Water World: Kennedy Meadows to Tehachapi

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Walking south from Horseshoe Meadows and leaving the Sierra behind for “The Desert” meant a new focus: water.  I had downloaded the PCTA Water Report and, as expected, water would be scarce and we would have to carefully plan how much water to carry between sources.

There was a lot of uphill out of KM and we were hauling water to dry camp, finding a lovely spot on a dirt road.  The next morning we passed Decaf, camped a couple miles beyond, he was looking a little grim.  However, he passed us a bit later but we all chatted while gathering water at Fox Mill Spring, a very cool archaeological site I camped at last year, noticing the array of historic and prehistoric debris all jumbled together.  Decaf had spent some days off trail due to Giardia.  A bit later I saw a man and dog coming down the trail with Decaf just behind. “You’re going the wrong way, dude, ” I said. Decaf had got “sick”again (oh those British euphemisms) but amazingly the one other human out there had seen and offered help.  The man with the dog was doing field archaeology along this bit of trail, tagging sites with orange flags similar to what you see marking electric or gas lines.  I chatted a bit since I’d noticed the flags, knew the Fox Mill site and love cultural resource stuff.  We would see Decaf in Lake Isabella where he had a package waiting, still weak, still resisting taking the antibiotics.  My Dad would approve him letting his immune system find a way, but I urged him to take the meds so he could keep hiking.  Sometimes I can’t stop the Mom from showing.

Moving on, Puff Puff and I collected water enough to dry camp from a trickle of a stream listed in the water report, made camp and hit the trailhead at Walker Pass the following day, getting a ride from a lovely couple on their way from Ridgecrest to Kernville for lunch.  Lake Isabella is a long way from the trail but the motel accepts hiker packages, offers clean rooms and gave us a ride to Vons.  I learned that carrying less food weight, and resupplying as often as possible, is hugely helpful.  Plus I just like sleeping in a bed as often as possible. Win win.

The stretch from Walker Pass to Highway 58 was tough on me. I arranged a ride back to the trail but Richard couldn’t get us early, so we didn’t start hiking until 9:45 with no water and camp for 21 miles.  For the first time, I had to put on my headlamp and walk into camp at about 7:15 pm.  It was easy trail but I had a restless night waking up to the sound of the wind flapping my tent.  The next day went through a lot of burn areas but finally we got to live trees and soft pine needle covered trail out of the wind.  We camped after 22 at a deserted car campground near Landers Meadow, with creepy trash strewn around.  You always know where there is easy trail access because of the toilet paper tossed on the ground, not even an attempt to bury it, let alone to pack it out.  Add in leftover watermelon, cigarette butts, beer bottle caps, and assorted debris.  Nice.

The temperatures have been pleasant as the trail winds by wind farms and dirt roads but the uphill is so slow for me due to weight and muscle loss, I can barely pick up my legs even though my heart and lungs are in great shape, so frustrating. I listen to audiobooks as I grind my way up and try to pick up my pace on the flats and downs.  But if there are hours of f*ing uphill, I can’t make the miles I want in a reasonable timeframe. There are less than 12 hours of daylight these days and I hate hiking in the dark but so it goes.  The third night I made it to Golden Oak Springs after 26 miles, and it was just getting dark, not bad.  Puff Puff had been there for quite awhile and gathered 2 liters of water for me so I could just set up my tent and cook dinner, that was awesome.  We more or less cruised the last 17 or so miles to Highway 58 where she called down the list of trail angels until hiker Georgette enthusiastically agreed to pick us up and take us to Tehachapi.  A zero day later, she returned us to the same spot by 7:30 am.  Thank you Georgette, I wished we had more time to share trail tales together. Your support of 2 crazy thru hikers is so appreciated.