Day 35: Tehachapi (566.5) to Golden Oaks Spring (583.3)
May 14 // 16.8 miles
Slept in and lazed about the hotel room until check out at 11. Honeybee and Eli took off to the post office and Franky and I caught an easy hitch back to trail, just started walking up the road and a truck immediately pulled over to offer us a ride. Tehachapi is just A+. The section through the rest of the wind farm is pretty flat and unremarkable but it felt good to be back on trail.
Started along beside the highway at about noon, very warm but a strong breeze kept things bearable. There was a big 2000ft climb out of the valley (as usual) but I was feeling very well rested from the zero day and it was easy hiking today.
Great ridge views in every direction, it’s been really enjoyable hiking the sections that were done at night last year, feels like new trail.
Had lunch at the top of the climb while the others caught up, I’ve packed out mostly perishable food-cheese, avocado, meat and mayo. Much heavier but well worth it to actually enjoy lunch, and it isn’t a long section to Walker Pass where we get off for Vegas.
Views across ridgeline after ridgeline all afternoon, at the higher elevation got some pine trees mixed in with the desert scrub for some much appreciated shade. Perfect hiking weather, one of my favourite afternoons so far.
Ended the day with an easy downhill through pine forest to get to camp at Golden Oak spring, there’s not too much room here so we’re all cowboy camped in a line, still spread out quite a bit-not comfortable enough with each other to sardine elbow to elbow just yet.
A bigger day tomorrow to keep to the Vegas plan, should be a tough one, lots of small up and downs. It’s only 7:30 but I’m about to be down and out.
Day 36: Golden Oaks Spring (583.3) to Lander’s Meadow Camp (608.8)
May 15 // 25.6 miles
Long sleep, I don’t think I woke up once. Up pretty late in our cowboy camping line, minus Ed who had the willpower to wake up and leave early, the rest of us were slow moving. I was last out of camp which seems to have become the norm.
Felt like all day was an uphill, physically tired and legs were stiff all morning. This section doesn’t have much water so all hikers kind of get grouped together trying to camp at the few water sources. There was a lot of leapfrogging with others this morning. Heat on top of all of that had me in an iffy mood, broke out the headphones after a few weeks of going without music which helped immensely. Passed 600 miles.
I didn’t catch up to the group for lunch but had to stop early for a wrap, I need to start packing more food because I’m always hungry.
Caught up to everyone at the next water, Robin Bird spring, had a second lunch and cooled off in the shade. At least ten other hikers I don’t know were also there. After the spring it was six miles through pine forest to get to the large car campground at Landers meadow.
Since there were so many other people around, the tent went up again, I think I’ve used it more so far this trip than all of last year. Getting easier the more I play around with the pole angles and stake heights.
Ramen bomb for dinner (ramen mixed with a pack of instant mashed potatoes, a carb-loaded hiker favourite) and in bed early again, today’s constant up and down wiped me out.
Day 37: Landers Campground (608.8) to Ridge Campsite (635.3)
May 16 // 26.5 miles
Such a sleep in again, didn’t leave camp until 8. I can easily sleep ten hours every single night if given the chance, and I never sleep half as well at home as I do on trail. Last of many people out of camp, took a long slow breakfast to give myself some space before starting the constant leap frogging.
Mad views this morning looking down into the cloud covered valley. The flowers especially were incredible today, entire hillsides would be covered in a bright splash of purple or yellow. Apparently last year was the super bloom but I’ve never seen it like today, could not stop taking photos.
We’re in the true desert now, this whole stretch is completely waterless which means we basically rely on water caches left by trail angels (sketchy) and thankfully there were two that were fully stocked today. Drank what I could while we were there and carried my max capacity (four litres) for the first time. Crazy how much of a weight difference water makes, each litre is two pounds. Slower hikers have to carry even more, I met a guy today carrying twelve litres, can’t even imagine how heavy that must be.
The next cache was crowded with people so I grabbed water quick and kept moving. One of the hottest days so far and a couple long uphills with absolutely no shade other than a few sparse Joshua trees. The trail was also soft and sandy which makes every step a little more effort than on hard packed dirt.
Had lunch under a Joshua tree for shade and then tackled the last push up and over the mountain, thankfully the wind picked up a little to counterbalance the heat and for once I’ve been drinking enough water.
Got to the next water cache at Bird Spring pass, there was also trail magic (chips! Beer!) and the crew was stopped there for dinner. We had planned to camp there before a long 2000ft climb out of the canyon by we all opted to knock it out after dinner in the cooler weather for a shorter downhill day into town tomorrow.
