Day 24, may 18
Start: camp at mile 569
End: Robin Bird spring, mile 602
Miles hiked: 33
It’s no wonder there are so many wind mills around here. The wind is relentless. We packed up and climbed the bare ridge while getting thrown around by the 60 mile an hour winds. We had heard from the locals that a wind storm was coming, so we knew what we were getting ourselves into. I walked behind Sheriff, charging up the side of the hill, giving the wind at every step. It was still cold, and the sun had not shown yet. It was a bitter wind, making the miles extremely slow. Our group all got together under the first trees we found that could blah roger us even just a little bit from the wind.
In the afternoon the winds died down, and we began hiking through some taller bushes which helped shelter us from the wind. Our packs began to feel very heavy, as we were all carrying 6 liters of water and 5 days with of food. I felt as if my little home made pack was testing it’s litter limits of wight. The shoulder straps so taught and heavy on my shoulders. I was worried that it might be too much, and the bag might fail. After passing some very pretty little mountains we made it to the first spring. It was just before noon, and the next water source was 19 miles. We were not on pace to get there before dark. We debated the merits of pushing to it, and decided to all bring enough to dry camp if necessary. But dry camping (camping no where close to any water) is a real drag. After a few miles, carrot and sheriff dumped a liter a piece.
“I hate dry camping. But I also hate hiking past 7. Lesser of two evils.” She said. We were still 12 miles out, but now that the decision had been made to make it to the spring, I was on a mission.
My shoulders were killing, and I just wanted to get the pack off of my back. So I took the first ibuprofen of the day, out in my headphones, out my head down, and hit what I like to call my 6th gear. I just recently was able to hit this level of hiking about a week ago when sheriff and I charged to messenger flats. My legs are now strong, and my stamina has gone way up. My lungs were the last to catch up, and now that all aspects are there it feels so good.
Anyways, I hit 6th gear with 12 miles to go. I jammed to some tunes and was hiking at least 4 miles an hour. Sounds slow, but trust me, that’s about as fast as you can walk before it becomes a jog. I was crushing up hills, and swiftly gliding down their slopes. No stopping for anything. Just get to the spring so I could take the stupid weight off of my shoulders and back.
I flew by some beautiful places. There were tall grassy hill sides with large ponderosa pines, and huge house sized boulders scattered here and there. It was a scene straight out of a lord of the rings set. But I just flew by, hopped up on energy beans.
I finally made it to camp, and about 25 minutes later came coffee. Then sheriff, followed by the boss and Sherpa. Morale was low. We were happy we made it here, but all were exhausted and beaten up. Another 45 minutes passed and carrot finally made it to camp, right before dark. It was a long day for everyone. We all agreed it was a bit much. We just didn’t have fun. It felt like a death march. But in the desert, you have to compromise. It was either this or dry camping, but I’m not convinced this was the better choice. The group of 6 decided we would hike a nice 20 mile day tomorrow. Waking up naturally, no alarms. Maybe take a mid day nap in the grass, or sit to enjoy the views. Do the things I came out here to do, rather than just death march 33 miles, never really enjoying myself or the awesome group I’m with. It made me think a lot about if I’ll be able to do both the pct and at full this year. It’s so tough to say at this point, but doing those types of miles can be grueling, and I don’t want to feel like I’m just flying by this beautiful trail. It’s a lot to think about, and I’m sure I won’t fj a an answer anytime soon. It’s definitely weighing on me, but I’ll just see how it plays out.
Day 25, May 19th
Start: robin bird spring, mile 602
End: camp at 624
How nice to sleep in. Sherrif carrot and I slowly woke around 6:30 am. Sherpa, the boss, and coffee were all up shortly after. We all decided on having a slow day, and took our time making breakfast and getting ready for the day. The air was damp, and I realized we were laying on many piles of cow pie. It was everywhere. Yet we were sitting and eating on it, sleeping on it, and laying all of our gear all over it. Yet no one really even acknowledged it, in true hiker trash fashion.
The woods here in the Tehachapi mountains are beautiful. Huge pines, firs, and the like. Soft trail with a blanket of pine needles. Some open meadows with tall grass, and misplaced huge boulder piles here and there. We get lost trying to find water, and stumble upon a large cave. All built up with graffiti on the rocks on the inside. We laugh, talking about how we should just stay here rather than continuing the death march. We hang out for a bit, then move on for water in another mile.
We eventually come across the landers meadow drainage which has a spring that flows very well. Surrounded by ponderosa pine in an open, grassy field, we take a nice two hour break. Coffee tells stories of high speed chases, gambling winnings, and how he blew through huge amounts of money in very short time. We’re all entertained by his stories. He’s been throng some wild stuff, and his stories are going to make him a legend on the trail.
I’ve been hiking with Sherpa and the boss for the past week, and really enjoy hiking with them. Both unique, and very different, they seem to work extremely well out here on the trail. They’re names couldn’t be any more fitting. I haven’t talked to them directly about this, but I’m fairly certain Sherpa convinced the boss to hike the trail. He runs on challenges, and enjoys pain and huge miles. He is clearly the strongest hiker in our group, and could likely push 35 a day if we didn’t all hold him back. I picture him convincing the boss to hike the trail, “I’ll carry the tent. I’ll Cary our water. I’ll cook all our meals. I’ll do it. I want to do it. I’ll do it!!” And he has. He crushes down the trail with 8 liters yesterday. Today he refuses to get off trail by two miles to get water in a long waterless stretch.
“I’ll want to rest and get water, though” says the boss.
“I’ll carry the water. As much as you want. We’re not doing that bull shit off trail hiking for water. I’ll carry it. I’ll do it” he says, taking it as a personal challenge to make the boss happy and carry as much water as possible.
Every day when we get to camp, the boss takes out her pad to sit on and cleans her feet with a wet wipe. In the meantime, Sherpa sets up the tent, blows up both air mattresses, set up the sleeping bags, and cooks dinner, all with the biggest smile on his face. He loves this stuff. Genuinely loves being out here.
We hike on and talk about each others families, backgrounds, etc. Sherpa grew up in Saudi Arabia when his dad got a job there with a large oil company. It’s really nice talking with them and all opening up about life back home off the trail. Coffee, Sherpa, the boss, carrot, and woody all have such great backgrounds and stories. A very diverse group. Everyone seems generally interested in each others stories, listening and asking questions. Such awsome people.
Soon the pack disperses and we all scatter for camping tonight. We all talked before hand and agreed to meet at walker pass tomorrow evening. Some will hitch into lake Isabella for more food, as we are running out much faster than planned. I have enough, but if everyone goes, I’ll likely go as well.
As I lay here, camping next to a grove of Joshua trees in the desert mountains, I can hear the wind rushing over the mountains above. The air is getting colder, and I can’t stop thinking of how lucky I am to be out here, meeting all of these amazing people that I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to meet. I’m happy I took this chance to hike the trail. Happy I came alone, and really put myself out there to meet new people, and have new experiences. And tonight, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.