Weeks 6-7: Tehachapi, Kennedy Meadows, and My Flip to Oregon
Day 36: Mile 558 to Mile 573 (15 Miles)
We woke up after sleeping in a little, or at least what we consider sleeping in. My uncle made breakfast while we sat with my aunt. By 8:30 we were ready to go and out the door. It felt good to be taken care of by family for a day. We drove back to Tehachapi and got to the post office right as it opened at 10 am. I shipped out a few things and Andrew picked up a box. Then it was back to trail.
The morning was hot and exposed. We walked through the rolling hills of the wind farm and then descended toward Highway 58. My uncle had left us a mini cache there and we filled up as we passed it. Once on the road we noticed that the clouds we had seen in the distance all morning were getting nearer and darker. We decided we had better hurry to get up the climb and out of the valley. We were almost to the top of the climb when it hit.
Warm air turned to cold wind and then quickly too rain. Thunder got closer and closer. Once we saw lightning near us we knew there was no outrunning it or trying to get up and over the climb to try to get lower. We had to hunker down quickly. We walked off trail down a hill a bit to get off the ridge. We put our backs to a small bush and sat on our packs to get off the ground just in case lightning hit the ground near us. Big drops of rain soaked us through in minutes. Andrew joked that hail would be better because at least it wasn’t as wet. His wish came true seconds later.
Marble-sized hail began to hit us. It stung as we scrambled to get a Z-rest pad out and over us. We only had time to get one over us so we huddled under it together and listened to the hail hit the pad above us. We sat through that for an hour and a half. My leg fell asleep. I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. Andrew and I barely talked. Just sat in a heap under the pad until we deemed it safe to walk again.
We only walked .7 miles until we found a covered campsite and made camp. We were six miles short of where we had hoped to camp but we didn’t care. We were soaked through, freezing, and exhausted.
We hadn’t expected rain so none of my things were in waterproof sacks. Luckily my leggings, my midlayer, and my sleeping bag were dry. Everything else was wet or very damp.
Day 37: Mile 573 to Mile 593 (20 Miles)
We slept in. In fact, I didn’t set an alarm. I wanted to wake up to sun warming my tent and body. I did just that. By 7:30 a.m. I was awake and moving around. By 8 a.m. I was out of my tent drying my hiking close on shrubs nearby. We didn’t leave until 9 a.m.
We spent the morning enjoying the sun and taking the miles slow. We got to our water source by 1 p.m., right as we started to hear thunder.
We ate lunch under a tree but once it started to sprinkle we moved to a shelter made out of half of an old delivery truck. The weather was hard to predict. The clouds were dark and there was thunder but it was doing little more than sprinkling on and off.
We stayed in the shelter for another hour or so before deciding that the weather would hold off or at least it looked like it might. Chickadee had joined us. We had been seeing her on and off since Big Bear. She walked the remaining 13 miles to camp with us. We all made dinner together in a small clearing in the oaks we camped in.
Day 38: Mile 593 to Mile 618 (25 Miles)
We left camp at 7 a.m. We had a big day ahead of us but both Andrew and I were moving slow. We ate breakfast and then headed to our first water source of the day after dry camping. We took time to enjoy the abundance of water and then kept going. We knew we had plenty of streams coming up.
We had exited the low dry desert and entered a wonderland of pines, creeks, and shade. We tried to eat lunch by a creek but were overtaken by hundreds of ladybugs and fled away to another stream side. It was nice to soak my feet in cold, mountain water while I ate.
We finished lunch and not even a half mile down trail we ran into trail magic. Three guys were set up on the dirt road in a small RV with waffles, cold drinks, hotdogs, and whiskey. We had just ate lunch so we’re both turned down food but I took a drink and sat down. It turned out they were visiting a friend on trail. I asked them more about themselves and found out they were from the same town I was born in. While trying to figure out if we knew the same people a ranger pulled up and gave us all tokens with Smokey the Bear on them.
We eventually had to leave in order to make our mikes. Conveniently it was when the thunderheads were rolling in. We expected more thunderstorms. We had encountered them every day since leaving Tehachapi. It only rained for a bit and not much. By the time we got to the water cashe we were dry. From here it was only a few miles to camp. Camp was the side of a dirt road and we weren’t alone. There was another couple there and at least ten cows.
Day 39: Mile 618 to Mile 638 (20 Miles)
I woke up happy to see that no cows munched on my tent. The 25 mile day before had me aching. I wasn’t to eager to leave camp running so once again we had a slow morning. We ate breakfast at the top of our first climb and then kept trucking. It was hot by 10:00 am. We had to take a few breaks on the way to the next water cashe. I was exhausted and beat down by the heat.
