Thursday, May 31, 2012

31 May - Day 41 - Another long, hot, dry day winding north-northeast through the foothills

Clearing in the scrub oaks (Mile 587.5) to Landers Camp (Mile 608.9)

Total Trail Miles hiked today: 21.9

Pan (Charles) here.

Day by day we follow our "water report" (posted by Halfmile online and printed off by most thru-hikers) as we move across this landscape. We have since the start of the PCT. The first 700 miles or so you have to keep an eye on where your next water will be. How much should we carry today? Short jaunt between water sources, we might carry a liter. But a long slog means three liters (and each liter weighs 2.2 lbs). Sometimes we miscalculate and arrive very thirsty at a spring. Sometimes we come hiking up to a water source with water still in our bottles. Sometimes the water report is out of date for a particular source and we arrive to find it dry. Disappointed!

Here and there along the way trail angels leave caches of water -- dozens of bottles of fresh water -- stashed under a tree or behind a bush or inside a cooler. Wow, what a treat! But we can't rely on the cache alone -- since it might not have been refilled. Our luck so far has been pretty good -- water almost always refilled at caches by these wonderful trail angels.

Today, at Robin Bird Spring (barbed wire enclosed to keep cattle out -- up a bit of a hill, and flowing cold! wonderful!] we wash our socks out and hang them first on the barbed wire while we eat and rest a bit from the heat of the day ... later, we hang them on our packs to dry as we hike. [Several thru-hikers were clustered at the spring, including Alphabet Soup, Christian, and others].

We ourselves get dirtier and dirtier -- and so just do targeted washing. Our feet at night are a fright of more schmutz than we knew was possible for skin to bear. And then there are the sore spots and blisters and cracks in the feet to be tended.

We see the mountains rising before us to the north. We keep longing for cool high mountains. It's so hot here, and dry. We can see to the west, row and row and row of mountains into the distances. To the east, sometime we glimpse the Mojave and the Owens Valley (depending on our angle) -- dry and desert below. At other times, more arid mountains and valleys seem to have grown to our east.

How mortifying for Charles.
 Nothing much to report on the day. We hike down to an ATV campground where a beautiful spring is running. We will never take water for granted again. Seeing the gushing water at a spring brings tears to our eyes.

Dionysus and Sidekick frequently start humming my grandfather's favorite tune of the Sons of the Pioneers:

"All day I've faced
the barren waste
without the taste
of water.
Coooool water."

We sleep here at the camp under Jeffery pines (yay). Near us, Rubylocks and Calf (Kiwi and German thru-hikers) set up camp nearby. An AA group is camping with RVs and tents not far away, and they are kind enough to offer to haul our garbage out for us. Thanks!

All's well as we bed down. Tomorrow promises to be another hot one.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

30 May - Day 40 - the dry and hot Sierra foothills (and Golden Oaks Spring at the end of the day)

From a sandy drainage by Hwy 58 (Mile 565.8) up and over a volcanic hump to a clearing beyond Golden Oaks Spring (Mile 587.5)

Total Trail Miles hiked today: 21.7

Pan here.

From our posh accomodations in a drainage ditch between Highway 58 (see the truck barreling down the grade?) and a RR track on the left ... we're packing up. Seano's seated in the background. Dionysus is mixing his cold coffee in a coke bottle. Ignore the tequila bottle at Dionysus's knees.

Dionysus's pack -- with regrettable Pres. Lincoln/Vampire Killer novel and a tiara for Rapunzel's (Louisa's) birthday.

Heading away from the highway to the trail.

Hi ho! Off and away we hiked up and up again. Hiking this part of the extreme southeastern edge of the Sierras involves winding up and up through mountains, then back down into the next valley, then back up into the next set of hills a bit higher, then back down into the next valley. It's pretty much the same landscape in lots of ways -- from Joshua trees, yucca, and sage scrub up into the regions of live oaks, scrub oaks, pinyon pines, sometimes Coulter pines at the higher elevations, then back down to sage scrub and sandy trails.

Dionysus and Seano among Joshua Trees.
The sandy trails are tiring. And the heat is getting worse. Today we met Rubylocks (a Kiwi) and Calf (a German), and we bump into them off and on throughout the day. We also are hiking in and among 3Bears and Dirty Brown.

Dionysus, Seano, and Pan.
We got to Golden Oaks Spring, and were we thirsty! The heat is sucking the water out of us more quickly now and we're trying to learn to compensate. I sweat more than do Dionysus and Seano, and yet I don't drink as much -- not good. Gotta try harder to rehydrate.

From arid mountains we climbed higher into dry, hot mountains of live oak. [photo courtesy of Qball]
Boy, did we arrive thirsty at this trough with a trickling pipe on it. YUM! And as hot as it was, there were many thru-hikers here. Alphabet Soup, Big Wuss, Rubylocks, Calf, Qball, Wolf Pack, Beardoh!, Jeremiah Johnson, and Christian, among others. Here we are getting ready to set out again. It's around 5:30 pm and we hiked on about another three miles and set up a cowboy camp (dry camp) in a flat dusty spot among scrub oak, live oak, and manzanita. [photo courtesy of Qball]

From right to left: Pan, Seano's legs, Dionysus, Christian, Rubylocks, That Guy (drinking in the foreground) and Calf at mid-left drinking from a mug, Alphabet Soup in the gray, and Maple in blue. [Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Johnson].

