Sunday 16 June 2019
Location: Mile 672.8
Distance travelled: 18.5 miles / 30 km
I had a spectacular day on trail. As I get closer and closer to Kennedy Meadows I’m more and more looking forward to being up in the mountains. The views were beautiful today.
I set off early and was able to enjoy the trail in the cool of the morning. The light is beautiful this time of day and although I hate early mornings, getting up early is worth it for the peace on the trail.
There was a fair amount of climbing to be done but in the cool of the morning and with the spectacular scenery it felt easy.
I enjoyed a mid morning snack taking in the the views of the desert valley below.
I took a lunch time siesta finding a beautiful camp spot by a watersource where I napped during the hottest part of the day. I ran into a couple of people that I hadn’t seen in a while. It was nice to catch up.
At around 5pm I reluctantly set back out on trail, there was a climb ahead of me and my bag felt heavy with the extra water I needed to dry camp.
As the sun was setting I enjoyed soft golden hour glow over the mountains as I climbed my way up to my tent site for the evening.
When I got into camp all of the sheltered sites were occupied but I think it was meant to be, I got to enjoy a vibrant orange sunset over the mountains.
The climb up had been hard but the views made it all worth it.
Monday 17 June 2019
Location: Mile 683.1
Distance travelled: 10.3 miles / 17 km
This morning was one of those morning’s where everything felt a little off. I woke up to sore tummy, likely the result of eating too many m&ms last night.
When I went to put on my shoes there was a big spidery looking creature sitting on the toe. Exactly the reason I prefer to tent rather than cowboy camp. I love sleeping without the fly but still like to have some separation between myself and the insects.
I set off early to avoid the heat so I could climb the remainder of the hill infront of me in the cool of the day. The flies were intense this morning and extremely irritating. They aren’t big blow flies but tiny little black flies that hover around your face as you hike. They don’t bite but seem to like to go for the eyes. I spent half the morning trying to swat them away with my treking poles which made the climbing a little slower.
After stopping for a morning toilet break I discovered I was developing a bout of chafe so I took yet another break to take care of it.
The views were pretty during the stretch of trail I was walking, epic mountain vistas. It was hard to focus on them through all of the flies though.
The terrain slowly changed into pine forest as I climbed. It felt like a sign of things to come as I get closer to Kennedy Meadows.
After reaching a watersource mid morning I had a quick break and decided to continue on to the spring which was only a couple of miles away. I would sit out the mid day heat and at 4pm walk another 4 miles.
At around 3pm clouds and what looked like a storm began to close in. While it would have been good to walk in the cool weather I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to camp ontop of the mountain incase a thunder storm developed so I decided to stay put. It would be a short day on trail but I have plenty of time to reach Lone Pine before Adam arrives on the 24th.
The storm ended up passing but regardless I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in the tent watching nextflix and snacking. It’s not a bad life this hiking life.
Friday 14 June 2019
Distance travelled: 0 miles / 0 km
I enjoyed a full day of rest and recovery in Ridgecrest. My day started with the complementary American breakfast at the hotel. I made the most of it, enjoying eggs on a bagel, waffles drowned in syrup and an apple for good measure.
I had forgotten a couple of things on yesterday’s trip the walmart so I headed back for another peruse. I needed to pick up a gas canister and while in the ‘camping and outdoors’ section stumbled upon 2 isles full of guns and ammunition. It was confronting and completely insane to me that you could pick up a bottle of milk and a round of ammunition at the same time. In the end Walmart didn’t have the canister I needed so I would need to make a trip to the Big 5 Sporting Goods store.
Another completely American experience was had today when I ate my first honey bun. It was sweet doughy and full of calories, not as honey-ish as I expected but good all the same.
I spent the day making plans for the Sierras, catching up on blog writing, instagram posting and eating. I decided to watch a movie in my room rather than make the 1hr walk to the cinema.
The Fonz needed to make a trip to home depot in the afternoon and given I needed to make a trip to big 5 we reached out to the local trail angel group for a ride. It would be a long hot walk in the nearly 40 degree Celsius heat. A lovely woman, Liz was able to give us a ride. She was super interesting, a local archeologist working at the naval base. She was easy to talk to. I felt like she is someone I could easily strike up a friendship with. She kindly offered to help us with a ride tomorrow should we need it too.
I had a relaxed evening to match my relaxed day. I ate a huge salad for dinner while watching Madagascar. Pure bliss. I will be able to go back out on trail fully refreshed.
Saturday 15 June 2019
Location: Mile 654.3
Distance travelled: 2.9 miles / 5 km
I could get used to double zero-ing. After another delicious but huge hotel breakfast I went for a dip in the hotel swimming pool.
Checkout was a very generous 12pm so I showered and leisurely packed my bag before spending the afternoon catching up on blog posts and Instagram posts.
