Day 16: Back on the Trail #2

Start: Mile 566.5

End: Mile: 583.3

Miles Hiked = 16.8

Donna and I had spent the last four days at home waiting for the inclement weather to pass through Southern California. It was great to be home and sleep in my own bed and enjoy home-cooked food and city luxuries. Every time I walked up the stairs, however, I could feel the fatigue in my legs – they definitely don’t recover like they did when I was 30 (or even 50)! But it was time to get back on the trail.

This morning we were up at 5am and on the interstate by 5:45. Twenty minutes later I realized that I didn’t have my iPhone, so we turned around to retrieve it. I’m usually very organized. Apparently my mind, just like my legs, does not work as well either!

In any event, we were back at the trail near Tehachapi by 8:30 and I said my goodbyes to Donna and Beau.

The trail is flat and runs adjacent to Highway 58 for the first mile or so

and then begins a steady upward climb of about 2500 feet over the next five-plus miles. My legs felt strong and I passed several other “mature” hikers. As I hiked up the hill I watched several trains rumble by below in both directions. I enjoyed the views down towards the highway and the adjacent train tracts.

As I neared the top of my climb I looked back in a southerly direction, back towards where I started several weeks ago in Wrightwood. I was amazed that I could still see snow covered Mt. Baldy and nearby Mt. Baden-Powell. The photo below doesn’t really do justice to the view but they are there in the distance under the clouds.

I continued climbing higher,

descended for a while

and then hiked uphill again.

And that’s how the trail goes – up and down and then back up. Over and over. Mile after mile. Then I passed through another Wind Farm.

I started hiking this morning with almost three liters of water. My goal today was to get to Golden Oaks Spring, the next water source, over sixteen miles up the trail. By late afternoon I was there.

I decided to camp there for the night. It was a popular camping site because the next water source was another nineteen miles up the trail – that would be my goal for tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

Day 15: Tehachapi Slack- pack

Start: Mile 558.5

End: Mile 566.5

Miles Hiked = 8.0

Yesterday, I completed a short 9.5 mile hike and then hitched a ride to The Best Western Plus in Tehachapi. It was 11am. About an hour later Donna arrived. I had only been on the trail solo for five days but it was still good to see her. I would really prefer to be hiking the trail together but it just wasn’t meant to be. Donna had a very noticeable limp and could barely walk. I wondered how she had hiked so far just a week ago.

We went to a local BBQ for lunch and then picked up what had originally been “our” resupply when I had mailed it three weeks ago.

By the time we returned to the hotel our room was ready and I enjoyed my first shower in five days!

Our original plan, when we were hiking together, was to do spend the night in Tehachapi, do an 8-mile “slackpack” the following day, spend another night in Tehachapi and then continue north on the trail. As a reminder from last year, a slack-pack is a hike where you only carry what you need for the day – usually food, water and maybe a layer or two of clothing. It’s a common way to knockoff a few miles with a light pack, usually when you’re in a town. We slack-packed twice last year – once in Idyllwild and once in Big Bear.

The weather report was forecasting a storm that would start in two days and last for three to four days. One of the nice things about being a section hiker is that there is no pressure to “get your miles in” every day. So after considering all the options, I decided to complete the slack-pack as planned and then go home for a few days. The trail wasn’t going anywhere.

So after pizza for dinner and a good night of sleep, I got up and slack-packed the 8 miles. There was more wind and therefore more wind turbines.

Then Donna and I drove home to wait out the storm from the comfort of our home. On the way we picked up our dog (Beau) from my sisters – we hadn’t seen him about three weeks.

Thanks for following.

Day 14: Nero Into Tehachapi

Start: Mile 549

End: Mile 558.5

Miles Hiked = 9.5

I knew I had a short hike today. I stayed in my sleeping bag for a little later than usual. I had camped next to Trail Magic so there were a few other hikers camped nearby. I was the last one to pack up and get back on the trail but was still hiking by 7:30am.

Thanks very much to the Trail Angels (Daniel, Robert & Patti) that keep this site stocked with water, fresh fruit, cookies, chairs and umbrellas for shade. You guys are awesome!!!

It was a cool and windy morning but the views were still nice!

Soon I was amongst the wind turbines again – it felt like the wind was blowing at least 30mph. At times I was hiking directly into the wind.

