Tehachapi was the most hospitable place on the trail so far. We only stuck our thumb out once yet had 3 rides around town as people would come up to us and ask if we needed a hitch. Everyone seemed to like having us there – which, as our ride back to the trail said, makes sense as we make up a huge amount of business in a time when the town is very quiet.
We stopped at a German bakery and then a trail angel’s house called Wit’s End to pick up our new shoes. They feel great, yet it’s crazy how brutal we’ve been to our shoes. Joal’s shoes has lost all of the tread at the front whilst Jenny’s had no bounce left in them at all. We’re hoping that the change will mean our feet and knees start feeling better again.
We headed back to the trail head by about 4 pm ready to night hike 17 miles to the next water. This stretch has a lot of 20 mile plus carries including a 40 mile stretch between natural water sources.
Wind and heat
As we started to climb the mountain we realised why they’d built a wind farm on this ridge. The wind was phenomenal and after 4 miles we got caught in some pretty sketchy weather. We met the British couple, Blunt and Emily, up here who had decided to go back down, and Paige hit the ground twice due to the force of the wind combined with the weight of her pack. This is the most unsafe we’ve felt in trail, and we were stuck on a hill as the wind got stronger. After 20 minutes of debating, we came off the trail slightly and took shelter in a valley nearby. The wind was still very strong so we weren’t able to put our tents up. There also wasn’t a lot of room so we slept head to toe all the way down the valley bed in just our sleeping bags. Blunty and Emily cheered us all up by putting James Blunt’s Back to Bedlam album on and we had a mini sing along.
By the morning the wind died down and we were able to carry on. The good news is we still had enough food and water that even with this set back we still had a healthy surplus between the group. What also filled us with relief was that the group made the right decision last night by not pushing on. This should mean that if we stick with this group we’ll be making good decisions for the Sierra section of the trail which will have snow and river crossings.
The heat meant that we had to employ the tactic of night hiking again and taking siestas during the day. This meant waking up at 3 am, doing a few hours in the dark before sunrise at 5.45, and then hiking till 11.30. From here we slept under the shade of a tree before waking up at 3.30 pm to continue. Because of this we’re both pretty tired as we are out of rhythm. Another thing you need to look out for when sleeping under trees are what thru-hikers call “widow makers “. These are dead branches that could fall and crush you.
Whilst night hiking we saw a mountain lion for the first time. This is a pretty rare sighting as they only really come out at night. We only found this out a couple days later when we ran into some lovely ladies who confirmed it wasn’t a bob cat based because it had a long tail.
This sighting was pretty scary as they hunt at night and we’d heard the sad news about two bikers who had been hurt in Washington just a few weeks before. Luckily this one didn’t want to have anything to do with us and slunk off. Once the sun came up we also had more encounters with rattlesnakes. As we left the desert it seemed like it was throwing everything at us. We even had a mini tornado go past us whilst we were taking a siesta which caused a lot of commotion as our socks and shoes flew all over the place.
After a few dry days filled with desert and Joshua trees we arrived at Walker Pass. Here we met Coppertone again, which means we’ve now seen this trail angel 4 times in 4 weeks as he has been travelling up the PCT at the same speed as us, handing out root beer floats. This was his last stop on the trail so we wished him well on his next adventure which is to hike the Colorado Trail.
From Walker Pass we hitched into Lake Isabella to resupply for the final 3 days, along with grabbing some much needed calories at a pizza joint. Whilst the town was nice, it was a 40 minute hitch each way and the town was very spread out, making it harder to get around without a car. We were lucky enough to get a hitch within 30 seconds both ways with some lovely guys, but some of those we were hiking with were not as lucky.
When we got back on trail we had a couple of steep climbs out of Walker Pass. Both days involved a more than 5000 ft of climbing but we’ve gotten much stronger so they didn’t phase us as much. During these days we’ve also been catching glimpses of the Sierras which is filling us with excitement and apprehension.
On our final day before we hit Kennedy Meadows we followed a river full of glacial melt. This was one of the prettiest spots we’ve hit on the PCT so far and made for a great swim. After a few more miles we were on the way into Kennedy Meadows! As we got to the general store all the hikers there clapped us in which felt awesome!
Kennedy Meadows marks the end of the desert section and also takes us to mile 700. For us this means adapting to a new environment. The Sierra section is about 300 miles long but covers the highest elevation in continental USA (Mt Whitney). There are a lot of steep climbs and we’ll also have to get used to crossing river and snow.
New gear for the next section
Our gear also is being switched out. Due to bears in the area, Jenny and I legally need a bear canister to enter this area, and both weigh about a kilo. We will also be carrying an ice axe and micro spikes for the snow. Finally, Joal’s bag is on its last legs so this will need to be replaced.
In Kennedy we’ll spend a day resting up before we head out. Some celebrations are in order!