I really wasn’t looking forward to the seven day hike from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows: I thought it was all really hard desert hiking, and it was psyching me out, so i decided to get out of town and hit the trail as soon as possible instead if staying in town and getting more nervous about it.
I got a ride back to the trail from local trail angel Jo Walker on the afternoon of June 6th, and walked ten miles between the roads that lead to Tehachapi. Most of the hike was beautiful, around more wind farms and through cattle pastures. After a less beautiful two mile road walk, I found a mostly flat spot in a rocky wash about two miles from the freeway, and cowboy camped under the stars since it was too windy to set up a tent.
The next day started as so many do – with a big climb out of town into the mountains. Once I reached the top, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a pine forest for most of the day – so mush nicer than the seven days of exposed desert that I had feared. At much lunch spot that day I met Young Geezer, Caesar, Skeeter, and Platypus – except for Platypus, who was quite speedy, I would see the other hikers several times over then next week or so. I hiked about twenty miles that day, camping in a pine grove where I found a flat-enough spot around 7pm – my campsite criteria definitely become more lax the later in the evening I hike!
On June 8th I was reunited with Test, challenger, Green Machine, Skeeter and Caesar at the lunchtime water source (if there’s water an shade, you’ll find hikers there!), and Young Geezer came along just as I was leaving. There was moderate elevation gain that day, but I was feeling really sluggish and slow – the highlight was passing the 600 mile marker along the way; Test and I camped at Landers Campground with Mellow Yellow and some of the other hikers we’d met a few days before, under the bridge near the aqueduct. Despite guidebook warnings about noisy off-roaders using the campground, we had it almost to ourselves, and slept peacefully.
The following day was the quintessential Mohave hiking day: the only on-trail water sources were caches maintained by a trail angel named Mary, ad if those were empty we’d have to hike several miles off the trail for water, so my pack was heavy with five or six liters of water heading out of the water sources that day. I was happy to see that the first cache had water, but since there was no shade I filled up and headed out quickly, narrowly missing Mary as she arrived to replenish the cache a few minutes after I left. The afternoon’s hike was crazy-hard: uphill, hot, exposed, sandy trail with mogul ski course-like bumps, and strong side and head-winds that threatened to blow me over, and a heavy pack because I wasn’t sure if the next cache would have water. Caesar and Skeeter passed me in the afternoon, and we leapfrogged a bit as we took turns resting in the shade of Joshua trees and boulders. We all ended up camping at the second water cache at Bird Spring with Test, Mellow Yellow and Gut Feeling, happy to find it full of water. That was a 22-mile day for me, and I was feeling energized by my ability to face the harsh desert conditions and fight through them.
The next day featured a long raid wall and only a little shade, and most of the water sources were either off-trail, contaminated with cow poop, or both, so I was carrying a heavy pack again, and powered through twenty miles by 3pm, getting to Walker Pass in the early afternoon. There I found trail magic hosted by Okie Girl, Jackalope, and Jackalope’s four year old son Julian Walker, named for the pct town of Julian and Walker Pass. Instead of hiking on that evening, I stayed to enjoy the company (and wonderful food) at the trail magic tent – what a welcome break in the middle of a tough seven day stretch of hiking!
The next day I headed up out of walker pass around nine am, after enjoying a delicious egg and sausage breakfast thanks to okie girl and Jackalope. Julian tried to tell me that it was too hot too hike, since most of the other hikers were using that as an excuse to stay until evening, but I actually enjoyed the climb out of walker pass in the morning sunshine. The afternoon was an entirely different story: I stopped for about an hour around four pm, started hiking again for ten minutes, then decided it was still too hot and found another shady spot to sit in until 6pm, when it was finally a bit cooler. I made seventeen miles that day, and camped near the first trail crossing of Spanish Needle creek, which was barely flowing buy ha a pool deep enough for me to get a couple liters of water from.
The next morning I was facing a four mile climb, so I woke up early and kept moving until the sun came over the ridge and my shade disappeared – j made it almost all the way uphill before that happened, so I was pretty happy with my morning’s hike! I descended from that ridge, then took a two-hour lunch break in the shade of a pine tree after meeting section hikers (and recent MIT grads) Isaac and Tzipporah at a stream around noon, then started a seven mile climb, which took me until about five pm because I needed so many shade breaks – it was definitely hot! I promised myself I could camp in the first campsite I came to after 7pm, and found a flat spot in the crook of the trail that was just big enough for one person to cowboy camp. I was a little worried about bears and other critters, but so tired that I didn’t care too much!
The next morning was an exciting one – I was only twelve miles out from Kennedy Meadows, my next “town” stop. I hurried though the morning, passing by the Kern River and through the last if the dry desert landscape, and made it there around noon. I found GipC girl and Hamburger and the store, and hung out with them until they left that afternoon, at which point I pitched my tent, collected my resupply boxes, and settled in for a relaxing zero day before heading off into the mountains.