PCT CA Section F

Tehachapi to Walker Pass

Day 1

It was mostly a town day, which meant running errands. After a relatively slow start with breakfast from the hotel, there was laundry in the hotel coin laundry, followed by a trip to a local laundromat with larger washers and dryers to do my sleeping bag. While that was going on, I went shopping at the sporting goods store and got tent stakes, canister gas, freeze dried food, etc. then went and got some takeout in the form of a knockoff facsimile of shrimp pad thai as imagined by someone who had never tasted the real thing. I’ll blame it on a lime shortage as there had been none at the Walmart either.

It took far longer than expected for my sleeping bag to dry (and I ran other errands at my hotel and Walgreens while this was going on), so I called it good enough (if still slightly damp) at 3:30 since I had to be out of my hotel room by 4. Got back at 3:55 and threw everything on a bell cart just to get checked out as quickly as possible. Called Ted again to get a ride to the post office and then the trail. Wasn’t quite repacked when he arrived, but only five more minutes were needed.

Long line at the post office and they didn’t have the package I had ordered either. Plus I couldn’t ship home the heavy mobile battery I had replaced in the box I had selected nor could I change boxes with the post office closing, so I just left it with Ted to give to anyone else who wanted it. After buying a final goodbye Coke, he drove me down the highway to the spot where Cheryl Strayed started the trail. I climbed until dark fighting knockdown gale force winds until I found my tent site with its barrier wall. The mice came hunting my food as soon as it got dark.

Wind barricaded campsite
World’s boldest mouse

Day 2

Kind of a boring day but the weather was good (if still somewhat windy) and the trail was pretty easy (except for the annoying dirt road walks). Lots of wind farms. About 12.5 miles to a Golden Oaks Spring, the next water source, where I made camp.

Day 3

Another hiker (Allan) showed up at the spring while I was packing up the next morning. We chatted a bit about nothing and then I left him there. We leapfrogged a couple of times when he took a siesta on the trail. Met a man who wants to run the whole by parking at a different place each day and running up and down the trail to connect up where he’s been before. Wanted to talk about how the PCT compared to the AT. Dry camped at a random flat spot beside the trail when it started getting dark. No wind all night. 15.5 miles.

Horned Toad Lizard

Day 4

Used up remaining water for breakfast and proceeded the remaining 3 miles to Robin Bird Spring dry. Had to modify the pipe intake to get the spring to flow reasonably. A little time to collect and filter but left soon with a half full bag to pump out the 7 miles to Landers Meadow campground and spring as quickly as possible. Hiking was easy with low rollers through a forest along a creek.

Campground had privies (a rare treat) and the most powerful flowing spring I have yet seen. Took a nice hour-long siesta by the spring before doing another half-full bag and back on the trail. Met another hiker coming down to the spring as I left. Walked through an interesting area capped by “granitic plutonics” right out of Disney Land’s Big Thunder Mountain.

The hiker I saw caught up with me on the final stretch down the hill to Kelso Road, my final destination. Two more were close on our heels. Two more had past me during my siesta and were already set up by the road. Two more arrived while I was cooking and making camp. And another in the middle of the night. All told there were about 8 of us thru-hikers camping at or near the road that night. Some names I remember: GT, Circus, Sleeping Beauty, Cammy and Zack/Free Dose (a trail couple), Flash. I chatted a bit with most of them, but after the next day, in which they intended a supermarathon 28 miles, I wouldn’t see them again in this section. 17 miles total.

Someone wrote 600 in the road and then a car scattered the 6
This cable barred the road to Casa de Oso, a small cabin on the trail. Clearly, 8 different households have access to it.
Cammy and Free Dose
GT and Sleeping Beauty

Day 5

Left in the middle of the pack, but was soon passed by everyone. Miserable, exposed section that started with an annoying climb. Met my first angry rattlesnake. Stopped at a road crossing that randomly had 4G cell service for a call home and some research for my next town stay. Stopped under a shady Joshua tree for lunch and a long energy recovery at midday. Trail remained completely exposed with almost no shade for the entire 15 mile stretch. Came into Bird Spring Pass (a road crossing with a water cache and a few tent sites) so drained I had a hard time mustering the energy to make camp and dinner. Knowing that the rest of the gang had blown through this section, immediately surmounted the following 3 mile climb up Skinner Ridge and continued another 13 miles wore me out even more. Eating supper helped bring me back closer to normal (though not quite human perhaps). Slightly windy night but not too bad.

View from siesta spot

Day 6

Slow, lazy morning. Out by 8am and playing music to help power through that steep 3 mile climb to Skinner Peak. Still had to stop a couple of times on the climb for breaks. Took well over 2 hours.

Following trail was a long descent followed by some rolling sections with trees. Stopped for a break before another climb but decided not to make it a long one. Joined an annoying rough dirt road around 2pm already so close to my destination that I was seriously considering pressing on the last 8 miles to Walker Pass and hitching into town early–even though I had no good reason to be there yet–figuring whether there would be enough daylight by the time I got there for drivers to see me. Passed a couple of dune buggy drivers but they had no beer.

Arrived at McIver’s Cabin (1920s gold prospector, cabin preserved/maintained as hiker/camper shelter) and Spring to find a giant customized Toyota Tacoma ($28000 in offroading and camping gear built into it) and three guys who were out for the day ready to offer me a beer and a Louisiana hot sausage with grilled onions. All intention to keep hiking immediately evaporated and I spent the entire afternoon with them–John (Huang Jun) the IT guy and truck owner, John Jones, and the Amazon worker whose name I forgot–eating what food they were willing to offer and charging my phone.

Sometime later, a man arrived alone in a Lexus SUV. After the OHV three left, I went over to hang out with him. He had set up a campsite right out of a magazine, with his tent on a ledge and everything, and was escaping his domestic life for a weekend for an opportunity to see the Milky Way. I shared an apple cider with him and then went to cowboy camp on the front porch of the cabin. I woke up at 10pm to the sound of mice inside the cabin scraping at something. I got out of my sleeping bag to brave the mice and bats inside the cabin to retrieve my pack (in case that was what they were chewing on) and hang it from a nail outside. And then I saw the Milky Way.

Water cache
View from the cabin front porch
The cabin has a thermostat (face plate)

Day 7

That guy was leaving by the time I got up the following morning. I left around 7 with just the last 8 miles to Walker Pass to go. All downhill, I was there by 11am. Made a sign and hitched a ride to Lake Isabella with Lisa and Alex, who had never given a ride before. They left me at Lake Isabella Motel. The owner did everything, infusing charging 5 dollars a head for all the locals using the swimming pool–kids and their beer swilling parents. After getting a room and a shower, I headed out to walk the town. I got a popsicle and a tea from the Shell station and walked a mile to Nelda’s Diner for a burger and a shake. I stopped at the grocery store on the way back for resupply, plus some plums and a bunch of limes and an iced tea. By the time I walked back to the motel, the last of the locals was leaving the pool, so I took a plum, a lime, and the tea down there to have a solo swim. This is where I learned that when Timex says “100m water resist” they mean “water will get trapped under the face plate if you submerge it more than a few inches and your indiglo backlight will never work again.”

When the sun started getting low, I went back to my room to change (and hang shortly wet shorts from the TV directly under the swamp cooler in the ceiling), I headed out to Dick Weed’s for fish tacos and a massive salad and some craft beer. I left just before closing time to return to my room and that was my day in town. My second day in that town will begin the next post, which may be a very long time coming due to internet unavailability.

Lisa and Alex
Lake Isabella is falling apart… Looks like a movie set
Swamp cooler in every room
Isabella Motel (pool to myself)
Dick Weed’s bar