Agua Dulce to Tehachapi

Day 28: Agua Dulce (454.4) to Casa de Luna (478.2) 

May 7 // 23.8 miles 

Up at 6 after a fantastic sleep to catch the shuttle out at 7am. A lot of hikers including Honeybee and Eli had left earlier, but the shuttle was still packed with people, gonna have to put on the speed to avoid the crowd.

A two mile road walk through the rest of Agua Dulce, already hot early in the day. The town seems to consist of mostly ranches. Back on trail, an uphill to start but it was gradual and I passed quite a few people to get to the top. Stopped very briefly for water from a spring that was swarmed with bees, hundreds were flying and crawling around the water flow. I was a little nervous about getting stung but moved really slow and steady and they seemed fine with it. A few were crawling around on my arms and legs but I think they probably just wanted to eat some of the salt from all the sweat. Go bees!

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A short downhill and then a second climb which wasn’t as big as the first but it was hot as heck and I was annoyed with how much leap frogging I was doing with other hikers, there were dozens of us within a few miles this morning. Gunned it up to the top and made myself sit down and eat, which helped with the bad mood.

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Despite the heat and not bringing enough water (as usual), had a good afternoon, the trail was very exposed to the sun and I was sweating buckets, but at least it was mostly downhill, and the crowd thinned out after lunch.

Stopped in a beautiful shady little grove of manzanitas for lunch with Franky and Bagels, all the cheese I packed out for my lunch wraps was oily and soft from the heat. Gross.

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Followed just behind Franky to the highway, we crushed today, 24 miles in less than 7 hours. There was a van waiting at the highway to shuttle hikers the three miles to Casa de Luna (win) and the driver made a stop at the local gas station so I could buy two Gatorade’s and knock them back in one go. The first was probably the best drink I’ve ever had after doing the last hot five miles without water.

Casa de Luna...another trail angel house run by Terry Anderson and nicknamed “hippy daycare”, a favourite stop from last year. Everyone has to wear a Hawaiian shirt and there was a brightly coloured crowd of hikers lounging on sofas on the driveway when we arrived. It’s a funny contrast from Hiker Heaven, where everything is organized perfectly. Found Honeybee and Eli, and there’s lots of other people I know so it was a fun afternoon chatting with everyone in their brightly coloured shirts.

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Wandered into the magical manzanita forest in the backyard, it’s a maze of trees with painted rocks in the branches and on the ground, my rock from last year was exactly where I’d left it. Found a little space to set up the tent next to Honeybee and Eli. (Third time I’ve set it up so far!) When the ground isn’t too soft, my new ZPacks is really fast and easy to put up, otherwise I’m not convinced that it’s better than my old freestanding Big Agnes, but I’m still getting the hang of it.

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Grabbed a Hawaiian shirt to fit in with the crowd. Taco salad is served every night and then we had to awkwardly dance to get the class of 2018 bandanas. It’s called Casa de Luna for a few reasons, one of them being that it typically takes a month to arrive here, so I’m just ahead of schedule. Definitely a zero tomorrow.

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Day 29: Casa de Luna Zero

May 8

Ahhhhhh so many break days lately but they’ve been fantastic for physical recovery. Slept a full ten hours and woke up just in time to catch fresh made pancakes and coffee. Lots of people were heading back to trail as I ate breakfast, but for almost every person that left, a car would pull up and let out another dirty hiker.

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I actually managed to mingle outside of my four-person trail group, other than them I haven’t made too many friends this year. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t feel the need to group up for round 2, doing the trail for the first time is such a new and intense experience that it’s only natural to want to stick together with the crowd. Last year I would’ve done whatever miles (or non miles) it took to stay with my friends, this year I’ve been fine to just hike the way I want to. Would definitely be able to push on alone if it came down to it, but it’s so much more fun to camp with familiar faces.

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After breakfast, made the short walk to the gas station and one cafe in town for second breakfast and ended up hanging around a good part of the morning to take advantage of the wifi. Everyone else had the same idea and the entire cafe patio was soon dominated by hikers.