From left: Christian, Dionysus, Seano's legs -- and on the right, Pan. [Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Johnson].

These days we are less high spirited, as the slog up the mountains with packs in the heat takes concentration and is grueling. We hike for long sections without conversing much -- as we focus on keeping up a good pace. We drift into our imaginations, and ruminate. When we take breaks, the shade of trees seem universally infested with ants of every size and description. Argh.

[Dionysus is the god all nature wants to have a bite of; it seems nearly every day he gets stung or bitten again; he's so funny about it, as he is about most of our discomforts, that he keeps up our flagging spirits. Way to go, Dionysus! And Seano is of a very similar temperament to Dionysus -- they both have that wry sense of the absurd as welts, and contusions, and blood appear on their bodies from various critter attacks and mishaps. Wowie, I'm a lucky bitch to have such men with me.]

We set up camp in the scrub oaks (and away from the piƱon pines-- that are all dripping sap this time of year). We have a bit more tequila to take the edge off the foot pain.

*Foot pain is universal among thru-hikers by the end of the day; we often think we'll never be able to walk again our feet are so very beaten up at the end of the day -- but miraculously, overnight, our feet seem to reconstitute themselves, albeit in a different shape. Once we get our shoes on in the morning, we hobble about like toddlers learning to walk again; but soon we're striding along (hup, hup, hup) quickly climbing up and over the next set of mountains. Dionysus is getting blisters now more often. Sean's feet are holding up very well, and his shin splints have eased back considerably. I've gotten them now -- for only three days -- and with Seano's sage advice on wrapping and cold water soaks, we headed mine off at the pass so they ease away). But talking to thru-hikers is frequently a talk of aches and pains -- we marvel at how much our feet and legs and joints are complaining -- and at how thoroughly (we imagine) such pain would have derailed us in our usual non-Trail lives -- but on the trail, we have no choice but to put on our packs and continue. And lo! the "body lies" that say "you can't go any further" dissolve and more mountains pass under our gradually shredding shoes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

29 May - Day 39 - A thousand windmills

From Tehachapi Willow Springs Rd (Mile 558.5) to a sandy drainage next to Hwy 58 and the Union Pacific RR line (Mile 565.8)

Total trail miles today: 8.3 (a "nearo")

Pan (Charles) here again -- still doing abbreviated log entries since we have fallen behind. Our ability to upload is more limited than I'd guessed -- but that's okay. Meanwhile our days are long and tiring, so we frequently fall asleep with journal entries only minimally entered.

We resupplied our food at (can you believe it?) KMart -- from four aisles of groceries. Ugh. Chris (Dionysus) and Sean (Sidekick) didn't do too badly, but my choices were really bad. So I ended up with stuff like M&Ms and Cheez Whiz. (Yes, it's a sign of the Apocalypse. Charles Doersch has bought and eaten Cheez Whiz).

A wonderful trail angel in Tehachapi came and provided us transportation to the Post Office to pick up our new pads, to the gear store for odds & ends, and to the Del Taco for lunch, before leaving us off at Willow Springs Road to continue the trail. It was late in the day by the time we arrived there, so we wouldn't make many miles.

What a wonderland of wind farms we hiked through. Windy day, too. Tehachapi is the windiest area I've ever been in -- I mean, consistent windiness. But what a strange, science fiction landscape of whirling huge blades all around us, and they were all over. Up across the hills. Filling valleys. Lined up on ridge line after ridge line. Gajillions of flashing whirling blades towering above and all around us.

These are 40 or 50 feet tall. Huge! The sky was alive with whirling 3-story blades. Wowie!
Dionysus has discovered room for a single sleeping bag inside this grove of Joshua Trees (needles all around). No good.
We zigzagged down through sandy hills where cattle had obscured our trail -- and ended up down a wrong valley with clusters of Joshua trees in the basin. We quickly found our track, though, and continued down. The trail merged onto a dirt road called Cameron Rd.

Our daylight was getting low as we came down that empty lonely road toward a roaring highway with big rigs blaring and engine braking down the mountain -- and then trains -- one after the other zooming up the valley right next to the highway; as we approached, Cameron Rd crossed the railroad tracks then turned sharply east fronting Highway 58 (Bakersfield-Barstow Hwy) and the tracks. As if the Cheez Whiz wasn't sign enough that we have officially entered the ranks of true "hiker trash," we ended up setting out our sleeping bags in a sandy culvert (ditch) between the highway and the train tracks. Chris (Dionysus) passed the tequila around (which helped soooo much), and we journaled and read a little.

