Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 37, Is it a little chilly today?

Daily mileage: 24.5
Mile 614.5-639

A quick mile or do and we hit the Kelso Rd water cache. That was great, but still so early that we grabbed a little water and headed off for another mile or so until or breakfast stop amidst a small forest of Joshua trees. I'm still talking it a little slow so the guys were off and I trotted along by myself all morning.

When I first started this trip I was told that the first section of trail was 700 miles of desert. Yeah, we have had a ton of not very desert like sections and it has all been amazing. But according to the guidebook there are only about 50 miles of desert left before Kennedy meadows and today was the start. Wow was this some crazy scenery though. Up and around some huge mountains, no foothills here. So dry and full of Joshua trees and wind. Still a very lonely kind of place.
I did spend half my day singing at the top of my lungs because really, who can hear me in all that wind? After quite a climb and even more contouring and crossing a million off road vehicle paths I got to the bird spring water cache where the cousins and caveman were still sitting huddled against the wind. Did I mention the wind? Yeah no hot desert today, while hiking the wind was blasting, I was stumbling in the sandy path and it was all of 48-52 degrees out in the sun. Grabbed a little more water and climbed something like 1000 ft before finding the rest of my group in a somewhat sheltered siesta spot. As a side note I am not crazy, the guys I hike with are insanely fast. Their speed increase as they go up and I watched them pass multiple other hikers as they headed up the mountain. I always feel slow when I actually hike with them (which is why I rarely do) but it's not just me, it's everyone. But hey according to them I am almost always within 5-15 minutes of them which helps my ego a little bit. They are two long distance cyclists and an ultra runner, me not so much.

Siesta started out a little cold and ended up with us all huddled on our sleeping bags playing cards and whining about how cold our hands were. Thermometer said it was about 40 plus there was wind. That is for sure the coldest it has been during the day so far.

Hiked our usual 5-6 miles post siesta. Camped in the trail, 38 degrees out at 8 pm. Somehow I don't think tonight is going to be a warm one.

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Day 36, Mountains!

Daily mileage: 25
Mile 589.5-614.5

I woke up to my stomach growling. Problem was it was 4 am. That is too early to be hungry, I need my sleep! Hunger is a strange thing out here. We talk about food constantly, whether we are hungry or not. But I have never spent so much time trying to eat high calorie foods. I snack on the hour in the mornings, my stomach will growl and 9 times out of 10 it's been one hour since my last snack. Peanut butter has become a mainstay in my diet. No little packets or snack packs for me.
Nope it's the whole jar, and it gets added to everything as well as eaten by the spoonful. Because when I get hungry I get cranky and negative, which just isn't worth it all. Food and water occupy ridiculous amounts of my daily thoughts right now.
Once we started hiking it was cow country time. Evidence of cattle is everywhere. Cow patties and ripped up trail, plus loads of fun signs telling us we were entering livestock areas at our own risk. I decided to go slow today and saw no one until almost eleven. Just me and a whole lot of trees and grassland. Because somehow we have gone back into the mountains and I couldn't be happier.

The trail became a dirt road for a bit and I officially crossed the 600 mile mark. No fancy mile markers or numbers drawn in sticks. Guess 600 isn't as exciting as 500. Oh well, I thought it was cool. Then bear tracks in the road, something I am less excited about.

Made it to the robin bird spring (only for sure water for 16 plus miles) filled up and eventually caught back up with the cousins and caveman for siesta. Passing through gorgeous forest the whole way.

4 hours later we headed back out, trying to get closer to tomorrows first water. Water looks iffy all the way to Walker Pass at mile 651 but will hopefully be better after that.
Five or so miles through some very pretty burn area. A few new flowers to enjoy and then the trek down to Kelso Rd.

Camped on a sandy cliffside on the trail because it got dark. No worries, it is ridiculously comfortable when you have hiked all day.
Less than 100 miles and 5 days until the Sierras! Can't believe how it is all speeding by.

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Day 35, Windmilling

Daily mileage: 23

Quickly started climbing up and away from the highway. Amazing breakfast with leftover fruit and then headed up the hill. Wow what a climb, I thought the wind was bad before. This was one steep climb and every few wind gusts would have you 3 feet up the hillside off the trail. Not to mention how cold it was! Very dramatic climbing, saddles and curves on cliffs with wind gusts like that are definitely something else.

Finally turned a corner and it got a little warmer and a little less windy. Woohoo. Fire road walking for quite awhile as we rounded on yet another windmill farm. Got to say, the fire road walking was pretty sweet. Nice and straightforward descent and ascent. Made it to Golden Oaks Spring and had an epic 5 hour siesta. Slap happy to an extreme degree. Lots of laughing, card games and pterodactyl impressions. Met some new hikers and after all of our giddiness and yelling of siesta I think everyone knows us as those crazy siesta kids.

