Thursday, May 31: I was on the trail by 6:25 with one goal in mind: The Andersons’ Casa de Luna, the next trail angel stop on the PCT. I knocked out the first four miles of the day, a 2000-foot climb, fairly quickly, stopping to watch the ravens soaring on the thermals. There was a small water cache under a tree before the next climb, so I stopped there to enjoy half an hour in the shade – it was already quite hot by 10am! I reached the next water cache around 1:15, but it was empty; luckily there was a small stream still running nearby, so I was able to get water there, and relax in a lawn chair in the shade for another two hours before braving the heat for the final seven miles into Casa de Luna – the shadows were lengthening, but the temperature didn’t seem to be getting any cooler. I passed a leaderboard for a 50-mile trail run that apparently takes place on the PCT in that section, and thought about how crazy it would be to actually run 50 miles there, when walking twenty that day was quite enough for me! I got to Casa de Luna around 6:30 in the evening, found a spot in the maze of manzanita trees to set up my tent, and enjoyed a delicious dinner of taco salad – the Andersons’ signature hiker dinner. I took a very restful zero the next day, lounging in the shade in the front yard and doing basically nothing.
I set out again on June 2, around 9:15 am – after breakfast, since there was no way I was going to pass up the chance for pancakes and coffee! The first eight miles of the day flew by, as I avoided stopping for breaks because the flies would swarm any time I stopped. I did take a two hour break at the next (nearly empty, again) water cache with Lunchbox (who had skipped the Andersons to power on to Tehachapi) and the Canadians. We all camped for the day near mile 493, under some pine trees close to one of the desert water sources – a concrete guzzler that was so full of debris that we had to strain the water before filling our bottles. The water tasted more like pine needle tea than water – not all that refreshing, but we take what we can get.
June 3 was a 24-mile day, with the goal of getting to Hikertown near Lancaster, CA. I was looking forward to passing the 500-mile mark that day, but was not looking forward to anything else about another long, hot day in the desert. I started out the day without my sunglasses, as I couldn’t remember where I’d stashed them the night before (in the compartment where my sleeping bag goes – a very odd choice), and then I tripped over a rock a few miles into the hike and landed on my face, coming away with a swollen lip, bloody nose, and black eye. Passing 500 miles was definitely the highlight of the day – there were three separate markers, and at the last one we took pictures, drank some rum that Lunchbox had brought for the occasion, and played “I will Walk 500 miles” to celebrate. After that it was more slogging along, trying to tolerate the flies during shade breaks, and trying to make the miles for the day. We chatted with some Sierra Club dayhikers at a campground about five miles from Hikertown, and then wound our way up and down an endless set of low ridges before finally finishing for the day around 6:30. Hikertown is kind of like a Hollywood set version of an Old West town, and Test and I shared one of the train cars-turned-cabins whose facade was decorated as the City Hall. We also indulged in dinner there, and for $10 each had a salad, pot roast, garlic bread, corn on the cob and strawberry shortcake – so much tastier than eating the food we packed in, even though it meant we’d be carrying more food than we needed the rest of the way to Tehachapi.
I was sooooo tired from the 24 miles into Hikertown, but the next day was a long walk along the Los Angeles aqueduct, a section notorious on the PCT for its lack of shade, hot temperature, and high wind. To avoid the heat as much as possible, Test, Lunchbox and I hiked out at 4:30 in the morning – surprisingly, waking up at 3:30 wasn’t as painful as I expected, and it was kind of fun to be hiking before sunrise. The uncovered section of the aqueduct was quite pretty to hike beside, but after a few miles we were just walking on a sandy road along a concrete cover, through an under-construction wind farm, moving back and forth from the road to the concrete as we got tired of one surface or the other. We did end up hiking 17 miles by noon that day, and then spent the next five hours resting under a bridge with about fifteen other hikers. Every half hour or so a group of hikers would have to move from one side of the group to the other, chasing the shade as the sun moved across the sky. Twice I was run over by some tumbleweed, as the wind picked up and blew debris under the bridge. We set off again around 5pm, and by then the wind had picked up considerably – we hiked about 3 miles in the first hour with a tailwind, but then it took about two hours to make the next three to the Taylorhorse Canyon campground. At one point my sunglasses were blown off of my head, and I sat down to avoid the wind after chasing them down, only to realize that the wind was just blowing up dirt which then covered my face, even with my back turned – not actually relaxing at all. I set up my tent at the campground because there were a few raindrops and some threatening clouds, but the strong winds blew away the weather – and almost blew away my tent! By morning only one guy-line was still staked to the ground, and I was just glad that my tent stakes hadn’t blown away.
Having a collapsed tent was good motivation for an early start the next morning – it’s no fun to linger in your tent when it’s collapsed around you! I was awake around 5:30 and on the trail by six, ready for the push into Tehachapi. The threatening clouds had given way to a cool but breezy morning, and I actually really enjoyed the hike into Tehachapi – there were more wind farms, burned out trees, and bright blue skies with fluffy white clouds. There was a surprise water cache about 10 miles before town, where I stopped to relax with Drop Zone, BAM and Shivers, and then I cruised into town around 2pm and set up base camp at the Best Western – glad to have a shower and a clean place to relax out of the wind.