As I’d moved forward approaching the Antelope Valley Freeway, I found the friction of my leg chafe had quickly left my running shorts completely shredded. I would’ve found it funny if they were not so annoying to hike in. I hitched into town to replace them and in doing so, crossed the San Andreas Fault line separating the North American tectonic plate with the Pacific. There’s little to see but a small pond filled with ground water off to the side of the road. The scale of it reminds me of the great cumulative distance I’ve traveled, perhaps moreso than stone markers or posts beside the trail. Anticipating Vasquez Rocks ahead and the beloved Serenity’s Oasis, I found myself moving at a quick pace. Suddenly a small bush, inches away, began rattling menacingly in my direction. That’s when I decided it would be best to slow down.
Green Valley really lived up to it’s name and was a rather beautiful place to spend the day walking. In the evening I found convenient, shady places to hang my hammock, including the local fire station and Sawmill Campground. A tiny cave up in the hills offered some siesta shade too, but only if you’re willing to get dirt all over your clothes! A few stray clay figures are a constant reminder that the trail is also someone’s backyard. Either someone placed them around for our entertainment, or they’ve existed there long before people… impossible to tell. The charm of this section was also unfortunately paired with more of our great mutual enemy: the poodle dog bush. It was damn near everywhere you’d look.
I soon decided I wanted to get out of the desert as soon as possible to avoid the upcoming heat wave, so I pushed a pretty standard 20 miles into Hikertown USA, a place I thought I’d call home for the night. Feeling not particularly comfortable with my camping options and feeling the pressure of the night hike tradition, I got back on trail around sunset after little more than a 30 minute nap. After all it’s only 17 miles illuminated by soft red headlamp, how bad could it be? One seemingly endless aqueduct and a few hundred ill-tempered dogs later, I found yet another spot to sleep. The problem now was the sun would soon rise and start once again heating up the day. After managing to sleep for about one hour, I was up and collecting my things to keep at it. I don’t know if you consider that a night’s sleep, but I certainly don’t. Forcing myself another 13 miles(50 total, but who’s counting?) I found a nice forested mountain top outside Tehachapi where I could finally truly sleep. I can’t in good faith recommend that anyone hikes like this. Hiking through the night along the aqueduct was in my opinion, a tradition that needs to die. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good dark start, but unless it’s 100°F+.. what’s the point in hiking from 10pm-2AM?!
After a nice burrito and margarita in town, I put the dense wind farms behind me and enjoyed a terribly hot, heinous climb above highway 58. The first of many dirt roads provided a reasonable and shaded spot to sleep. Lovely forested areas suggest an even closer proximity to the Sierra Nevada. Just as I had hoped the desert section was over though, there was one last hurdle: a slow and exposed day of deep, sandy trekking through the northwestern Mojave Desert landscape. For a solid 15 miles there is no water, even in a year known for available water sources. What exists instead on either end, is a massive cache maintained by very generous locals including charging blocks, a mini library, a medicine cabinet and soap/sanitizer. It was a beautiful thing.
Southern California Folklore
I unceremoniously finished the desert section by following freshly placed bear tracks down a dirt road, and then out the other end of trail at Walker Pass. There, I found no bear, but instead a pair of llamas that seemed to be taking care of themselves just fine. I secured a ride into town with a man who had retired in the 90s from a career in electrical work for nearby naval bases, most notably working on the development of sidewinder missiles. I’ve noticed that nearly every hitch comes with an interesting story. A sound studio built for Whitney Houston. Tortilla delivery in the 70s for a family business, Mission Foods, yet to be sold off and become a household name. I couldn’t tell you how many of these sort of stories are true or fabricated or anything in between, but it sure makes for an interesting ride! I arrive safely in Ridgecrest and hunker down to plan my next moves.
With the blessing of the PCTA, I’ve decided to flip up to Ashland, Oregon and finish northbound from there -ultimately heading back down to the Northern California border and finishing Southbound into the Sierra Nevada come August and/or September. Not an easy decision to make, but with the logistical issues surrounding bridge outages, road closures, excessively long food carries, and the rightfully feared stream crossings, I feel the urge to put a pin in it all, and flip. The PCT is, as they say, a trail that forces you to learn to be flexible. I wish all my fellow hikers heading past Kennedy Meadows northbound this year: plenty of luck and happy hiking 🙂
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