Hiked on as usual winding even more around the never ending windmills and finally stopped at a nice bend in the trail and enjoyed the sunset.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 33, Bye Bye Aqueduct, Hello Wind Farm

Daily mileage: 19
Mile 532-551

Woke up on the side of the road 100% not rested. Apparently my bedtime was skipped so my body would not go to sleep. Less than 3 hours of sleep for me and back on our way we went. 6 or so miles to our water, a faucet from the aqueduct labeled do not drink. We sure are getting familiar with that sign (it just wants you to treat it because it hasn't been treated yet). We had entered a new wind farm but now it was serious, at least 4 miles wandering through that thing before we finally started climbing out.

A hot climb to Tyler Horse Canyon and our last water for awhile. Contoured our way out then dropped down only to haul ourselves back up yet again. The lovely wind farm wind had disappeared and it was toasty out in that sun. Umbrella in full use as there was zero shade.
Finally siesta time in the middle of the trail as there were no flat spots and it was over 90 in the sun. Napped for almost 4 hours. I guess I was not the only tired one.
A bit more climbing and a big burn area with the wind finally back. Tomorrow is a town resupply day and after talking to some folks about hitching options looks like we will be getting off the trail 8 miles earlier than planned so we decided to just call it a night. Found a meadow and ate as much leftover food as we wanted, and now crazy wind is lulling me to sleep as I dream about all the fruits and vegetables tomorrow will bring.

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Day 32, Escape to Hikertown

Daily mileage: 31
Mile 503-532

Woke up in our lovely meadow just a little bit chilly only to discover that we had slept in a nice cold pocket and it was already heating up. So on we went.

A little bit of climbing and then a surprising amount of shade as we started the descent, eyeing the desert as the trail got closer and closer to the valley floor we have been eyeing for ages.

It was hot and even though we could see a road where we were going the trail took its sweet time getting there. Climbing and contouring every which way through some very exposed country. Thank you umbrella, you are my hero.

Finally our water stop got the afternoon was in sight, hiker town but man was that last mile tough.

Not sure the story behind hiker town, but they let us stay in a converted garage that's just for hikers with a freezer, kitchen, and couches. Heaven in 90 plus heat. We all passed out and eventually got hungry. Raided the freezer and made some amazing toast and then went back to killing time. We had decided that with the long waterless and exposed stretch ahead of us night hiking was the way to go. Basically the trail follows the LA aqueduct through the Mojave, literally having us walk on top and next to it for 20 some odd miles with zero shade and potentially no water.
We hung around, played with puppies and ate some more until 6 rolled around.

Heading out we got to enjoy the solar eclipse and a huge cool down in temperature compared, siesta wins again. And then it was aqueduct time.

We hiked for hours into the night, and it was fantastic. Fields of Joshua trees during sunset, easy flat trail on the aqueduct and then on a road next to the pipe once it went underground. Lots of singing and chatter to keep everyone awake. It's amazing the amount of bad 90's pop music 4 people can come up with at 11 at night. Our goal was to get as far as we could by midnight so when midnight finally rolled around we set up camp at the edge of the road and called it a night. So much fun, I highly recommend it.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 34, Now why would they put a wind farm here?

Daily mileage: 15.5
Mile 551-566.4

Why are you so out of order???? Darn you blogger.

I feel like I overuse the words amazing and great but there is something about being out here that is joyous and fantastic and so hard to capture. When I hiked with Bobcat I think she expressed it best. A few times each day she would stop and shout "I'm on the PCT". Something about yelling this is just perfect and I think we are all just extremely grateful and happy to be out here. Our group has a running joke that today is the "best day ever" because it really just seems to keep happening. There are hard moments and sections but overwhelmingly this trip is such a winner. Okay enough gushing, on to the day.

Today was a town day, only 7 miles to the road and we would be golden. Started going down through another old burn area (it seems like half this trip has been a burn so far). The wind started picking up and we popped into another wind farm. Walking through the turbines on the edge of the cliff as we stared at the road way down below. Oh and the breeze at the wind farm the day before was nothing compared to this. This was real wind, requiring laughing and yelling and walking completely sideways just not to fall down. The whole left side of my body got ridiculously cold while my right felt perfect. Very tiring but oddly fun.

This town day was odd in that we could go either to Mojave or Tehachapi, this is the first time we have had two choices like that. We picked Mojave because we had heard it was less spread out than Tehachapi but didn't really care which town since they both had supermarkets. Good thing we didn't care because the hitch we got was heading to Tehachapi. Got into town, snacked and checked out the supermarkets. Ended up wasting a ton of time buying food for our resupply and then going to all you can eat Chinese. Still not sure if that was a good idea but it was pretty hilarious.

Sitting on a lovely grassy patch we spread out all of our junk and tried to put together 6 odd days (140 miles) of food together.

Resupplying is always stressful for me, I hate guessing how hungry I will be days in advance. We made a big salad and then off to search for a ride. Nice local in a pickup turned around and drive us back to the trailhead out of his way, funny guy, very entertaining ride. Back on the trail the wind was blowing and the trail was doing silly s curves when you could see twenty feet ahead where you needed to go. The trail kept disappearing and after our salad break and a quick look at maps we cut across a field and took the road the rest of the way (the road mirrored the trail).
Word of advice, when hopping fences, make sure you let go of the fence.

