At the Edge of the Desert
Acton to Kennedy Meadows
It feels unreal to make the first steps, after our zero in Mando’s cozy home. After all those zeros, this was the one that made one feel like being at home. Leaving this now and entering the still-wet bushes and grass patches feels wrong somehow. But still, we have to move on.Follow our journey on Instagram!
Since we first saw the Mojave as a small yellow glimpse from the peak of San Jacinto 4 weeks ago, we dream about seeing it. And since our descent from Highway 2, it is just this small Range of green mountains between us and this big dry desert.
After our zero we are a group of 4 again. We decide to push it a bit harder from now on and try to reach 20 miles every day. For the last time in a long while, we pass green trees, creeks, and grassy areas, before we are slowly descending to lower heights.
The landscape changes after what feels like weeks. Trees turn into bushes, grasses into desert flowers, and dirt into fine, white sand.
We want to hike North. Not West
Finally, after weeks of going West, we turn our face North again and descend to Neenach, where Hiker Town is located. We camp a night at the edge of the desert at the Weeville Market.
Some places feel more isolated than the desert itself. This is one of these places. Even though it is close to Lancaster, it feels remote and lonely. I like that. How people manage to live on the border to the desert and still manage to have a “normal” life? We Germans don’t know how that feels anymore. Our country is filled with cities. The next village is always 5-10 minutes away.
The next morning somehow went differently than we thought. Our breakfast took more than an hour, with no hitch in sight, so the Chef of WeeVille called his wife who was so kind to drive us back to the trailhead. So instead of an early start, we start the infamous Aquaduct-walk at 10:30 AM. It should become one of the most mind-bending walks I’ve had so far.
As soon as we left the metal pipeline, we follow the concrete Aquaduct and face North-East. It was here, where the horizon disappeared. While we walk slightly uphill, without noticing, the desert disappeared behind the far edge of the outskirts of the next mountain range. I felt like walking on the edge of the world, with no horizon or mountain range in sight.
Best Trail town so far: Tehachapi
1,5 days later we hitch to Tehachapi and end up in the new Hiker Heaven: Trailangels everywhere. As soon as we stand near the road, we get picked up and driven around, receive invitations to dinner, and offering money for the ride is close to being rude. Thanks to everyone who helped us here. Tehachapi swung itself up to the number one place to be on the trail so far!
Again, we manage to organize a nice AirBnB with a “Jacoocoo” it is in the middle of the center, with a movie theatre next door. I haven’t been to the movies since that horrible “The Martian” movie, afterward, I said, “Never again”. But now and here there was nothing better, than going in there, being fresh from the shower, with clean clothes on. I felt a bit like wearing a suit to the opera.
Ready for the Desert Master’s Degree
A long Nero plus a Zero later, we felt ready for the masterpiece of the desert section: the stretch through Mojave to Walker Pass and Kennedy Meadows. We finally feel, what the desert can be like. While the first weeks were filled with shivering cold nights and frost on/in our tents, we sleep warm, while sweating out liters of salt water during the day. Water carries become to be a thing here. How hard a “normal” year with 30 miles of waterless stretches straight from the border must be? We now know it.
Luckily, there are again Trail Angels, who organize two Water caches in the middle of the desert, with more than 70 gallons of fresh water and power banks. We welcome this comfort, but we know as well, that this is not a usual service. How did the other classes before us feel here? How hard must it have been?
After what feels like forever, but not more than 4 days, we reach Walker Pass and head on toward the goal of this PCT- Season: Kennedy Meadows. Since weeks, there is only one question on trail: “Will you go in?” We knew since the beginning, that we want at least to try the Sierra. So here and now, shit becomes serious. Not the mountains are calling us, the big unknown is calling.
We climb up the Owen Peak mountain range and like two weeks ago slowly watch nature transform from bushes to trees, olive green turns to fresh green. We see rivers and creeks rushing down the mountains. Kern River is so swollen, that I am guessing it will make the trail impassable in June.
Hiking into Kennedy Meadows feels unreal. Having watched many videos of previous classes, we now stand at the street sign, sculling fire ball whiskeys, that we carried out from lake isabella and enjoying our applause from the deck at the general store. This applause gave me more than the applause in 2015 when I received my Master’s degree in Civil Engineering.
8 weeks lay now behind us, 702 miles, or 1080-ish km. We saw zero (!) diamond rattlesnakes, just the small black rattler near Big Bear. Just two pairs of trail runners were killed, from which one was preused. We had to take 4 zeros due to storms and got rained or snowed on 5 times. It took us a week to make it from PVC to the I-10, but we wouldn’t want it to be easier. This year is so beautiful, with all its challenges, a flower-spotted desert, carrying snow gear from mile 150 on, but also much shorter water carries. It is a good year for adventures.
We will stay a bit longer in KMS, to organize our stuff and start going into the Sierra on Tuesday, 23rd of May. That’s the reason, why this covers 1,5 weeks of Trail, as I won’t be able to post for a few days.
Wish us luck, thanks for reading, and happy trails!
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