The flowers, however, were still in bloom – they didn’t seem to mind the wind at all.

My pack was relatively light ( little food and not much water) so I was able to move quickly. I was at the road by 10:15 and soon caught a hitch into Tehachapi. I was looking forward to seeing Donna!

Thanks for following.

Day 13: Tehachapi Hills

Start: 526.8

End: 549.0

Miles Hikes = 22.2

Last night I stealth-camped in the desert near the LA Aqueduct. I slept well. I knew that I wanted to cover 20+ miles today so I was up early and hiking by 6am. I was planning on meeting Donna tomorrow (yippee!) in Tehachapi which was about 30 trail-miles away.

Once again, it was beautiful sunrise in Southern California.

And a beautiful morning along the PCT

After about two hours of hiking, I began to see wind turbines. I would hike through this Wind Farm for the next several hours.

The first water source since Hikertown (about 17 miles back) was coming up at mile 535. It’s actually a water faucet provided by the LA Department of Water and Power. Thank You!

Shortly before arriving at the water faucet, I caught up to a super-nice younger couple section-hiking from Hikertown to Kennedy Meadows. That’s about 185 miles. They were carrying eleven days of food! That’s a lot! They had just started hiking yesterday morning from Hikertown – I remember giving them a wave as I arrived at Hikertown. Their names are Roy and Lisa.

As I chatted with them, I learned that they have been section hiking the PCT for several years and that Roy was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. They have a Facebook page called “The Simpson’s PCT Adventures”. Check it out. They are raising money for the fight against MS – please donate if you can. I definitely will.

They were also nice enough to take a photo of me.

After meeting Roy and Lisa, I continued along the trail and through the Wind Farm.

And slowly began to hike up into the Tehachapi Hills.

I stopped and had lunch at Tylerhorse Canyon. There was a stream that I refilled my water containers.

The afternoon was a steady climb into the hills. It was a very windy day so it was easy to understand why there was a Wind Farm in this area.As I gained in elevation, I could look back at where I had come from over the past several weeks.

As I climbed into the hills, I took a few more photos

There was a possibility of Trail Magic at Mile 549 so I pushed on. I was so happy when I arrived!!!

There was water, fresh fruit and food. There were also camp chairs which I thought was awesome!It was a good evening after a long day on the trail. Thanks for following.

Day 12: Hikertown

Start: Mile 510.9

End: Mile 526.8

Miles Hiked = 15.9

Last night I had camped at the bottom of the foothills just before entering the Mojave desert west of Lancaster.

It was 6.7 miles to Hikertown, my next resupply point. The trail then heads towards Tehachapi.

A few minutes after starting my mornings hike I passed the following sign:

It was another beautiful morning with clear blue skies:

Hiker town is a rustic private outpost along Highway 138. The PCT passes right by it so most hikers pay a visit. It kind of looks like an old Wild West Town. It has water, small bunk rooms for rent, showers, restrooms and hikers can mail in their resupply boxes for pick-up.

My plan was to hike into Hikertown in the morning, pick up my resupply box, take a shower, spend the day resting and then start my walk across the Mojave in the late afternoon. There is about a 20 mile walk across the desert and the PCT basically follows along the LA Aqueduct. I hoped to walk about 10 miles in the late afternoon/evening and then get up and hike the remaining miles early the next morning. This is a common hiking strategy. When it’s hot, some hikers will do their hike at night when it’s cooler, or get up in the early morning (like 3 or 4 am). Luckily the weather was very mild – the highs today were only forecast to be in the mid-70’s.

Everything went as planned. I arrived at Hikertown about 9:15am, picked up my resupply, secured the only bunk room with a private bathroom/shower and rested all afternoon. It was a nice relaxing day and everybody at Hikertown was very friendly and accommodating.

I started part II of my day’s hike about 4:45pm

and was soon walking along the aqueduct

There was a warning

Even though I was walking along the aqueduct, the next water source wasn’t for 17 miles! Frustrating!

After several miles, the trail is on top of the aqueduct pipeline

Then there is a cement “road” on top of the aqueduct that cars can actually drive onIt was a beautiful sunset in the desert

There were a few sketchy cars driving down the road so I stealth-camped in the desert away from the road.

Thanks for reading.

Day 11: Where’s the next Water?