Liz, the awesome trail angel who helped us run our errands yesterday agreed to drive the Fonz and I out to the trail head so at 5pm I gave her the call that we were ready to head out. Whilst on the phone she asked if it was ok is she brought her dog with her for the ride. Yes please! Bring you dog with you I encouraged.
Her dog, Lorelei is a young blue healer, full of energy and keen for affection. I called dibs on riding in the back seat with her.
Just like yesterday’s car trip, Liz had so many interesting things to talk about, including her current work project, returning the remains of native American people to their relatives. She is a knowledgeable woman. I could spend all day listening to her talk.
The Fonz had already walked the 1 mile of trail from Walker Pass camp ground to the road so we dropped him off first. I bid Liz farewell at the campground.
There was a large group of hikers at the campground, having just come in from the trail. There was already a very generous trail magic set up with pizza, cookies and drinks. I offered up the fruit I brought but it seemed less tempting next to the beer and chips. Never the less I left my contribution with the group and headed out on the trail.
I took it slow, enjoying golden hour, the beautiful warm afternoon light and the shadows being cast by the setting sun.
It was a climb from Walker Pass, the views back down over the road were spectacular. I felt content and glad to be back out on trail.
I had set off hiking at 6ish and by the time I arrived at a suitable campsite at 7.30 was happy to call it a day. I was originally planning to stay the night at Walker Pass campsite so any miles walked were a bonus for me.
I went to sleep looking up at a spectacular full moon, looking forward to hiking on tomorrow towards Kennedy Meadows.
Wednesday 12 June 2019
Location: Mile 654.1 (Walker Pass campground)
Distance travelled: 20.6 miles / 33 km
From my beautiful campsite at the pass I experienced a sunrise as beautiful as yesterday’s sunset, an incredible way to start the day.
From the pass the trail climbed rapidly via a series of switchbacks, winding back and forth up the mountain. The climb was tough but it meant lots of opportunities to pause for a breath and to take in the beautiful views.
The views over the rolling mountains were made even more beautiful by the soft morning light.
Once up to the ridgeline I had views out the Sierras, a glimpse into where I will b e headed in a couple of weeks time. I was informed later in the day that the prominent, snow capped mountain in the distance was Mount Whitney.
I had a relaxed morning, knowing I wasn’t in any rush having planned a short 13 mile day. I took several morning breaks.
I also enjoyed a nice long break while booking a hotel for Ridgecrest. I decided to take a couple of nights in town given they have reasonable hotel rates, make the most of it while I can. Whilst I was booking the hotel I enjoyed the company of a friendly butterfly which first landed on my leg, then my hand and shoulder. It was so beautiful. I’m not sure why it was so interested in me, maybe it was the salt on my skin. I have been sweating like never before in this section, so much so that I can physically see and feel the salt crystals on my skin when the sweat dries.
Further down the trail I ran into a group of trail gorillas, volunteer trail maintainers, who were clearing downed trees off the trail. They were being assisted by Jeffery who was helping them move logs and saw through a tree. I chatted to them for a while before continuing on down the trail with Jeff. As we hiked Jeff informed me that the gorillas had mentioned asking a couple of other hikers to help but they declined. I felt shocked, embarrassed and outraged all at the same time. These guys are volunteers who give up their time to improve the trail FOR THE PEOPLE HIKING IT! The level of entitlement is unbelievable.
At the start of the day I had planned to do a short 13miles to a Mcilver spring but after booking the hotel I was motivated to get to Walker Pass instead so I could hitch out early the next morning and make the most of the hotel.
After a nice long lunch and water break at the spring I headed back out on the trail around 4pm. There was still a fair amount of heat in the day but it gave me enough daylight to get into camp.
The soft afternoon light made the views even more magical. I took my time getting into camp, enjoying the views and critters along the way.
There was a small group of hikers in camp when I arrived. Some hikers who were on their way out of camp had left pastries and pie for people coming off trail. It was melted and looked incredibly unappealing but was delicious all the same.
Firesox, a hiker I’ve been seeing on and off along the trail greeted me with a gatorade when I came into camp. She had to get off trail a couple of days earlier due to suspected heat stroke so she bought some drinks back to the trail to share with people when she came in.
It was lovely that hikers were doing trail magic for other hikers. I decided that I would bring some treats back from town with me when I get back on trail.
Thursday 13 June 2019
Distance travelled: 0 miles / 0 km
I woke up this morning to the sound of traffic moving along the highway. Walker Pass campground is right beside a main road which makes it great for hitching, not so much for sleeping.
I got up around 6.30 to use the toilets and on my way back to the tent went to say good morning and goodbye to Jeff before he headed back out on trail. He would be going straight through to Kennedy Meadows and wouldn’t be getting out at Walker Pass to resupply. As my luck would have it, a local trail angel, Jalene had arrived to check the water cache and drop a couple of hikers out to the trail head. Not only did she come with hikers but she came with a box of delicious fresh doughnuts and hot coffee. In her words, “hikers are like 6 year olds, they get upset if you don’t bring them something”. She is right, I know my diet is that of a six year old’s at the moment. Sugar has become my staple.
