May 20, 2015
PCT Mile 652
Hiker Town along the aqueduct to Tehachapi took 2 days, in the overcast and wind. Apparently it snowed higher up and rained in LA. It was good hiking weather. Got a ride into Tehachapi from Big Al (hey wait, a brave soul or two has called ME Big Al) and grandson Aidan. I took his measure and said he definitely owned the name. I signed his hiker register and he was impressed with area code 907. Poor Skunk Ape and Bender in the car with me got no love for their East Coast origins.
Had dinner with a bunch of hikers more or less in my wave: Julien, Dana, Jesse, Marathon John, Puff Puff, Growler and Cool Breeze. We are all really good at eating. The next day, I ran
into Marathon John who asked Spencer if he could add me in the car with the other hikers driving around shopping, for food, of course.
Got back on the trail where I left it at 558.5 and 8 miles later hit the spot where the notorious Cheryl Strayed began her hike. So I was informed by a proud, local, day hiker. Camped at 578, 602, 623 and 646, with a lovely 4 mile diversion down a gully from 618 to pick up 7 liters of water to get me to Walker Pass at 652. After starting with them at 558.5, I finally saw Cool Breeze and The Puff the third night out. How does that happen? I was behind. Ha, they slept in and I somehow sneaked past temporarily.
These past 94 miles were said to be tough and hot with the longest waterless stretch so far. But the overcast helped. And if you drive through this country, what you see is barren, brown and scrubby. When you walk you see wildflowers, purple, yellow, pink and tiny white ones fragrant and humming with honey bees. You see 3 cows with sleek black calves skittering across the trail just like moose, a rattlesnake somnolent on a rock in the trail warming up in the cool morning, and a Desert Cottontail bounding away with its little puff of a tail just like my Manx, Shreddie.
Two nights ago after schlepping the water uphill, rejoining both the PCT and the wind, I found a tent site amongst some Joshua Pines and made dinner. Started to set up the tent in the cold wind, and the shock cord holding the poles together snapped. Jury rigged with a line to a tree, not too secure but got me out of the wind for a bit until I was warm enough to come up with a better solution–run that same line through the poles and tie to each other. Stayed warm that night. Stupid ultralight tent, too delicate, the bug netting tore the first week. No bugs yet so no problem. My friend Jim answered my satellite text ( yay inReach Explorer!!) and is bringing me a proper tent to Kennedy Meadows. So long Fly Creek Platinum, you tiny, flimsy piece of shit.
I said I wouldn’t talk about gear, but it is kind of critical out here. The things I love are my ULA Catalyst backpack, Western Mountaineering Terralite sleeping bag, Thermarest Xtherm Xlite pad and my Brooks Cascadias 8. So far.
I love this trail. I love the people on this trail. Some are ahead, some are behind, and some are new to me. At this point, those of us still hiking have credibility and connections with each other, a shared set of concerns—like the next water source, or who has had some difficulty but is back hiking, or what weather system this set of clouds is bringing to which elevations.
We communicate through the trail registers, writing our name and the date. This is how I know that sweet Rachel, 22, who had to find a doctor in Tehachapi, is back on the trail ahead of me, no longer Chartreuse, now Foothawk. It’s how I know Occupy is continuing 30 mile days in the coolest old school gear you’ve never seen before. It’s how I know too that I’m not the slowest hiker in the wave, some hikers I’ve walked with are not in the registers when I sign. But when they come along, they will be reading my name and cheering, “Alright! Catwater is killing it!”