Felt good after the short break and dinner, climbed up during the sunset, temps dropped quickly near the top and it was cold and windy. Got to the first campsite available and set up the tents right away, tonight may be just above freezing, if that.
Hitting Ridgecrest tomorrow and then the weekend in Vegas! Definitely need to up the food levels when we get back to trail, I had two dinners tonight and still hungry but unfortunately I’m out of food until tomorrow.
Day 38: Ridge campsite (635.3) to Walker Pass (651.3)
May 17 // 16 miles
Another sleep in since today is TOWN DAY and it was so cold last night/this morning, I have no willpower to get out of my bag when it’s cold.
All downhill today so just put on a chill playlist and zoned out for some easy hiking. As soon as the sun was fully up it got hot again, crazy temperature variation between day and night out here.
Followed a dirt road for a few miles and the heat was really getting to me, felt hazy and out of it. Caught up to the crew perched on top of a large rock that overlooked the trail, sat for an hour trying to focus. Not sure what’s going on with the headspace today, the whole late morning/early afternoon is a blur.
We got to Walker pass around noon and tried to catch a hitch to Ridgecrest, there was hardly any traffic and it took almost two hours to get a ride. Hot as hell on the side of the highway and I think maybe the haziness was due to a bit of heat exhaustion/sun exposure.
Finally got a ride from a young German woman, she initially was only going to take two of us but we managed to convince her (or rather, our money convinced her) to let us all pile in for a very sweaty, squishy ride to Ridgecrest. She conveniently dropped us very close to a Mexican restaurant, after my day of rationing food I ate so much way too fast. The huge pints of corona we got with dinner did nothing to help my zoned-out state and as soon as we were in our cheap econolodge room I was facedown on the bed, slept for four hours.
The crew woke me up for a trip to Denny’s, rallied enough to order a large breakfast-for-dinner and finished it all. Back to sleep immediately at the hotel, very strange day. Almost felt like I was dreaming the whole time.
Day 38 & 39: VEGAS WEEKEND
May 18 & 19
Friday: Slept all night last night which meant I slept about 16 hours total, feel back to my normal self again this morning.
Left Ridgecrest about 8:30 in a rental car for long drive through the desert, lots of traffic. Las Vegas itself was a shiny mass of building rising out of the desert in literally the middle of nowhere, hit the Walmart for a stylin town outfit (total cost: $19 with shoes and bag). Checked in at the hotel, we’re staying at Treasure Island, and had to book it downtown right away to catch the Jets game. Unfortunately didn’t get the W but it was an awesome experience all the same. Dinner with a good friend from home and then spent a little too much at the roulette table before calling it a night.
Saturday: Amazing sleep in the hotel bed, amazing food at about six different restaurants, less amazing results at the blackjack table in our hotel casino. I’m enjoying this town and this town is enjoying my money...need to get back to the wilderness where there are no ATMs.
Slept a good chunk of the day in the hotel room, partying is great but nothing tops sleeping. Back to trail tomorrow.
Day 41: Walker Pass (651.3) to Campsite (656.1)
May 20 // 4.8 miles
More sleeping this morning...I feel like I haven’t really gotten my money’s worth in Vegas seeing as how I’ve slept about 18 of the past 24 hours. Itching to get back to trail though, too much exposure to too many people over the past two days, there’s a huge music festival on and I don’t think I’ve seen so many people in my life. After a month of seeing maybe ten people a day it’s been crazy overwhelming. Even our quiet hotel room seems like too much when the TV is on and we’re all here.
I think everyone else was feeling the same, we were all checked out and ready to go by 10am. The drive back felt longer, as it always does on road trips, but finally we sorted out resupply and returned the car and got a hitch back to Walker pass from a trail angel around 4pm.
Did a quick four miles to get the majority of the climb out of Walker pass done, camped about halfway up. Feeling well rested and energized after a break and it’s good to be back on trail.
(Happy birthday to meeeee)
Day 42: Campsite (656.1) to Chimney Creek Campground (681.1)
May 21 // 25 miles
And for something completely different, slept way past the alarm and out of camp at about 8 to finish the rest of yesterday’s uphill. The terrain is noticeably different, there are now lots of sharp prominent ridges as we get closer to the mountains. Great views all morning and saw no one, for once I was actually first out of camp and managed to keep ahead of my faster friends.
Had lunch at the one water source on trail today, I’m continuing my practice of packing out fresh food and I think it really has benefits on energy levels compared to the sugar spikes from Nutella wraps and snickers. The only unfortunate downside is how much heavier my food bag weighs.