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The afternoon consisted of a couple beers and hanging around in the shade at Casa de Luna, although thankfully it hasn’t been nearly as hot as last year. There’s a water restriction in the area so unfortunately no shower, I’m starting to feel pretty dirty since my last shower was Acton and I’ve been sweating buckets. A few more days until the next stop, Hikertown, so gotta suck it up.

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Round 2 of the cafe, of taco salad, of new arrivals dancing for bandanas. The group I’ve been with seemed ready to party, showed up armed with many six packs, but Franky and I called it an early night, there’s going to be at least 20-25 people heading back to trail tomorrow morning and it’d be nice to get a head start. Crowds in town are fun, crowds on trail are not.

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Day 30: Casa de Luna (478.2) to Campsite (501.0)

May 9 // 22.8 miles

The hikers were up late partying last night, got woken up around 1am while they were stumbling back to tents and didn’t get back to sleep for a few hours. Most journaling gets updated and edited when I’m having a hard time sleeping.

Up at six. Probably about 15-20 people waiting around to catch the first shuttle out at 8am, Frankie and I grabbed pancakes and coffee and decided to try our luck hitching to beat the crowd. Definitely the right call, the first truck that passed us pulled over and dropped us off back at the trail.

There’s always an uphill out of town so started climbing, the early start was a great idea. Once Franky was out of sight I saw literally no one for the whole morning. We’re back in the desert now, minimal shade, and it was above 30C by 10am again.

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Made it to a small spring and took a break with Franky, I’ve been carrying less water and then making myself drink 2-3 litres every time we arrive at a new water source, makes for a lighter pack.

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The heat made things a little hazy, zombied my way to the next water, which was thankfully in a grove of shady pines. Stopped for lunch and then took a long two hour break to wait the heat out. I wasn’t feeling the hiking today and I think Franky may have also had a touch of heat exhaustion so we planned to stay at a campsite only about 4 miles away for a shorter day. The water source at lunch was in an underground cistern and the water was a murky yellow colour-apparently from the tannins in the pine needles, but still looked gross.

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Got going again around 3, the flies started to come out. This section was my worst day on trail last year because of the sheer amount of bugs, and thankfully today they weren’t nearly as bad, annoying but bearable. Mostly just small black flies that bounced themselves repeatedly off my face and ears, lost count of how many I swallowed.

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There was a water barrel that was fully stocked with good cold water about a mile before our planned camp for the night, so we decided to do a few extra miles and save ourselves the trouble of going a mile off trail to get to camp/water. I think it was the right decision, the trail took us through a shady grove of oak trees and it was easy hiking after the long hot day. Passed the 500 marker, the miles are going fast this time around.

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The last mile to camp was uphill and I was tired and hungry, made a huge dinner of Mac and cheese and then ate the rest of my snacks, hiker hunger has definitely hit.

The campsite we were staying at was on a ridge overlooking the valley with wind turbines. Bugs were still pretty bad so set up the tent, which I would come to regret later on.

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In bed by 8, the wind was really starting to pick up and blowing down the ridge. I got a couple hours of sleep before my tent flapping woke me up, it was way too noisy to fall back asleep. I tried to make some adjustments to tighten it, but the ground was really soft and I ended up collapsing the tent a few times when the stakes loosened. This cycle went on literally all night and I was overtired and frustrated, alternated between crying and swearing at an inanimate object until about 3am when the front stake pulled out and the whole tent pretty much sank in on itself. Debated just getting up and hiking, or cramming into Franky’s two person tent, which was nice and sheltered in the trees behind me. Decided to just give up and took the tent down to cowboy camp, which I should’ve done hours earlier. The wind was still strong but pulling my bag over my head was fine and fell asleep right away.

I’m on the learning curve with this tent for sure but tonight I’m pissed off at it. Any more bullshit like that and I’m having my old freestanding one sent to Kennedy Meadows, ultralight be damned.

Day 31: Campsite (501.0) to Hikertown (517.6)

May 10 // 16.6 miles - Happy one month on trail!

