Days 32-38 (Mi. 558.5 to 703)
Woaaaaa. And just like that, the desert is OVER. I cannot believe the first leg of the PCT is complete. Lots of updates to come, but below is a wrap up of the hot, dry stretch from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows! DAY 32: ZERO in Tehachapi!
A day of no hiking!! And even better? Staying in a MARRIOTT. I know it's a pretty big contrast to the trail, but boy was it enjoyed. My sister, Sarah, gifted me a room in town using her points, so Evan (GQ) and I were able to take in a full day of amenities, like continental breakfast and a hot tub! GQ went to physical therapy in town and now his knee is lookin' 👍👍👍. Pretty confident that appointment saved his hike.
Anyway- Today I'm just counting my blessings and just so grateful for this whole PCT thing. The support I've received from friends and family has been humbling, and the encouragement from strangers has completely unexpected.
Last night was one of my favorite nights "on trail" as I went to a friend's friend's home for a meal and spend time around a table.
Thorpe family, thank you thank you for an evening just what I needed. From the steak and wine, to hearing how the Lord is working in and through the Tehachapi community, I couldn't have dreamt of a better way to spend the evening (even with a hot tub at my disposal! 😉). Having intentional, non-trail conversation was just what the soul needed. Thorpes and Henslers, you guys are rockstars, and I cannot say thank you enough.
And Mary, thanks for having just the best friends around. I can see why you cherish them so much!!
The rest of the Zero was spent grocery shopping (lame) and resting before our driest stretch of the trail yet. GQ and I conquered the local country-cooking restaurant in town, fueling the next miles with fried chicken, fried okra, and mac and cheese.......... yep. Really missing salad these days.
DAY 33: 558.5 to 577.2 (18.7)
Heading out of Tehachapi was bittersweet. Leaving T meant leaving the comfort of our last town for 200+ miles AND a tough 6 day stretch with very limited water. Additionally, this is the most remote stretch of trail yet. WOOF.
HOWEVER, this last push is the end of the PCT's 703 mile desert segment!!! Let's go!!
Evan (GQ) put this stretch into perspective, "It's as if we're closing in on the end of a book, with the pages getting thinner in our right hand. After this, we pick up the next volume."
We pushed out of Tehachapi with 7L of water- the new norm for the next week or so. I think I've said this before, but water is HEAVY, especially in the Mojave Desert.
A few miles into our hike, we ran into a section hiker who seemed to have bought REI out of everything they had... including glacier goggles... for the desert....
After a short convo, we learned he was heading back to the trailhead where his friend has dropped him off. Here, he was going to head back to REI to snag some more realistic gear. Good call, brother.
Anyway- I call this the Cheryl Strayed affect. This trailhead is where Cheryl of the book Wild began her PCT section hike, and I'm positive will see a few more Cheryls down the trail. Unfortunately, this trail takes a bit more prep than a good novel matched with a trip to REI. It takes months, if not years, of planning. Good luck to all the Cheryls out there this year!! Rooting for ya.
The day brought some brutal heat and near ridges. I notice that the mountains are losing their hill-ish nature as we scoot closer to the Sierras. There are some pretty killer peaks!
GQ and I camped right around mile 577 just around sunset. I was a little late rolling up to camp because just LOOK at this sunset!! Gahh.
DAY 34: 577.2 to 599.69 (22.5)
Woa woa woa. I didn't sign up for a wet sleeping bag!! Condensation was a wicked crazy last night, so we needed to dry out our bags at lunch.
The day was pretty uneventful, but I'm pretty sure we spotted the Sierras at a point or two in the hike.
When in doubt, scramble up boulders to see the sunset. Worth it. Also, we bumped into some cows on trail, so that was weird?
As we inched toward Mile 600, we ran into a girl (let's call her Samantha) sitting on a boulder in the dark with nothing but a tiny bit of water and an umbrella. Long story short, homegirl tried to meet up with her boyfriend, was unable to drive to the trail, and trailblazed all day from the nearest dirt road to try and find him. Samantha was severely dehydrated and in shock, hardly articulating her thoughts.
