The last of the Desert!

Leaving Tehachapi was really really windy experience. We had a 3000 foot climb in front of us and only about 2 hours of daylight. We made it about 1/3 of the way up and found a slightly sheltered spot, in the shade of a Joshua Tree. After a restless night we headed up the hill. What looked like some bad weather in front of us, slowly cleared and we gradually made our way over the hill. After a while we joined a multi-use trail with which dirt bikers also use. Soon after 2 bikers roared past us, since the trail was fairly narrow we nervously continued for the next 4 miles and didn’t see anyone else! After a long hot and windy day, passing by yet more wind turbines, we finally settled on a campsite after 19 miles.

Camping at mile 590 put us in range of the Landers Fire Tank at mile 609. This will be the last guaranteed water for 42 miles! That morning was quite pleasant, a wet weather system was moving in and we hiked in relatively cool cloudy weather, conquering a few 1000 foot ascents and descents as the day wore on. The last 6 miles had us walk down through a pine forest, a really nice change from the often exposed hiking we’d been doing the last few days. With about 4 miles to go Kristin suddenly stopped and gestured in front of her. There standing peacefully in the forest were 2 deer! They couldn’t quite see us as we were between them and the sun. We stood there for about 20 minutes watching them graze and slowly move within 20m of us. We were pretty tired and as they moved further us the path we were hiking on, we move closer and they started paying attention and bounded away. It was quite a surreal experience having not yet seen any large mammals like this on the PCT. We soon hit Landers Campsite near the water supply and set up camp, not entirely looking forward to the dry stretch in front of us.

The next day we had a slow morning, after procrastinating for a while and making sure we had enough water (about 5l each, we estimated we could do 8 miles a liter and come out only slightly dehydrated depending on temperatures), we set off across some really gorgeous meadows with Lupine flowers growing rampant. After about 7 miles and 2000 feet of descent later, we hit Kelso Valley Road and were pleasantly surprised by a fully stocked water cache. We had heard of some water caches over this dry stretch, but it was not something we wanted to depend on. The rainy weather system was still moving around, and we had large patches of dark shady clouds covering us for most of the day. It was a much needed break from a very exposed and long climb, with only Joshua trees offering any semblance of shade.

After doing a hot dry 18 miles for the day, we started looking for a section of trail that was protected from the wind that the weather system had brought in. We couldn’t find anything, and the only possible protection from the wind was from the Joshua Trees, but none suited our needs. We kept pushing up and over a very very exposed section of the trail. We got to one spot that was slightly sheltered on the ridge, but we gave up and decided that a good night’s sleep was worth pushing an extra few miles. Finally after doing an extra 2 miles (about 22 miles for the day), we found a flat campsite that had almost no wind at all. Needless to say we were really tired, and very happy to be out of the wind.

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The following day we only had 20 miles to go to get to Walker Pass, however it started with a rough 3000 foot climb in 6 miles (with another well timed water cache at the bottom). It was a very windy day again, and as we were climbing up we started to hike into cloud. By the time we eventually made it up to the top, the cloud had fortunately burnt off. We gradually made it down and along off that peak, and while traversing along the hillsides, the weather system came back. A few cracks of thunder later and it started drizzling on us, soon it started hailing, but only for a short time. The rain would come back later, just as we were hiking the last few miles to Walker Pass, but that soon abated and we dried off just before we got there. We couldn’t really believe that we’d just done the 42 mile dry stretch over 2 days.

At Walker Pass there were quite a few PCT hikers camped out, either having arrived that day, or having resupplied in Lake Isabella, they would head out towards Kennedy Meadows (only 50 miles to Kennedy Meadows, our gateway to the Sierras!)

The next morning, we got a lucky ride with a lovely Trail Angel Allie. She helps run an organization called the Sequoia Forest Keeper, which is a grass routes group aimed at protecting the Sequoia forest in the Kern county. She talked us into going to Kernville instead of Lake Isabella, so we headed there instead.

We ended up spending almost 2 zeros in this quaint town, doing laundry, resupplying and even engorging at a inexpensive pizza buffet! It was another nice break, but I started to really itch about getting into the Sierras. Our plan was to catch the busses back towards Walker Pass, but we bumped into amazing Allie again, who was going that way again and offered us a ride that evening! Before we left she spoiled us with a huge ice cream cone each, what a special treat! So back we went towards Walker Pass!

 

 

Trail angel to trail angel

It was a slow morning leaving the Acton KOA. We had a rough night sleeping with the trains, but we eventually got up and left. Shortly after leaving we passed the ‘Golden Spike’ for the trail. It seems the trail was only officially finished and connected in 1995. A very hot morning climb later, and we were on top of the ridge overlooking Agua Dulce. We only had to drop down and walk through the Vasquez Rocks.

It really suprised Kristin, she wasn’t expecting what we got. From the photos below you can see these fantastic rock formations. We were feeling very tired, hot and sore, so we soon moved on into Agua Dulce. We were soon drinking a 2l Dr Pepper and chowing on some snacks we picked up at the grocery store. Thankfully about 0.2 of a mile into the 1 mile walk to Hiker Heaven, Jeff Saufley (Owner of Hiker Heaven) picked us up and drove us the rest of the way!

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From forest to Mojave

Finally we can update our blog! Sorry for the silence but wi-fi is scarce out here in the back country!

After a quick breakfast and pack up at Sawmill campground, we head out to our next water supply. We had camped with a guy who was fascinated with the fact that we come from South Africa, and he decided to walk with us for the morning, asking us many questions about our country and heritage. We’ve unfortunately been struggling with our feet again, my new shoes have been giving me blisters, which we¬†expected, and both my plantar fascia have been very tight in the mornings. I was especially slow that morning as we were going uphill and my patient husband walked behind me making sure I was alright.

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The great Poodle Dog adventure

After waking up in a comfy bed, feeling lazy, we walked into the kitchen and found Dave was making us bacon and egg for breakfast – another treat! We also had lattes made from his fancy coffee machine, they tasted amazing compared to plain filter coffee we’ve had along the way. After breakfast we reluctantly left his amazing house and headed into town to resupply and relax there for a bit before heading out again. We had a second breakfast at the local coffee shops, this time it was bagels with cream cheese. Steve got our resupply box from the post office and we went shopping for the ever necessary chocolates and candy to feed our calorie hungry bodies for the trail ahead.

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Never-ending uphill with added trail magic

We’re starting to forget how many days we’ve been on trail now. The days have all just started to blur into one hot/cold/dusty/damp/wet/exhausting stretch of Southern California desert.

The morning we left Mile 320 it was very overcast, quite a contrast from the previous day out of Deep Creek. We enjoyed the cool air though, getting in some good miles. Just before we were due to arrive at Silverwood dam, we came across some amazing Trail Magic! Kristin had a Banana and a Nectarine, and i enjoyed a Nectarine and some sweets!

We set off on our 4 mile stretch around the dam until finally having lunch at a campground, flushing facilities!! It was a very lazy lunch, snacking on our nuts, Clif bars, and Snickers bars. We generally sit for a bit and then dig into our books for an hour, while we let the feet rest.

 

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