Slept in a little bit later than normal and woke up feeling really groggy after my crappy sleep, but at least it was only 16 miles to Hikertown. Franky was already hitting the trail before I was out of my bag so tried to pack up quick and was hiking just before seven.

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Really exhausted, I was kind of zombie walking my way down trail on autopilot, thankfully most of today was downhill and easy. Despite being overtired I actually had a pretty good morning, the trail alternated between shady forest and open meadows, and the wind was still strong so no bugs, I didn’t get overheated and didn’t need much water-did all sixteen miles on just over a litre. I need to make myself drink more.

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We’ve been edging around the Mojave desert the last few days and this morning the trail dropped down to the desert floor for a complete change of scenery, lots of flat prairie-like rolling hills covered in grass.

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Arrived at Hikertown just before noon, it’s one of the more interesting stops along the trail, just a large property beside the highway that consists of a bunch of wooden buildings painted to look like an old western town. The owners also have a cafe/trucker rest stop a few miles down the highway and offer a shuttle every hour for hikers to get food and resupply. Went for lunch at the cafe with Franky, had probably the best burger on trail so far-double patty, double cheese, double bacon.

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Back at Hikertown, showered and picked out a spot in one of the bunkhouses to have a night out of the wind. The shower was dirty, the water was luke-warm and the drain clogged with hiker hair but it was still one of my best showers so far after going through the hot desert since Acton without washing. Did half-assed laundry in a bucket but without detergent, my clothes all still smell like sweat.

Honeybee and Eli came in soon after and we did round two of burgers at the store and bought resupply to get us through the next two days to Tehachapi. Decided to order three large sandwiches from the cafe and live off of them instead of buying the overpriced clif bars.

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In bed by 7, I’m exhausted after only getting a few hours sleep yesterday. Honeybee and Eli are getting up really early to start the long boring stretch along the aqueduct but I’m prioritizing sleeping in.

Day 32: Hikertown (517.6) to Campsite (549.7)

May 11 // 32.1 miles

Up at six with a pounding headache, probably due to dehydration or lack of sleep. Still very windy so at least won’t have to deal with crazy heat on the aqueduct, last year I night hiked it to stay cool.

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Packed up, made myself drink two litres and then hit the aqueduct. It’s about 15 miles of boring, flat road walking through the desert, first along the pipe itself and then along a paved road when the pipe goes underground.

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Lots of old run down campers parked in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t see a single person all morning, it was kind of eerie and felt like I was the only person left in the world in some post-apocalyptic desert. It was actually quite beautiful, I did this in the middle of the night last year and didn’t get to see the mountain backdrop or hundreds of Joshua trees. 

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Headache was still persistent and it was a relief to get to the first water source at 17 miles, a faucet that connects to the aqueduct, in the middle of a wind farm. Franky was there so we had a lunch break consisting of deli sandwiches and ibuprofen for me, which really helped with the headache. Continued on with the intention of only doing 5 more miles to Tylerhorse canyon for water and camp.

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The wind had been blowing all morning but after leaving the faucet it got insanely strong, even worse than day 3 out of Mt Laguna. I was walking through a wind farm with hundreds of turbines so not like it should’ve been a surprise, but it is so demoralizing to walk for hours on end having to push against the wind, every step is so much more effort. During the climb up out of the wind farm it was pushing me sideways off the trail, whipping pack straps into my face, and causing my sleeping pad to strain alarmingly against the cord holding it down. Extra frustrating because although the wind was constant, it wasn’t steady, and would hit every few seconds with a stronger gust from a new direction. At one point I was screaming something along the lines of “fuck youuuuuu” into the wind and then turned a corner to see three German hikers I’ve been leapfrogging with the past few days sitting to the side of trail and giving me a strange look. Fantastic.