Jalene was giving 2 hikers a ride back into Ridgecrest. I was still in my sleeping clothes and hadn’t packed up my tent at that point but they said they would wait for me if I hurried to pack down my things. The thought of not having to solo hitch into town was a relief so I ran back to my tent, threw on my clothes, stuffed everything in my pack and in under 10 minutes was ready to go. It was a record.
I had previously met one of the guys I was sharing the ride with, ‘The Fonz’, at hiker town. He had walked most of the night and was tired and looking for a hotel. He hadn’t booked anything so ended up staying at the same hotel as I had booked, the Quality Inn.
It was only 7.30am when we arrived into town but they were able to check us in early, once the rooms had been cleaned. Somehow it had come up in conversation in the car that I was yet to experience a Dennys diner so The Fonz was very excited to take me there for breakfast. It was very American and everything I had imagined it to be. After the truly American cultural experience that was Dennys, we headed back to the quality in where our rooms were ready.
It felt so good to shower after such a hot and dusty section of trail. It was even better to do laundry and have a clean set of clothes. The hotel didn’t have loaner clothes as such but they let me rifle through their lost and found. I found a giant t-shirt and a pair of shorts that did the trick, it was way too hot to wear my rain gear today.
My second cultural experience for the day was a trip to Walmart! I would later find out from a local trail angel that Ridgecrest Walmart is the 3 largest Walmart in the world. It is a super Walmart so it has Groceries as well as everything else you would imagine. To me it felt like a Woolworths with a Kmart, chemist and Bunnings attached (minus the Bunnings sausage sizzle).
I went a little overboard on my resupply and although all of the grocery items were cheap I bought a lot of them. It will be enough food to last me the 6 days into Lone Pine. My bag is going to be very heavy for the climb out of Walker Pass!
I relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, watched a movie, took a swim and began forming a plan of attack for the Sierras.
Monday 10 June 2019
Location: Mile 612
Distance travelled: 19.2 miles / 31 km
I enjoyed a beautiful bright red sunset from the comfort of my tent this morning. I love sleeping without the fly, being woken by the rising sun.
I walked slowly this morning as the trail climbed out of wind farm country and into the pine forest mountains. I have enjoyed the wind farm but it was nice to have a change of scenery, the views were spectacular.
The trail undulated throughout the morning, the incline of the trail wasn’t steep but in hot weather it was tough going. This section of trail is largely an easement through private farmland. I had read about cows on this particular stretch but only spotted one in the bushes that morning.
I hit the 600 mile marker this morning, even after slowing down my pace it feels like the miles are rolling past now. It won’t be long before I’ve hit 700 miles and I’m up in Kennedy Meadows.
I reached the main water source just before lunchtime and enjoyed a nice long relaxing break in the shade. Taking frequent breaks helps me to get through the day when it’s so hot out here in the desert.
After lunch the trail continued to climb, first through pine forest, then through a section which appeared to be recovering from fire. It was some of the most spectacular scenery and views I had seen in weeks. Although it was hot and I was tired I was still feeling so content to be there seeing it all.
This section of trail is one of the longest dry stretches of the PCT, there is a 45 mile (72km) stretch without a reliable water source. This means carrying an extremely large, heavy amount of water. There are a couple of water caches which have been set up by local trail angels but given the amount of hikers coming through and the remoteness of the area it is not advisable to rely on them.
Before leaving the last reliable spring I filled up with 6 liters of water, taking a gamble on there being some water at the next 2 caches. Worst case, if I find either empty, it should be enough to get me through by night hiking and avoiding the heat of the day.
To make the most of the cooler hours I walked a few kms in the cool of the afternoon and found a lovely campsite with views out to the high Sierras, just as the sun was starting to sink in the sky.
There was one other person at the campsite when I arrived, a single older man. As soon as I approached the camp site the man said to me ‘you carrying plenty of water?’ I was instantly irritated. Not only was I tired and hungry but I’d been experiencing quite a bit of this sort of thing on trail from older men over the past 6 weeks. For some reason, they see a solo female hiker and assume you either need help or don’t know what you are doing without having any knowledge of your experience. Without even saying hello this man felt it his duty to quiz my preparedness. I responded to his question ‘yes, how about yourself? Are you carrying enough water? At which point he instantly changed the conversation to his cell coverage and I walked off to find a camp as far away from him as possible.
Tuesday 11 June 2019
Location: Mile 612 to Mile 639.8 (Bird Spring Pass)
Distance travelled: 18.8 miles / 30 km
I felt like I’d woken up on the wrong side of the air mattress today. It might have been the early start or the fact that even though I started hiking at 5.30am it was still scorching hot out. Maybe it was my heavy pack, laden with the best part of 6 liters of water.