Eventually we made it to the road where the cashe was and were rewarded with more trail magic. A man named Bob was there with cold drinks and pizza. We had already planned to eat lunch there so this made that plan even better. After our lunch and cold drinks we filled up on water and headed out.
The climb out of the valley sucked. It was hot and my pack was heavy with water since we were dry camping again. Andrew and I talked about meditation on our way up and I learned a lot about his experiences in India. When at the top Andrew smiled and looked back at me. He then pointed at a snow covered mountain range in the distance. The Sierra. We were finally within view of it. I tiered up and we hugged. Home was finally in sight for me.
Even after that huge lift up I was still exhausted. My body was more tired and achy than normal. The next four miles to camp seemed to never end. I got to camp, pulled my sleeping pad off my pack and laid down.
Day 40: Mile 638 to Mile 654 (16 Miles)
Andrew and I barely said anything to each other as we walked out of camp. We both were tired and our body’s are starting to feel the build up of over 600 miles wear and tear. We silently enjoyed walking through shady oaks surrounded by green grass. It was nice to be in the trees again.
By 10ish we arrived at a spring after a dry stretch. I expected a pipe that had a little water coming from it and a horse trough under it but it was much better. There was fresh cold water guzzling out of a pipe into a creek. There was a cabin with chairs to sit on and enjoy the morning sun. I took the opportunity to splash water all over myself and wet my clothes to stay cool for a few miles after that. I walked back on trail with a better attitude, feeling clean, and shoving caramel M&Ms in my mouth.
My foot started hurting really bad midday. It had been achy for a few days but it was clearly getting worse. I walked the next few miles to Walker Pass, where we planned to catch the bus into Ridgecrest, thinking about what I needed to do to make it better. Naturally I also thought of all the worst case scenarios as well and panicked about the idea of getting off trail. We got to a campground a mile before Walker Pass and there was trail magic. Beer and cookies quickly took my mind off the pain. Eventually we had to leave in order to catch the 1:20 p.m. bus.
The bus was running late so I started to try to get a hitch but finally it came and we got on. Cold air washed over us as we payed the bus fair and sat down. It was a short ride into town and all we could think about was Chinese Buffet we planned on going to. It was everything we hopped for and my stomach felt exactly as I expected it to after binge eating Chinese food in a small town in the desert.
After this we walked a mile in 102 degree heat to the grocery store. This was not an easy feat while full of Chinese food. I had trouble thinking about what I’d eat next while so full and hot. At one point I sat down in the frozen food section and moaned for a bit while Andrew observed. We bought our food and then went on the search for a place to hang out at until 6:50 p.m. when the bus came again. We settled on Arby’s since we could charge there too. We walked to the bus stop after a glorious stay in Arby’s and got back on trail. The sunset was lovely and the temps had dropped. After two miles we settled on a campsite overlooking the desert below.
Day 41: Mile 654 to Mile 676 (22 miles)
We were walking before 6 a.m. We knew it was going to be hot and we had a lot of climbing to do. By 10 we had done 10 miles and took a break at a spring. I ate over half a shareable bag of peanut butter m&ms in one sitting. We kept hiking until a small creek five mile past this. We took a long siesta and I took the opportunity to wash off. By 3 p.m. we were hopelessly bored and decided to keep walking and tackle the climb ahead of us regardless of the heat.
The climb turned out to be not as bad as expected. The wind picked up and kept us cool. When we got to the top I ate some cold soaked rice I had experimented with. I’m getting VERY tired of cooking and am considering cold soaking after Kennedy Meadows. It was a success and I decided that I’m sending my stove home.
From here we walked another few miles to camp. It was now crazy windy and pitching my tent was hard. While pitching I found a scorpion under a rock. So did Andrew! Turns out they were everywhere and I was pretty excited to finally see some before leaving the desert.
Day 42: Mile 676 to Mike 699 (23 Miles)
We were out of camp early again. We did five miles down to Chimney Creek before eating breakfast. From here we set out to tackle what we though was supposed to be a big climb. It turned out to be way easier than we expected, especially jacked up of Crunk Juice (Mio Energy). At the top we decided to keep the morning going and wait to eat lunch for a few more miles. We had done 10 miles by 10 and 17 by the time we got to what was supposed to be camp. It was only 1 p.m. so we decided to take a lunch break there before continuing on. While there we saw a bear come down to the creek to get water. It didn’t seem scared of us at all.
After lunch and a long break to keep out of the sun during the hottest part of the day we left. The plan was to have a half day into Kennedy Meadows, now it looked like we would hike until we only had about three miles in in the morning.