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I’d love to say there are no bad days on trail but this afternoon was definitely not good. My pad broke loose from its strap and went flying across the mountainside, had to drop my pack and sprint after it through the brush. There were some tears of frustration. Thankfully got it back when it caught on a bush and I pushed the last mile to the canyon. It was obvious coming down that we couldn’t camp there, the walls created a natural wind tunnel that whipped dirt into my legs and would make sleep impossible. Franky was there and could tell I was having a rough time, we sat down for another sandwich and a snickers, which helped a bit with my mood. We decided to copy Honeybee and Eli’s plan and knock out a big day that covered another long uphill climb and would get us to a more sheltered campsite, ten miles further than where we were. I was sore and tired and didn’t feel like doing it, but didn’t really have an option with the wind.

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One step at a time through the wind and although I wasn’t feeling the hiking, I’m happy I got it over with, the climb wasn’t too bad and there was trail magic at the top-water, cookies, oranges. Great timing and a real morale booster.

Caught up with Honeybee and Eli, our campsite is nice, sandy and sheltered in the trees. There’s still wind but it doesn’t seem as strong as before and I’m giving my tent a chance to redeem itself. It’s already cold, supposed to go down to 2C tonight. So strange after doing this section in the middle of the night last year to escape the blazing heat.

In other news, probably will be taking a short side trip to Vegas to see the Jets play, it’s only a three hour drive from Tehachapi and when else am I going to get a chance to watch playoff hockey this year? The other three are in as well (although no interest in going to the game) since the Sierras are still snowy and cold, we’re in no rush to get to Kennedy Meadows.

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Day 33: Camp (549.7) to Tehachapi

May 12 // 16 miles

After our long day yesterday we all slept in, well past seven. I did wake up at about 5:30 to the sounds of songbirds singing (nice) and shitting on my tent (less nice).

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An easy morning into Tehachapi, passed hundreds more wind turbines but the breeze was nothing compared to yesterday. The trail was mostly downhill, weather was cool and sunny.

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Tons of flowers this morning, the desert seems to be in bloom. Most are yellow and purple, covering entire hillsides in colour and my pictures can’t quite capture it.

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Caught a hitch into town with Franky and our new British friend Ed (trail name Sub-Zero) and went straight to Redhouse BBQ for one of the best meals so far on trail, pulled pork, mac & cheese and fried cauliflower. After skipping breakfast I was starving and ate way too fast, had to lie down on a park bench outside to recover.

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Split a room at the Best Western five ways with the crew, we got the nice place since the cheaper options were all booked, our room has two double beds and a shower with incredible water pressure, plus there’s a pool and hot tub.

Spent the evening watching the jets game at a run down, slightly red neck bar near the hotel, the locals here are really friendly and were buying drinks and asking me about hockey. The Jets winning solidified the Vegas road trip plan, it’s a go. We’ll get to Ridgecrest in two days and rent a car to arrive in Vegas on Friday afternoon. 

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Back at the hotel, hot tubbed a bit with the crew but I was in bed by 9, I can’t seem to get enough of sleeping lately. Zero day tomorrow.

Day 34: Zero in Tehachapi

May 13

Slept like the dead last night, apparently my roommates watched a horror movie, and dealt with a loud crowd just outside our window but I slept through all of it.

Continental breakfast was the good kind with eggs and bacon and the amazing flip waffles. Resupplied for the next short section, worked on the Vegas logistics, called the family at home to chat. Saw the new Avengers movie with Eli and Ed, pretty strange experience to sit in a theatre eating popcorn after being on trail a month. It’s the only two hours I’ve spent since starting where I’ve been completely immersed in something not involving hiking the PCT.

Tehachapi has been incredible in terms of generosity, locals were almost lining up to offer us rides to the post office/store/hotel/restaurants. Outside of the grocery store, I was catching up with Bagels and Moth, and a man just walked up and handed us a hundred dollar bill, told us to split it for lunch and wished us luck on our trip. Hiking the trail gives the opportunity to experience the most amazing generosity from complete strangers.

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Thai food for dinner, back to the bar, back to the hot tub. Great zero, and probably going to nero out tomorrow. We need to be in Ridgecrest by Friday morning to get to Vegas for the game, very doable mileage.