Oh and the road walk was great, pretty farmland, windbreaks, and lots of cycle tour talk. The day got even better when we saw Tanya and Neil where the trail met up with the road and the best cache ever. We had actually met Rita at the grocery store in Tehachapi. Her son hiked last year and she was asking us about where to leave trail magic and telling us about freshly baked cookies do we were so amazed to actually find it. It was all fresh and perfectly ripe fruit and some cookies and hard boiled eggs. So good.

We walked a mile or so farther, over some train tracks, over a highway (glad we went out at willow springs, highway 58 could have been really tough) and then camped on the trail right next to the road in a wind break. Lulled to sleep by the freeway and trains, gotta say best day ever.

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Day 31, 500 miles :)

Daily mileage: 22.7

Just a quick moment to say, woohoo 500 miles and one month on the trail!

We woke up from our nice campsite on the top of the mountain and slowly cruised 6 miles down to another water cache stocked by the Anderson's and then it was back up a thousand plus feet. Miles sort of flowed by as we went in and out of scrubby open manzanita and surprisingly shady oak groves.

Good siesta spot on top of the ridge with the good luck of collector's brother visiting with a truck full of water. Yay for not having to filter funky cistern water during siesta.

Walked about 6 miles as usual after siesta. Climbed through what would have been hot open bushy areas but were perfect in evening shade. Last 1000 ft climb brought us to a nice little meadow where we are tucked in for the night.

And tomorrow is hiker town and the start of the dreaded aqueduct walk in the Mojave Desert. Cue scary music now.

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Day 30, Casa de Luna

Daily mileage: 20
Mile 460-480

A quick word about cowboy camping. I've been cowboy camping for years, only I had no idea that's what it was called. According to PCT hikers cowboy camping is when you sleep out in the open with no tent. I am a huge fan of this. In fact of the 20 days I have been out here I have only set up my tent twice. One at kickoff when it was pouring and the night after scissors crossing when I thought it was going to rain. You really would think that someone from the bay area would know simple fog when they see it. Either way cowboy camping is great and you only need to find a very small spot for a sleeping bag rather than the large spot a tent may need. Now the way we have been hiking is to hike when it is coolest. Early start at about 5:15, hike until a good shady spot around 1 or 2. Which is usually about 16-18 miles already and then siesta until 5:30. So eat your big meal, nap and just hang out. Then any mileage after that is almost bonus, but we usually just hike for 2 hours and sleep wherever we stop.

So we had camped on the trail as we often do but for the first time ever we had people stumble over us, first around 9pm and then at 3:30 am, that one was a bit of a shocker.
Waking up we finished climbing and after spending a gorgeous breakfast on the top we started on down. We had all thought how cool it was that the trail actually went to the top since the PCT seems to avoid summits like the plague only to discover it wasn't the PCT. Oops.

And down we contoured. The pace was a little fast for me so I ended up wandering down the manzanita (and poison oak) forest happily singing to myself only to rediscover everyone at the Anderson's Oasis water cache. Only water when we got there but plenty of decorations and lawn chairs to keep us entertained.

Now even though we had just been to town and stayed with the amazing Saufleys we were planning another stop. There is another house of trail angels just 24 miles farther, the Anderson's. Now they are pretty much the opposite of the Saufleys. Nicknamed hippie daycare it's known as a vortex on the trail and has taco salad made nightly. Being the food motivated folks we are we figured it was worth visiting. Well everything aligned for us to somehow hit the road by 12:15, great grade, light breeze who knows but 18.5 miles by 12:15 was pretty ridiculous and amazing all in one. A great start to a fantastic day.

We stood around hoping to hitch while caveman wandered over to the ranger station and minutes later Joe Anderson popped up with a few other hikers and gave us a ride to his house, Casa de Luna. Lots of folks hanging around, mandatory Hawaiian shirts were put on, cold things from the cooler were grabbed and spots on the vortex couch were taken. It was amazing.

(left to right: Cajun, gray jay, squirrel, tank)

Managed to move enough to walk down to the local store for chips and salsa and then it was back to hours on the vortex couch.

Thank you gray jay, tank, and caveman for possibly one of the most amazing and melodramatic games of spades ever. I'm pretty sure everyone within a 5 mile radius now knows my name.
Music, cold drinks, and hours of people watching followed by taco salad. So good.
Now the Anderson's have a reputation for being hard to leave but no one really wanted a whole zero right after the Saufleys. An 8 hour siesta was pretty ridiculous even for our group. Plus the weather was saying increasing temperatures, we had a 20 plus stretch with no water coming up and we had a climb first thing out of the Andersons. The party was clearly not ending, so around 9:30 we started begging for a ride. It took awhile and a lot of convincing but we eventually were on our way. (With only one detour back because I am a genius and apparently want to lose all of my belongings). Terrie Anderson is an amazing woman and regardless of what you have heard about the atmosphere I think most will have a blast and it is a stop not worth missing.
So now at was 10 at night and with just a few miles to the top we set out on a fantastic night hike. No lights, just the glowing rocks and the trail like a white sandy beacon. Camped right on top, happy as can be. Although up way past all of our bedtimes :)
Yet another best day ever.

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