A second climb after lunch, much steeper than this morning, and noticed some dark clouds starting to roll in as I neared the top. Sure enough the rain started falling right as I finished the climb, really cold with the wind, some ice mixed in with the rain. Still had a long and exposed ridge walk ahead of me so put on the rain coat and found a large pine tree to take shelter under, managed to stay relatively dry.
Too cold to stay still under my tree so hit the trail as soon as the rain let up a little bit, and thankfully it stopped completely within about ten minutes. The rest of the day turned out to be great, it was all downhill and the sun came out enough to warm me up and dry the pack (mostly).
Honeybee, Eli and I had a massive car campground to ourselves, we seem to be in between hiker bubbles, only saw one other couple this morning. Made a fire with dinner and now I have enough food to keep going another three days, oops.
Called it an early night, feeling very stiff after all the steep climbing today, or my legs are just getting used to hiking again after three days off.
21 miles to Kennedy Meadows and the end of SoCal, a little bittersweet for me. The desert is the fun party section where trail seems to stretch on ahead forever, after this the miles seem to slip by faster and faster. On the bright side the Sierras are just around the corner and despite the fact that it’s still snowing up there (!) I can’t wait to get going.
Day 43: Chimney Creek Campground (681.1) to Kennedy Meadows (702.2)
May 22 // 21.1 miles
Woke up at quarter after five and since it wasn’t too cold I figured I would get up and have an early start on Kennedy Meadows. After going to the bathroom I crawled back into my sleeping bag for just a minute to warm up... shut my eyes for just a second and that was game over. Woke up at 7:30 to the sounds of Honeybee and Eli packing up. I tried.
As I was just about to leave, I noticed our campfire was still smoking, and some of the coals had relit. I very grudgingly made two trips back and forth to the stream (only about 0.2 miles away but any extra walking is not tolerated) to put it out. As a result didn’t get back on trail until about 9, my latest start so far.
Started with a long seven mile uphill but I felt great today-the result of eating a large, high protein breakfast (double tuna wrap with avocado, cheese and mayo-perishable foods for the win) and absolutely crushed it, seven miles in just over two hours, definitely an uphill record for me.
After that it was all downhill to Kennedy Meadows and I was really feeling the pull of town. Caught up with my friends and a group we knew taking a break at Manter Creek but I couldn’t sit still and blew through the last eight miles alone.
Still technically in the desert- the “meadows” part of Kennedy Meadows is mostly sage and scrub, but came up on the Kern River, I almost forgot what a proper river looks like. Very excited to go back to not having to carry or filter water in the high Sierras, not to mention they’re my favourite place in the whole world.
Hit Sherman pass road at 2:30pm (that’s a for sure speed record, gotta humble brag) and finished the last mile of road walk to the general store. Recognized a few people hanging out on the porch that have caught up to us during the Vegas trip.
Straight to the canteen on the porch for a double cheeseburger and a beer and waited for everyone else to arrive. Not much to actually do at Kennedy meadows other than eat and drink, so I did a lot of both.
There’s some questionable weather ahead, despite being easily passable the last couple weeks, the next section has been getting slammed with snow storms. Hikers just ahead of us are bailing out after struggling through the wintery conditions day in and day out. I’m torn about what to do-on the one hand, weather reports are usually overhyped and there’s a lot of fear mongering about how bad things are up ahead and then it always ends up being fine. On the other hand, the reason I loved the Sierras so much last year was because I was able to swim every day and take on trail nero’s enjoying the sun. If it’s miserable and cold I’m worried it’s going to make me hate the most anticipated part of the PCT. No reason not to hang around a few days and wait for the weather to clear, but I have a feeling my competitive side might not sit too well with that, especially after the time off in Las Vegas. Game time decision as usual.
Day 44: Zero in Kennedy Meadows
Slept 12 hours easy last night without the pressure of having to wake up and hike. Lots of people rolling in this morning, a lot of familiar faces are piling up here.
Had a pancake breakfast and then one more since it was only $5 for a serious amount of food. Did laundry and showered-one of the better showers so far on trail, something about the outdoor showers in the sun are just more enjoyable even though the hair in the drain kind of reminded me of a dead rat.
Caught an afternoon shuttle to the cafe down the road to take advantage of wifi that actually works and did resupply at the one outfitter in the town, being in the Sierra means it’s time to carry the bear canister to keep all my food in. It’s going to be incredibly annoying trying to fit it into my 40L pack.
Still unsure about what to do tomorrow, I’d like to hike out but almost everyone I know wants to stay for another zero.