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.
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!