We found camp by the Kurn River. I tried to wash off the best I could in hopes to smell a bit better for when I see my parents tomorrow.
Day 43: Mile 699 to Kennedy Meadows (3 Miles)
I slept in as long as I could but the sun turned my tent into an oven by 8 a.m. Andrew and I were packed up and moving by 9 a.m. We ran into Flex and Snacks as we got back on trail. I could tell we were all excited to leave the desert section behind.
We hit the 700 mile maker but no one really batted an eye. It’s 702 that really matters. That means you’re finally in Kennedy Meadows, the gateway to the Sierra. We walked the next two miles quickly and arrived at the road. It felt weird. I couldn’t sort through my feelings. We were done with the desert. I had 700 miles of hot earth behind me, but now I also had a lot of snowy miles ahead.
These thoughts quickly faded away when we met a photographer named Andrew who was taking portraits of PCT hikers. He also had a cooler full of cold drinks and snacks. This guy took incredible photos of hikers all for free!
After Andrew took our pictures we hiked into town and the first person I saw in the general store parking it was my dad, but my dog made it to me first. Mom and Dad came next! They had driven out from Colorado in their motorhome.
I made us breakfast in the motorhome and then my uncle showed up with donuts. We had a nice family reunion before Andrew and I had to get cracking on our decision to flip to OR. The Sierra, in our opinion, was too dangerous. We had decided a few days before that flipping was the right call for us. We went to Grumpy Bears to get our packages and some lunch. After lunch I met up with a friend of mine from Sufferfest Beer Company.
Dave had brought a ton of beer and food for hikers to do trail magic. We spread the word about the BBQ we would have later that night. It was wonderful. Hikers came through to grab food and beer and enjoy each other’s company before heading their separate ways.
Day 44: Travel Day to Reno
Day 45: Rest Day with My Family
Day 46: Travel Day to Ashland
Day 47: Callahan’s Lodge to Mile 1696 (22 Miles)
I didn’t sleep well. I hadn’t been able to stay asleep at the rest stop we slept at. It was too hot out and I was sticking to my sleeping pad. Andrew clearly hadn’t either. We didn’t talk much as we dressed, packed up, and drove the rental car to the return lot. A trail angel named Sarah picked us up and took us back to trail.
We were so happy and excited to be walking through a lush forest we accidentally started north. Luckily I caught it only a minute in and we turned around and headed south.
I loved the desert. It was a beautiful boot camp, but I was bubbling about being surrounded by green. This energy carried us throughout the day. We met a big group who had flipped up too. About twelve of them. We kept running into them all day and I liked them a lot. I decided that it was because they had similar personalities to Andrew and I. A similar mindset too since they played it safe a flipped.
The bugs were bad when we got to camp. We pitched our tents feet apart and talked to each other through them as we are and took shelter from the bugs.
Day 48: Mile 1696 to 1676 (20 Miles)
Getting up was hard. We were behind on sleep from the rest stop night. By 7:00 am we had left and I felt terrible immediately. I started to take more breaks throughout the morning and had to resort to copious amounts of ibeprophen to get through the day.
Some of our day was spent on snow. I had recently acquired microspikes and finally got to use them. Mid morning we reached the California boarder. It was funny heading back into California when we had just worked so hard to get to Oregon. Most of our day was spent in the shade of the big, mossy trees though. We had a spectacular view of Shasta some of the time.
Although it was beautiful I was trying to distract myself the best I could. I hurt. Every part of me. I was also tired. Andrew was kind and took rests when I needed them. When I wasn’t resting I was walking. I spent a good chunk of the walking listening to Harry Potter.
Day 49: Mile 1676 to Nero’s (21 Miles)
We started our day with a sunrise over Shasta. We wanted to get an early start on the day because we were going to drop into Siead Valley and it was supposed to be hot and exposed.
The hike into the Valley wasn’t bad but it did get hot. We saw two rattle snakes because of it. The trail down was also incredibly overgrown. We had to bushwhack a good section.
Once in the valley we went to the general store. I got a tall boy of voodoo ranger and sat outside at the picnic tables under the tree.
From there we went to a trail angels property. This man, Morgan, owns a plot of land next to the Klamath River. He has a simple trailer set up and lives there alone with his dog. As of 2019 he allows hikers to stay on the property. All I had wanted all day was to swim in the river, so once I found out his property backed up to the river that was my first stop! He showed us around the property and then I went straight the the river. It was rushing but there was a sandy beach and eddy to swim at. I washed my clothes and my body and enjoyed the feeling of being cool, wet, and clean. The rest of the night was spent doing typical camp/town things with a nice group of people we had been hiking near the last few days.
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