PCT Week 7: Storms, New Friends, and Water Carries

Extra Days in Tehachapi

Tehachapi is our next town stop. The city is full of great food and more wonderful people. I get in early covered in dirt and sweat and still I am welcomed by the community. I go into a local coffee shop ‘Kamenz Kafe,’ and immediately folks take notice.

There are two types of reactions I generally get in towns, a warm welcome full of positivity or a glare of disapproval at our hiker trash look. The good news is that generally 95% of the time we are welcomed with open arms.

A comment made by one person at the coffee shop: “the migration has begun.” I never really thought about it that way, but she’s right, a lot of these towns rely on thru-hikers staying in hotels and dining out. It’s why everyone is so accommodating even when we look like hiker trash.

One must-stop food location in Tehachapi is Kohnen’s Country Bakery. This German bakery is right in the center of town and has lots of delicious options. I reunite with most of my tramily and it’s time to relax.

We meet more hikers at another amazing spot in town, Local Craft Beer. The local brewery is on the outside edges of town and does require a bit of extra walking, but we just walked over 500 miles, so an extra mile doesn’t bother us. The evening is spent recounting the last stretch on the aqueduct and wind farm.

I decide to take a couple days off in Tehachapi. It’s been a long stretch and with the possibility of a storm coming through keeps us from continuing north right away. It’s no worry for me, Tehachapi is a great town with lots to enjoy.

Entering the Storm

An extra night is taken in Tehachapi to wait out a snow storm in the mountains. I am lucky enough to get to spend it with a local trail angel, ‘Gramps,’ who had given me a ride into town a couple days previous. He offers me a bed in his home, definitely the best bed I’ve had so far.

After more than enough time off, it’s finally time to enter the Tehachapi mountains. The storm ends mid-day so a late start is required. I’m treated to a fantastic breakfast and with the skies clearing up a bit, I’m off. ‘Gramps’ joins me for the first couple miles.

Back in the mountains, the winds I experienced before entering Tehachapi return. These are even stronger and colder from the morning storm. It’s a rough first day back, as I finally make it to camp.

There’s a bit of snow and most of trail is wet. A muddy dirt road makes the hike more trivial than it needs to be. The storm definitely creates a split in the hikers. Some had entered the day before, most decide to spend an extra night in town. I’m the only one who enters that day.

It’s nice to have some time on my own, fully on my own. I generally hike by myself during the day and spend nights with everyone at camp. There are a couple log books on this stretch of trail, and I can see that my friends are not too far in front of me.

The solo days are actually nice to have from time to time. I get to reflect on my time on trail, and with no schedule, I hike my own hike. It’s two full days without seeing anyone at all. It’s weird, but I enjoy the independence. I know I’ll reach my friends soon.

Mile 600, New Friends

Finally, it’s the third morning and I see my first hikers in days. These are new faces. They pass my tent in the morning so no conversations are made, I’ll most likely be seeing them soon as I start my day.

It’s another milestone day! 600 miles! I had just reached 500 right before Tehachapi. It doesn’t feel that long ago, but with the extra zeros in town it’s been almost a week. And I finally make contact with my first hikers in days.

It’s a whole group of them! Rocket, Swig, Puffy P, Moonbean, Sevren, and Stretch. All new faces who had started after me. After a couple days to myself, it’s nice to have others around. Before reaching camp that night, I found a note left in the sand for me from ‘Basecamp’ and ‘Yeti Legs’ who I hadn’t seen since Acton. They’re right in front of me.

We make our way to camp for the day. After seeing the note in the sand I was tempted to keep pushing more miles and night hike a bit to catch up to my friends. But something inside me told me to stay with these new people. Not sure what it is but I’m immediately welcomed into this new group as we cowboy camp under the stars.

The positive energy that everyone brings to this group is something I like. As an optimist, I enjoy spending time around folks who also bring out positivity. While I haven’t seen some of my friends in more than a hundred miles, I think I’ll be just fine waiting a couple more days.

Final Desert Push, a Long Water Carry

I awake knowing what’s coming, a very long water carry. It’s a very very long water carry. We make our way down to our first water cache of the day. It’s a blessing. We are in fully exposed desert and it’s a hot day. There are more than 70 gallons at this first stop.

We have to make it to the next cache before making it to camp or we risk not having much water at camp. It’s a very long morning, and with little shade it makes it hard to take any breaks.

Finally, in the middle of the desert hills we find a spot under a Joshua Tree. We all fit under this tree eating lunch and taking a well-deserved nap. But the day isn’t done. There are still many miles to do for the day and another water cache to find.

The second water cache is right by the next big climb. Another break is necessary in order to push the final miles of the days. Even late in the day, the heat is a problem. The only thing you can do is to keep pushing forward.

The final climb is not easy after one of the hottest days so far, but a nice forest-covered trail awaits us on the other side, and as we make it to camp it finally starts to cool down. It’s another beautiful night to cowboy camp under the stars.

Magic in Ridgecrest

We don’t have many miles left until we reach our next town, Ridgecrest. After many days off in Tehachapi I don’t need a zero, but Puffy P is able to get us a ride into town as well as a home to stay in for the night with local trail angel ‘Pancakes.’

My original plan was to go into town, get my resupply, and then head back off onto trail. In my mind I know I’d probably be able to reach my friends within half a day. But I’m convinced to stay with our trail angel and enjoy a nice home-cooked meal.

‘Romeo’ who I hadn’t seen in over two weeks joins us in town. It’s good to see familiar faces. The rest of the day is spent overthinking a two-day resupply as we roam every single aisle of Walmart. We keep telling ourselves it’s only two days until we reach Kennedy Meadows, but into the next aisle we go.

The night is spent enjoying a wonderful home-cooked meal and a nice bed awaits. I never expected this magic, you never should expect trail magic. This is what I love about the communities around the trail. They are all so welcoming and willing to help hikers in every way possible.

I’m excited to see what the Sierra will offer in terms of trail magic, Southern California has been more than I could have ever wished for. Thank you to all the trail angels who have helped us along so far 600 miles in.

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