Across the Mountains and Through the Desert

Tehachapi Pass is considered to be the southern end of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.  Therefore, beyond this pass I was hiking in a short 40-mile long range known as the Tehachapi Mountains.  This mountain range acts as a thin divide between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mohave Desert.

I have read that PCT builders wanted the trail to follow this mountain range southwest almost to Interstate-5, then turn east in the Sierra Pelona Mountains, but owners of a large ranch were not interested.  This is why the PCT crosses the western Mojave Desert in a 20-mile stretch.  I  have also read that current ownership of the ranch is managing the land as a conservancy, meaning that the original PCT route may someday be possible.

April 19, 2024; 19 miles

I hiked up and out of the windmills of Tehachapi Pass and soon came upon a gathering spot known as The Mile 549 Bar (Bear?, Bare?) and Grill.  This little oasis is also a memorial, dedicated to its founder Daniel Burns who died just a few months ago, and it holds a sizable cache of water jugs, probably more suitable to northbound hikers who have just hiked along the hot, dry south side of the mountains.  I came from town where I filled up all four bottles of water, although I had used two of them.

After the Bar and Grill, I hiked up and over a high point, then along a winding path that turns out to be typical for the transverse ranges.  The mountainsides have so much erosion that the steep washes have gouged huge insets into the mountains, which the trail must navigate while remaining at approximately the same elevation.

These washes were all waterless until I reached Tylerhorse Canyon, which typically has water flowing even in tbe dry season.  There were 5-10 people here, most of whom were planning to camp for the night.

I was passing a larger number of northbound hikers each day, although my driver from Tehachapi the previous day said that the big numbers wouldn’t arrive until the end of May.  The hikers I talked to spoke of long road walks to avoid snow and that they didn’t have money to just hang around in expensive mountain towns like Idyllwild for two weeks until enough snow melted.  There are also a lot of Europeans on the PCT, and they have visa time limits – meaning that they have to keep walking.

Instead of camping in Tylerhorse Canyon, I pressed on because I needed to hike a few more miles so my desert walk wasn’t too long.  The weather forecast was for the high 80’s the next day.

I entered another wind farm, this one with windmills all the same.  I stopped to camp so that today’s and tomorrow’s hike would be approximately the same distance.  This was my fifth night in a row sleeping near windmills.

April 20, 2024; 19 miles

I got going early and hiked the remaining couple of miles to the water spigot that the LA Department of Water and Power keeps operational for PCT hikers.

The path through the desert follows the LA Aqueduct, which is an large brown pipe encased in concrete.  The distance from here to Hikertown is 17 miles.  I think that there is more plant life in this so-called desert than there was on the south side of the Tehachapis.  There was a nice breeze on and off as I walked, so all the stories that you must walk this section during the night were not necessarily true.  Of course, my viewpoint might be different if it were late May instead of late April.

There was one point where a nice big Joshua tree graced the side of the path.  There were two northbound hikers there, and I just strolled underneath the tree, took off my pack, sat down, and said, “Ahhh, shade!”  The two hikers left but came back a couple of minutes later.  I asked if they forgot something, but they said that they were checking up on me, to see if I was OK.  I told that they were exceedingly nice and thoughtful, but aside from my “Ahhh, shade!” theatrics, I was fine and had plenty of water (all four bottles again).  Aren’t PCT hikers some of the nicest young people you will find?

The day passed quickly, and I made quick steps because this was a flat half dirt, half concrete road.  Soon I reached the Governor Edmund G. Brown (Gov. Jerry Brown’s father) Aqueduct.  This is what you are used to seeing in pictures when you talk about California aqueducts.

I should mention the Greater Roadrunner because I saw a number of them in the southern Sierras, the Tehachapis, and in this walk in the Mohave.  A roadrunner would pop out of the bush in front of me, see that I am walking toward it, then run down the the path away from me.  It would stop, and as I kept walking toward it, it would run down the path away from me some more.  This might go on for quite awhile, until the roadrunner decided to go back into the bush again.  I was never close enough to one to take a picture.  Usually, the head was rounded, but occasionally the head feathers were bunched up enough for it to look like a crest from afar.

At the end of the day, I reached Hikertown.  This is a long-time PCT stop that once was free but now charges a modest fee for camping and a ride to Neenach, where there is a community center with a store and cafe.

I paid $30 to have a private room, although I might have slept better just paying $10 to pitch my tent and sleeping where I was used to sleeping, wind and all.  I visited the community center and had a sandwich and some artificial ice cream that was lactose free.  I haven’t had ice cream for years, so this was great for me.  Martha is the host of Hikertown along with an older guy named Bob.  She keeps things orderly and is always pleasant and gracious, even if her English isn’t too good.

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