We clothed her (it was getting late and pretty cold), gave her some water, and hiked up to where we were planning to camp. Because she had no shelter, GQ and I offered up our sleeping bag liners and tents, creating a fairly warm home for her. This was a sobering moment. Later, GQ and I talked about how the conditions could have taken her life if we hadn't come across her. It is no joke out here, and we're grateful for safety all around. DAY 35: 599.69 to 631.2 (31.89)
Ohhhh boy. Today was a long one. BUT. We crossed 600 and I finally bagged my first 30 Mile day and couldn't be more thrilled! With 7L of water and +5519/-4965 feet of elevation, it was just plain exhausting. To reduce water weight, we cooked dinner for lunch which was pretty strange. We also saw another snake! 🐍
At the end of the hike, GQ and I rolled up to Bird Springs camp and just straight up cashed out in the middle of a dirt road. I convinced Evan it was fine (we had done this several times before)... but just around 11:30pm we had headlights shining right in our face and a car detouring around us. My b. Oh, and we still didn't move. DAY 36: 631.2 to Walker Pass (651.3)
There really isn't MUCH of an update for today's post, but that we reached the end of our incredibly long dry stretch of the trail!! Cheers to no more heavy-ass packs (until we pick up our Sierra gear)! 😉
The water source was just a bit off trail at an old cabin, but man was it flowing!! Crisp and clear, refreshing in every way.
It made me think about how Jesus refers to himself as the fountain of Living Water. Even with this beautiful spring, I know I will still thirst again. This is a fix to my current dehydration and drought.
But Jesus brings that living water. A fountain that will never run dry. Living in the desert for close to 40 days, I'm beginning to really understand that attribute of Jesus, and how mind boggling it must've been for the Samaritan woman at the well.
Anyway. I'm all about that Living Water. I'm also ALL about unexpected trail magic, which is what we scored at the Walker Pass Campground. Cheers to cheap beers and banana chips before bed. 🍻
DAY 37: Walker Pass (651) to Chimney Creek Camp (681)
So many surprises happened today, which was a big refresher compared to the monotonous routine of desert hiking.
First, it RAINED today!! And not just drizzle drizzle, but some pretty good showers. For some reason, this fueled my feet and spirits and somehow crushed another 30!! Also, we crossed the 25% mark!
I listened to my backpacking playlist and basically ran up and down these ridges. I was having an absolute blast.
The incredible day ended with a little bit of unexpected trail magic at Chimney Creek Camp. I met up with some hikers I hadn't seen in a while, talked about what to expect in the Sierra, and hit the hay pretty early.
Plain and simple: today was a good one.
DAY 38: Chimney Creek Camp (681) to Kennedy Meadows (703)
Last day in the desert! Last day in the desert!!
How is the desert already over?? That was the question on my mind all day today. We're already reaching THE Kennedy Meadows. Crazy.
On the way down to KM, we caught a pretty solid view of the Sierra Skyline. Snow capped and towering in the distance, I know I'll have my work cut out for me over a few weeks.
The final few miles of the desert segment are very flat... so I ran it. Although I'm a poor runner, it felt SO good to break from the typical hiking pace. Until I ran into this guy, reminding me the desert ain't over yet.
I rolled up to KM around 2:30p and was surprised to find a town with even fewer things than I imagined. There is a general store where hikers camp and regroup before the Sierras, as well as Grumpy Bear... a smoky restaurant crawling with hikers and interesting locals. There is no service in KM, which eliminated the chance of the celebratory "made it to the Sierras!" call to the fam.
At the general store, I downed a Coors, can of pringles, and pint of ice cream in record time to toast to 703 desert miles. I also received my brand new tent (Big Agnes Fly Creek 2) in the mail, which will be my new BFF for the Sierras!
In the evening our crew had dinner at Grumpy Bear's and planned to hit the hay early. HOWEVER, a local down the street was playing an old western in his outdoor amphitheater. With the moonlit foothills of the Sierras as the backdrop, I couldn't have picked a better way to end my first day on the cusp of these mountains.
PS- my tent rocks.