Days 42 & 43: Tehachapi

Date: May 21 & 22, 2017
Miles: 556 – 573.3

I loved opening my eyes this morning to a sunrise between windmills at the foot of my bed.  I loved less the realization that I had woken up with a sore throat and plugged sinuses. ARG.

I had some medicine left over from the cold that I had during my first couple weeks of hiking, so I took it and reluctantly dragged myself out of my quilt so I could get ready for the day. It was a quick two miles to highway 158, where we could hitch a ride in to Tehachapi and get cleaned up and resupplied.

It didn’t take long to flag down a car, but when we grabbed our packs and turned to run down the road after it, I saw another hiker slide in and the car drove off. I got hitch blocked! You’re welcome, man, jeesh.

I’ve been working on my hitchhiking technique. This car didn’t stop.

It took another ten minutes, but we did get a ride in to town and got a room at the Best Western Mountain Inn, which was full of other hikers.

One way to tell that hikers are staying at your hotel…

The first order of business was to eat as much of the hotel breakfast as we could, and then to find the barbecue restaurant that our driver told us about.  They had fried okra!

The rest of the day was taken up with laundry, the hot tub, and a gathering in my room for late night pizza and Talladega Nights.

The next morning, Katie, Connor, John, Allen, a new friend Ginny and I met for breakfast to hash out our Sierra resupply strategy, and then we spent the rest of the day hitching to and from the grocery store, the UPS store, and the post office. Everything in Tehachapi is spread out, at least from a walker’s perspective, but people there are so friendly that they would often offer us rides before we even threw our thumbs out.  A lot of people also stopped when they saw us just to chat about the trail.  Some would ask questions, or tell us about a relative’s hike, or ask if we knew that the massive amounts of snow in the sierras meant certain death to all of us if we continued on. One gentleman offered us a ride from the post office to the hotel, but then stood outside the door and talked to me about Abraham Lincoln and log cabins for twenty minutes while everyone else was mailing their packages.  People can be such characters.

Katie, Connor and I decided to head out of town for the trail after sundown since the area was experiencing a heat wave. Two railroad workers from out of town took pity on us trying to hitchhike in the dark and agreed to drive us to the trailhead.  We climbed up a hill for about seven miles, and I coughed, wheezed and blew my nose all over that hill until I was exhausted and couldn’t breathe.  I was a pathetic, sick mess by the time we made camp. At one point, I had stopped to go to the bathroom and ended up accidentally blowing my nose on my left shoe, and, due to a sudden change in wind direction, peeing all over my right shoe.  I’m glad that I had the company of Katie and Connor, who were patient enough to wait for me and make sure I was doing ok, otherwise I might have wheezed my way back down the hill and found the first flight home.

Desert night life.
A newt in the desert?


Day 41: Desert Heat and Mountain Magic

Date: May 20, 2017
Miles: 534.9 – 556

This morning we woke up early and left the Cottonwood Creek bridge for the wind turbine occupied miles ahead. The trail goes through the Manzana Wind Project, which is owned by a company that is known for being very hiker friendly.  This was obvious from the signage posted throughout the property.

I had plenty of water and wanted to get some miles in before the temperature climbed even higher, so I skipped the wind farm office experience and kept going until I reached the creek in Tylerhorse Canyon. I spent the afternoon there with the others until the hottest part of the day had passed.

Nap time!

The hike out of the canyon was an hours-long climb, with a slight detour down a hillside to avoid a stubborn rattlesnake. Toward the top of the mountain, an unexpected bit of magic called the Mile 549 Bar & Grill was settled in to the bushes right off of the trail. A local couple had just dropped off a pot of stew and a bag of cherries, which made me completely forget about the ramen I had planned to make for the 10th dinner in a row.

After dinner, most everyone decided to stay and camp since the rumor was that the same couple was going to bring coffee in the morning. I really wanted to get closer to the road in to Tehachapi so that I could get an early hitch in the morning, so I did some night hiking with Allen and we ended up doing another seven miles, bringing us to a spot about two miles before the road. I wanted to stop earlier, but once I had made the decision to find a campsite we hit a long ridge with no space to camp for miles. I was so tired by the time we finally found a spot that I didn’t even care that we were next to a giant garden of wheeling wind turbines or that I had set my ground sheet on a bunch of dried horse poop.  Nothing was going to keep me from falling asleep.

Orange and his backcountry chopsticks.

Trail angel Larry and Sunshine. They bring water to the trail.

My first attempt at night photography. Joshua trees make interesting subjects.

Day 40: I Walked On Your Water, Los Angeles

Date: May 19, 2017
Miles: 517.6 – 534.9

“The hobble will be strong tomorrow.” ~ Gringo (Paul)

Matthew, Orange, John, Paul, Roi, Katie and Connor all arrived at Hikertown at various times today and we all spent the day there and at the store, waiting out the heat.  

The exceptions were Roi and Allen, who both decided to hike out in the middle of the day and were rewarded at Cottonwood Creek bridge with root beer floats and burgers that some trail angels brought out for the afternoon. I, on the other hand, just managed to finish the jar of peanut butter that I’ve been carrying since Campo.  I thought I would have been eating it like crazy since I like peanut butter so much at home, but it was often the last thing I felt like eating in the hot, dry desert and I’d end up trying to swallow it forever, looking like a dog does when you put a big glob of it on its nose. I kept chipping away at it only because I wanted to use the empty jar to cold cook noodles and mix my morning Instant Breakfast / coffee powder drink, but when I was finally done and I filled the jar with water, I realized that the lid leaked. These are the tragedies I deal with today. So bummed. 

Once it got a little cooler, the rest of us took off for the trail and soon hit the LA aqueduct. 

We walked on top of and alongside the giant pipe for several miles and then road-walked the rest of the way to Cottonwood Creek bridge, which was the next water source. And when I say ‘walked’, I really mean ‘death-marched’ – I had gone ahead of Katie and Connor and hiked with the rest of the guys who like to hike fast because I wanted to make it to the bridge before midnight and it felt like a race to see who could finish first. My ego wouldn’t let me slow down to my usual pace, so I kept up until the end and got a good blister on my heel along with the likely beginning of plantar fasciitis in my right foot to show for it.  I also ended up taking very few pictures. Lesson in ‘Hike Your Own Hike’ philosophy learned. 

It was nearly 11 pm when we reached the bridge and I was an exhausted mess with wrung-out legs, so I quickly set up camp by the dry creek bed under the bridge, had a snack and a giant ibuprofen and passed out.