Hail to Summer

We left our hotel in Tehachapi and walked to the German bakery to hitch a ride back to the trailhead. Within five minutes of our arrival to the bakery, Daniel, the trail angel who maintains “549 Bar & Grill” in the mountains above Tehachapi said he would give us a ride after he ran a couple of errands. We got a late start and as the trail always does coming out of town when our backpacks are at their heaviest with food from our resupply, we had an immediate uphill climb. Southern California had finally decided to be Southern California, and it was hot. We made it about four miles up before we crashed in the shade of Joshua trees. We took an hour mid day nap before we finally decided we better get moving. We got into camp late that night and we were beat. My legs felt like I had run a marathon and we had run out of water. We ate salami triscuit burritos for dinner and were fast to sleep.

In the morning we grabbed water from a nearby spring, chugged a liter each because we were so dehydrated from the day before, and then had 19 miles to walk before hitting the next water source. As we hiked the clouds grew darker. We could see rain in the distance and we heard thunder behind us. It seemed as though we were walking between storms for almost three hours before we decided to stop at the next campsite to wait and see what the weather was going to do. We arrived at the campsite and sat down on a log for about one minute pondering whether or not we should pitch the tent or keep walking before we started to feel raindrops. We immediately began to set up the tent and not ten seconds into the assembly, it started to hail. We got the tent up while marble sized ice pellets were bouncing off our heads, threw our backpacks in and then jumped in the tent ourselves. I guess we are staying here for the night.

The next morning we hiked out to the spring we were supposed to make it to the night before, but could not because of the ice falling from the sky. We cooked a hot lunch by the spring while we had an abundance of water. We had to dry camp the night prior due to low water reserves. About an hour into our post-lunch hike the sky darkened again and the thunder started to roll. We put on our rain gear and decided to hike to the next campsite. Just as we got to the campsite, it started hailing again. We were able to throw up the rainfly to the tent and crawl underneath it. It was only 1pm and we needed to get in more miles for the day. We waited under the rainfly about an hour until it stopped hailing and the rain slowed down a bit. The hike down to our campsite for the night felt as though we were in the Pacific Northwest….green, full of pine trees and wet. Perhaps this was practice for Oregon and Washington.

In the morning we hiked out of the “Pacific Northwest” and back into the Mojave desert. It was hot, and it was dry. The only water source for the day was a water cache left on the side of a rural road by trail angels. Thank you to whomever leaves these water caches. They are literally life savers for these long, hot, dry stretches of the desert. Tonight we camped surrounded by Joshua trees. There was no hail. It was a beautiful, warm night. We left the rainfly off half of the tent so we could see the Milky Way.

We woke up and began hiking before sunrise. We had a long climb up Skinner Peak today and wanted to get it done before noon. Just before the climb, again, there was a water cache left by trail angels. We cameled up for the climb and took off. We summited before noon and on the other side of the mountain were greeted with our first glimpse of the snow-covered Sierra Mountain range. So. Much. Snow. That night we camped with about ten other hikers at a rustic, abandoned cabin right by the trail. We all hung out on the porch cooking our Knor side dish dinners talking about our food cravings and our plans for the Sierra Mountains. We all said goodbye that night as everyone had different destinations once they hit Walker Pass.

It was only an 8.5 mile hike down to Walker Pass the next morning. There was trail magic waiting for us at the bottom. A 2016 PCT hiker had watermelon, carrots, Fritos and cornbread waiting for us. After indulging in a snack, Kilo, Pigeon, Marc and I stood on the side of a rural road trying to hitch a ride to Ridgecrest. It was 95 degrees and the sun was searing my skin. The worst case scenario if we were unable to get a hitch, was a bus to Ridgecrest that would stop at Walker Pass in about three hours. The good news for my skin was that Laura, a trail angel who drove another hiker to Walker Pass, picked us up on her way back home to Ridgecrest. The first thing the four of us did once in town was hit the local all-you-can eat Chinese buffet. Perhaps we sat there for too long and maybe ate too many plates of food because the waitress suddenly started handing us our checks (this was the most economical meal ever at just $12.44 per person considering how much we each ate). That was our cue to leave. The other patrons probably complained about our smell as well. This was the dirtiest I have been on the trail so far. We had been through hail and thunderstorms that made everything damp. And we had sweated buckets walking through the dusty desert covered in sunscreen. When I took my ponytail holder out of my hair, my hair was so greasy it stayed in the ponytail without the holder. As I took a shower I thought about what another hiker on the trail said, “Water in California is weird. It’s always brown for the first ten minutes of my shower.”

In Ridgecrest we rented a car and drove six hours north to Truckee, California. We are picking up the trail right outside of Truckee and heading North to Canada. After we reach Canada, we will go back to Walker Pass and hike the Sierra section of the trail back to Truckee. This is our first time in Truckee, and we love it. This will be the perfect place to complete and celebrate our PCT hike in September/October.