Camping in a ditch beside a highway and a railroad.
I put in earplugs. But what a surreal night of big rigs with all their running lights whirling past us -- seemingly right next to us (like camping on the planet Coruscant) -- and ten different gigantic freight trains hauling loads and blaring their horns so loudly, it defied imagination. Dionysus would wake up, sit upright, and gesture infuriated at the trains. "Nothing in the world makes that much noise!! That's just ridiculous! Don't you know there are people down here in the ditch trying to sleep?!" We laughed at this till the tears came.

Monday, May 28, 2012

28 May - Day 38 - Up into the Tehachapis, the southwest foothills of the Sierras

From a concrete slab access for the LA Aqueduct (Mile 534.6) to Tehachapi Willow Springs Rd (Mile 558.5)

Total PCT Miles today: 24.9

Pan here.

Hiked through the wind farms that are being set up. Up, up, up. Dry hills -- and wove in and out up and up, until the California junipers start up. We sit behind one to have late breakfast, and journal. Niiiiice.

But this area has been burned, so there's little cover and the sun blazes on. Not a hot day, though.

That's our trail ahead.
so hot ... so dry ...

We meet Rubylocks [a Kiwi woman] and Calf [a German man] for the first time (she's having shin splint pain and has for days, so we donate one of our ace bandages to her) ... and then later come across 3Bears sitting beside the trail -- he is having leg pain much like shin splints. We give him Ibuprofin.

When a dirt biker tries to get past us on the PCT (which is illegal), I run him off. He's furious.

Eventually we make it all the way down to Willow Springs Road, where we hitchhike into the town of Tehachapi, and check into the Best Western. We get to an all-you-can-eat (important category for hungry thru-hikers) Chinese restaurant, and chow down. Then it's back for sleeeeeeep. Tomorrow morning, it's laundry and back to the trail.

We're happy and healthy -- loving being on the trail, and loving the occasional breaks for town food. I'm still struggling with the limited foods available to me for my backpack (can't do MSG, and about 90% of the products in American supermarkets have some form of it -- makes it difficult to put together a day's meals that are palatable).


Sunday, May 27, 2012

27 May - Day 37 - Out into the Mojave

From above Horse Trail Camp on Saw Mill Mountain (Mile 508.6) to a concrete block access for the LA Aqueduct (Mile 534.6) in the Mojave

Total PCT Miles today: 26

Hiker Town the day we arrived. Photo courtesy of 3Bears.
The cool weather held as we descended the hills, across the San Andreas Fault again, and out over the beginnings of the Mojave. Out on the flats is a place called "Hiker Town" ~ a sort of ersatz old west theme town in a compound -- where, lo! there's a shower, and a lounge room, and a kitchen, and laundry for hikers.

We dried out our sleeping bags &cet (heavy dew last night), and did a little laundry (socks mostly). Then had a pile of spaghetti and salad (yay!) before heading out. Now, it was about 1pm, and other hikers thought it not a good idea to head out in the heat of the day into the Mojave -- but the breeze was cool, the temperatures actually about 81, even though the sun was blazing away and we would have no shade. But we had our trusty reflective umbrellas, and off we went.

We walked the aqueduct itself, and passed along through the sage scrub, past Joshua Trees, and slowly toward the brown foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains. Wind farms are going up ahead of us along our route.

Dionysus and Seano lunching on the LA Aqueduct.
Seano looking for a camping spot as the sun sinks in the west.

Seano's shadow as evening comes on.

Mojave campsite -- and it's getting cold among the windmills.

Finally, we call it a day and camp atop a 20 ft x 10 ft concrete slab that covers access to the aqueduct. Stars come out above us as we snack and laugh about how marvelously weird this sleeping place is. We can hear the water rushing below us even over the wind roaring down onto us. We sleep toes to the wind, and are comfy enough (though Dionysus and I are still struggling with these &*@%$ sleeping pads; Seano made the right choice with his; we are going to order new ones to arrive at Tehachapi).


Saturday, May 26, 2012

26 May - Day 36 - Winding around the ends of the Transverse Range

From San Franciscito Canyon Rd (Mile 478.6) to a knoll above Horse Trail Camp on Saw Mill Mtn (Mile 508.6)

Total Trail Miles: 30

We crossed the 500 milestone today hiking with Mouse who slowed his epic 35- to 38-mile days to be with us and chat. The combination of really cool weather, a gentle rolling trail, and Mouse's no-nonsense pacing saw us flying along yacking and laughing.

We came across Moonwalker and Mark Trail, who snapped this photo as we paused by a water source to refill. Moonwalker on left, Mouse in yellow, unidentified hiker in black, Seano and Dionysus.

We learned a lot from this former student of mine, as usual. He's a great guy.

The hills and mountains were beautiful and green, with fast-moving low wet clouds curling just over our heads.

The day ended above a horse camp on the edge of the last mountain (for us) looking north across the Mojave Desert to the blue wall of the Tehachapi range of the Sierras.

Standing at the end of the San Gabriel Mountains, we see the Mojave Desert down below, and the Tehachapi Mountains behind them. Photo courtesy of Dirty Brown.

Tomorrow we cross!

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