First Day on the PCT

Since I didn’t get to bed until midnight after my long bus ride to Bakersfield, I chose to skip the early morning Kern County bus ride to Lake Isabella. Instead, I took my time to wake up late, eat the Super 8 breakfast, and walk the two and a half miles back to the Bakersfield transit center.

Even with my slow morning, I still had to wait most of an hour for the 12 noon bus.  It showed up on time, and I was the only passenger getting on at the Transit Center.  The fare is waived until June due to a state grant, although the normal fare is only $3.  Maybe this is what some of those high gas prices go toward.

The bus stopped elsewhere in Bakersfield, and we ended up with quite a few passengers on this intercommunity route.  State road 178 passes through a narrow canyon, and at one point we could see a real gusher of water spewing from the left canyon wall.  Other passengers said that the gushing was a lot stronger last year.

I was happy to see so much water because it gave me confidence that I would find water along my upcoming dry section of the PCT.

Upon arrival at the town of Lake Isabella, I went straight to the grocery store looking for a deli, but a staff member told me to go across the street to Barnes Bargains, which serves as the town’s hiker hangout.  It was too early in the season for other hikers, but I got a nice beef burrito verde.  They told me that snow dusted all the mountains around town just three days prior, meaning that it’s been a snowy winter and the snow may not be over yet.

I asked about hitchhiking to Walker Pass, and they said that I should have no problem.  One guy even cut me a piece of box and gave me an indelible marker to write “PCT HIKER” on because he said that there are hobos that people don’t want to pick up.

Sure enough, not far out of town, I got a ride from a guy about my age who wanted to talk about the trail.  He had severe health problems, having recently had open-heart surgery to replace a valve and to sew up an aneurysm.  Nevertheless, he told me that he hopes he can do a little hiking in the future and do some rock collecting.

We arrived at the Walker Pass Campground after awhile, since it was a good 35 miles from Lake Isabella.  I gave my kind driver some money and started on my journey.

First thing was to sign the trail register.  These are located every 20 to 30 miles along the PCT.  It is very important to sign up and close the box in order for government bean counters to know how many people are using the trail.  I just wrote my name, city and state of residence, and that my hike starts at Walker Pass heading south.  I signed all trail registers in this manner, but if you write just your name, that is fine and quicker.

Since it was 3:30  PM on April 11 when I started, I would only be able to hike a few miles before dark.  The trail was mostly uphill out of the pass, and the opinion of my legs was that I was carrying too much weight.

Here are pictures from my first afternoon on the PCT.  As I climbed higher over 6000 feet, there were trees and views of the surrounding mountains.  The yellow colors painting the mountains are flowers, my driver had told me.  And I reached my first bit of snow.

I ended up hiking over 7 miles before sunset.  I stopped and set up my tent just beyond a short road to McIver’s Spring and Hut.  I walked to the spring with my Sawyer bags and without my pack.  The spring was tremendous, gushing out of a pipe planted vertically out of the ground and bent like a faucet.  It was too dark to get a decent picture.  The hut was cruddy, not in good shape and not too clean inside either.  I was better off camping where I was.  It was late, and after eating dinner, I finally got into my tent to sleep at 10 PM.

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