forever to get to the Sherman Pass Rd, but finally hit it at about 10:30 and had a mile road walk along hot pavement.
Everyone on the porch at Kennedy Meadows claps for you as you come in, which I excepted to be cheesy but actually felt amazing and I’m really proud of myself, this place feels like a big milestone. And it’s a reunion…everyone is here, old and new. Saw Chad, Aaron, Ramsay, Festus, Francis, Tony, T-Bone, Charlie, Smooches, Eric, Cy, Tank, Lukas, the Canadian girls etc etc etc. Everywhere I turned was someone new to chat and catch up with. Conversations revolve around the Sierras ahead of us, with this being a high snow year the most common theme being discussed is gear. “Spikes or crampons? are you bringing an ice axe? What’s a whippet?”
Kennedy Meadows is an interesting spot, consists of a store with a porch for hikers to hang out on and a large area out back for camping. Spent afternoon drinking beer with old trail fam and the Canadian girls, Joe and Sara rolled in after lunch. Went down to the river with a big group, hung out in the water with group of girls which is nice change for once-Shade baby, Bloody smooches, tank, the Canadian girls, Sara.
Back to KM for more drinking, hung out with Lukas, Eric, Cy and Tank (and Tank’s husband? not sure. Q?) Nice to be done with the desert but I’m surprised by how much I loved it.
DAY 48: ZERO IN KENNEDY MEADOWS
Good long sleep with a relaxing wake up knowing I had all day to rest. Went to Grumpy Bear’s with the Festus, Francis, Tony and Chad for breakfast and to catch up on the past couple weeks. Had a massive, massive pancake I couldn't finish. There seems to be lots of tension between the store owners/Grumpy Bear owners/local angels. Hoping to get out of here tomorrow with Sara.
Went to outfitters run by Yogi -made the switch to more convenient but less comfy Z-Lite foam pad since my inflatable seems to have a leak and I don’t feel like dealing with the repair on trail, I’ll mail it home. Hung out with Chad for a bit at the cafe and then went back to KM to handle resupply. I have so much food here as well as my extra Sierra’s gear-bear canister, warm clothes. I’m not exactly sure what I need and then there’s the matter of how best to fit everything into my pack.