Start: Mile 493.4

End: Mile: 510.9

Miles Hiked = 17.5

Last night I camped at Upper Shake Campground, an unmaintained campground in the Angeles National Forest. It was a quiet night and the only other PCT hikers were a younger husband and wife.

There was a stream about 0.25 miles below the campground but I had carried enough water from the spring at mile 487 so I didn’t need to access it. That is one of the challenges when hiking the PCT, particularly in the “desert” sections in Southern California. Water is, obviously, an important resource on the PCT so hikers are constantly determining where the next water source is and how much they have to carry to get there. I have a tendency to carry more than I need. Since water is heavy and weighs about 2.2 pounds per liter, if you carry too much it just adds unnecessary weight to your pack. It’s not uncommon to sometimes have to carry 4-5 liters if there is a long waterless section, particularly if it’s going to be a warm or hot day. That could be in excess of 10 pounds of water weight!

So how do hikers know where the next water source is? Well, there are a couple ways.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) has an online Water Report that most hikers refer to. The water report is a compilation of water information that hikers report to a PCTA volunteer based on their observations while on trail. It looks like this:Hopefully you (the reader) can expand the above image and read an example of what’s been reported. I usually take screenshots of the latest water report while I’m in town. Then I can refer to report during the next trail segment.

The other way to check for water sources is the Guthook app. I think just about every PCT hiker has the Guthook app on their smartphone. It is full of all kinds of trail information including maps and elevation profiles as well as pertinent trail information including water sources, camp sites, etc. It links to the hiker’s smartphone GPS position to display the hiker’s position on the apps map or elevation profile. The map portion looks something like this:

The map above includes the Upper Shake Campground – it’s the little tent symbol at the right side of the blue line. The red line represents the PCT and the blue line represents a non-PCT trail. The blue dots with the white center are water symbols for possible water sources. If I click on the tent symbol, then info on the camp or tent site opens up like this. You’ll note that there are typically photos as well as a written description.

If I click on the water source symbol something like this will open up:

I can also check the elevation profile on Guthook and see what’s upcoming – uphill or downhill and how much.

Hikers can report trail information directly on the app including water information. You just type your comment into the app and it gets posted immediately. It looks like this:

Anyway, I hope that explains how PCT hikers get current real-time trail information including water source information. In the old days ( not really that long ago), we backpackers had to carry paper topographical maps to follow the trail, estimate their position and elevation and and see where streams and/or lakes were. We also would carry copies of trail guides to have knowledge about various trail information including water sources. That still may be necessary if you’re not hiking on a major trail like the PCT or Appalachian Trail. But on the PCT, all the information a hiker needs is on Guthook. It’s really an invaluable asset to PCT hikers!

Here are some photos from today’s hike:

Passed the 500 mile markerGetting closer to the Mojave in the photo below – will be there tomorrow!

Goodnight – thanks for following!

Day 10: Back on the Trail

Start: Mile 478.2

End: Mile 493.4

Miles Hiked = 15.2

Donna and I left Casa de Luna less than forty-eight hours ago because of her knee injury. After a full zero day at home yesterday, I was ready to return to the trail. I switched out a couple pieces of gear (smaller tent and new NeoAir Uberlite sleeping pad) and adjusted my food supply for the next segment to Hikertown.

We were up this morning at 5am and grabbed two cups of coffee, a blueberry muffin and a banana at the local coffee bistro. A few minutes later we were on the interstate and headed back towards Green Valley. It wasn’t long before we were back at the trail near Casa de Luna. After a quick goodbye, Donna turned the car around and headed back home. My two feet headed back into the hills.

It was another beautiful morning. As I hiked along the manzanita lined trail, I was not alone. There were literally thousands of butterflies feasting on the manzanita.

I believe these are Painted Lady Butterflies.

As I approached each bush, the butterflies would take to flight and I would have a cloud of butterflies circling around my head. My video doesn’t quite do justice to the butterfly spectacle, but here it is:

I enjoyed more fine views of the Southern California wilderness including more views of the upcoming Mojave Desert.

In the afternoon, as the trail gained in elevation, I enjoyed the shade of the trees

I decided to camp at Upper Shake Campground which is located about half a mile off the PCT. This appeared to be an unmaintained campground and was under disrepair. But there were still a few picnic tables, so life was good on my first solo night back on the trail.

Thanks for following!