Week 7: Trending Upwards
In both elevation and mood, this week had an upwards trend. It started just a couple days before Hikertown and the LA aqueduct, both at an elevation around 3,000 ft, and with my being emotionally down in the dumps. By the end, I was camped at an elevation of 5,500 ft, and back to feeling like I was capable of the mental and emotional challenge presented by thru-hiking.
My mom had to remind me during a phone call while I was on trail, getting bitten by ants, to write down the good things. I had said I would do it every week, and if you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I am a bit spotty about it. This week though, given how I’ve been feeling, it was especially important to treasure the good things. For the first time on trail, I could ask myself the question – is there anywhere else I’d rather be? – and say yes. I wanted to be in my childhood bed with my cat curled up on my stomach.
So instead, to celebrate my last day of being 22, I hiked 22.8 miles (lets truncate instead of rounding, shall we?). I listened to Taylor Swift sing about being 22 once I got to camp that night. Sorry to my fellow hikers who passed by and could hear it – generally I practice better trail etiquette than that. Then, because the next day was my birthday, I hiked 23.4 miles. Both days were the most miles I had ever hiked in a day.
The long days didn’t shake the funk I was in, but I did learn that I am less grumpy while I am actually moving, so maybe having long days helped me stay sane.
Hikertown was the low point emotionally and in elevation. The morning after my birthday, some Spanish guy whose English wasn’t great asked me how I was. I couldn’t tell him without crying, so this random man with whom I struggled to communicate had to watch me cry. Awkward to say the least. (Since I am writing this a couple weeks after it happened, it’s also kind of funny). He reminded me not to quit on a bad day, and all the other cliches that we spout. As a solo hiker, and said that he thought that while trail families are nice, we should be able to do this by ourselves. That somehow made me feel stronger because while I missed Dino and the familiar faces of my pre-Wrightwood hiker bubble, I had been fine before them, and was still surviving without them.
A little while later, I disproved my theory that I was surviving alone when Edelweiss, who I had met last week, showed up and I latched onto her like a lost duckling. I wanted to do the aqueduct with someone, and I chose her. I didn’t let her get too far out of my sight for the rest of the day.
That, and the Hiker Burger I ate at the Neenach market, were the start of my upward trend. Just as at the Whitewater preserve, the large burger and cold drink were served with a significant attitude adjustment.
Upwards and Onwards
Fueled by the desire to have a hiking buddy, I hiked fast to keep up with Edelweiss for the Aqueduct section. I can’t lie, it was a bit reminiscent of the death marches that we went on as workouts when I worked for the USFS. The following day, with Tehachapi on the horizon, I aligned my plans with Edelweiss and two other hikers. That way I thought, since we were all staying with the same trail angel, we could hitch into town together. Of course, this meant I had to do another 23-mile day, because they wanted to get into town the following day before the post office closed. It was a long day, starting, and ending in wind farms, with the whomping noise of spinning turbines drowned out by a podcast about the history of the LA Aqueduct.
When I told Edelweiss what podcast I was listening to, she told me she didn’t want to learn school things while on the trail. While I understand that point of view, I really enjoy knowing about the places I hike thru. Since this section was less nature-y and more human influenced, learning about the aqueduct seemed like a fitting substitute to learning more plant facts. So, let me squash your misconceptions about LA. It is a desert. Palm trees would not grow naturally there without being watered. Most of the city’s water is taken (in some cases, many would argue, stolen) from the Owen’s Valley, from the Colorado River, and more. As an engineer, it’s a cool case study. As a nature-y person, maybe that wasn’t the best spot for a ginormous city.
Along with Edelweiss and a whole host of other hikers, I stayed in what used to be a cider mill/barn owned by a trail angel in Tehachapi. She only started hosting hikers last year but already has an amazing set up. A million stars to her. Once I got there after going to (Edelweiss’s very first!) Walmart for our resupply, I didn’t leave again until it was time to go back to the trail.
For the little bit of time that I was in town, I learned that they are super helpful to the hikers. The trail angel who brought us into town said that since they don’t have much other entertainment, trail angel-ing is like a competitive sport in Tehachapi. Whatever it was, we all benefited! Before heading into Barbara’s, Edelweiss and I hit the German bakery in town. Edelweiss, who is German, said that the pretzels they baked were up to snuff with the ones she could get in Germany. Not the best, but very acceptable. Seems like a high rating to me given that we were in a small town in Southern California!
I was psyched during this zero to hear that Dino was now only a day ahead of me. Now it seemed, catching up to her seemed like a real possibility.
Back to Trail
Another trail angel picked us all up at Barbara’s and brought us back to the trail. Since Edelweiss and the others were trying to make it to Kennedy Meadows South quickly, I said goodbye as we got on trail, and returned to hiking alone. Fortunately, I was feeling a little more pep in my step and in control of my hike than I had at the beginning of the week.
The Happy List
Day 1: Off and on since Campo, these strange small clay statues have popped up here and there. On this section there were quite a few, and spotting them here and there was fun.
Day 2: Although the squirrels of this area don’t have the magnificently bushy tails of the squirrels from earlier on the trail, the ground squirrels were a delight to watch scurry and jump about.
Day 3: I managed the 17 ish miles of the Aqueduct section around 3:30 p.m. and made it to camp before I needed a headlight to hike with. This made me feel empowered to waste more daylight hours in the future, since I can still get good miles in late in the day!
Day 4: One of the first things I saw in the morning was a hummingbird huddled super close by me in a bush.
Day 5: When I arrived at the Tehachapi post office to get my package of Invisalign that my Mom had sent, the mail lady also brought out a package a friend had sent for my birthday. A fabulous surprise!
Day 6: During my zero in Tehachapi, I took the time to lay down (during the day!) and watch one of my favorite TV shows. Thanks to Barbara the trail angel for providing such an awesome place to stay for us hikers!
Day 7: Plants are amazing! The orange poppies were tiny little dwarfs where they grew in direct sunlight. If they sprouted underneath a small bush however, they grew stems exactly tall enough to just barely get their flowers out of the bush and exposed to the direct sunlight (and pollinators I assume).
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