I felt like a slow moving desert camel making my way along the trail. Although the climbing wasn’t steep the trail undulated all day. It was frustrating to be climbing in such hot weather with such a heavy pack.
I feel like it was a shame for me to be in such a bad mood because the views were the most beautiful that I’d seen over the last few days. I could see all the way out to the Sierras and potentially even the snow capped Mt Whitney in the distance.
I was eager to make it to the first water cache earlish this morning. I wasn’t sure whether there would be water at it or not so getting there early would give me time to make a decision about what to do if it was empty.
I felt relieved to find the cache had been recently stocked by the incredible trail angel who has undertaken the epic task of managing it. It is a long dry not to mention hot stretch of trail and with around 50 hikers coming through each day the cache could be going through 150 liters of water a day.
My spirits were lifted by the water. I drank some while I was at the cache to rehydrate then topped up the water I was already carrying so again left with a very heavy 6 liters.
I got back on the trail and as I started walking, spotted a stationary car beside the road a mile or so from where I was. I got prematurely excited thinking the car must be parked by the trail head doing trail magic! I was very very wrong, the trail took a bend to the right and veered away from the road, the car and any potential trail magic.
It was up and down through proper desert vegetation throughout the day. I spotted several lizards and a couple of small snakes, no rattlesnakes though. One of my favorite lizards are a large beige/ gold lizard with brown spots. They remind me of tiny little leopards.
While stopped for a break under the shade of a Joshua Tree I found a tiny little birds nest. It was super cute. Unfortunately there were no baby birds in it.
During the day I passed the 1000km mark which a hiker had marked out in the dirt. It was nice to see my efforts in kms rather than miles for once, it seems so much shorter in miles.
The afternoon was spent on undulating trail through joshua trees. The views were breathtaking but so was the heat, I had to take a nap with my lunch in the afternoon to try to recover a bit before tackling the climbing again.
Thankfully the last couple of miles down to robin bird spring were downhill so I cruised into camp in the cool of the day. I got a great little camp spot sheltered by a large rock with views over the pass. It was perfectly positioned so I could see the sunset and sun rise the following morning.
I was even happier to find the cache full of water, it seemed to be newly replenished. It’s not so nice drinking hot water from plastic bottles, I hate to think what all of the exposure is doing to my body but sometimes you don’t have too much choice.
Unfortunately I had run out of gas the day prior so I’d be cold soaking my couscous for dinner. The sun had finally come in handy for something! A little time in the sun and my dinner was fairly warm.
I was in my tent, enjoying my couscous and watching an episode of grace and frankie when Graham rounded the corner. It wasn’t long and Jeff also rocked up to camp. They had done a big 27 mile day. It was nice to see them one last time and we spent the evening chatting. I was exhausted after a long hot day in the sun and slept very soundly.
It was my mums birthday today in Australia, I managed to send a message during the morning but it was 3am Sydney time and way too early to phone. Unfortunately I didn’t have reception at bird spring pass to give her a call. That is one of the tough things about being on trail. You never know when you might be able to get in touch.
Saturday 8 June 2019
Location: Mile 577.2
Distance travelled: 15.2 miles / 24 km
The supermarket I resupplied at in Tehachapi was the biggest on trail supermarket I have visited yet so I went a little overboard with my shopping. The upside was fresh berries and an apple for breakfast this morning, a delicious change.
It was windy overnight and still windy when I woke up but I guess that’s what you get when you camp under wind turbines in the middle of America’s biggest wind farm. I slept with the fly off and my earplugs in and managed to get a decent rest.
Despite my need to slow down and walk shorter days i was still up early to walk in the cooler part of the day.
It was only a few miles of walking to finish off the section between willow springs road and highway 58.
There was a few miles of road walking and a railway crossing to contend with.
As I approached the crossing a huge fright train came through, sounding its horn. It was a long train and I had to wait 5 minutes or so for it to pass by before I could cross.
Having crossed the highway I thought that I was leaving the windfarm behind me but as I climbed my way up a hill towards the next mountain range I realised the wind farm continued.
It was unbelievable how large it spanned.
The wind remained strong throughout the afternoon so I decided to choose a well sheltered campsite for the evening and set up early.
The trail into camp was a dirt road and in the afternoon sun I almost missed seeing a huge snake laying across the trail. I was one foot distance from stepping on it but the snake didn’t flinch at all. It was an impressive size, skinny but well over a meter long.
It was a good reminder to watch where im walking, particularly in the afternoon.
I got into camp early and settled in for the afternoon. It was relaxing. I watched a movie and napped. I think I can get used to these lower mileage days.
Sunday 9 June 2019
Location: Mile 577.2 to Mile 592.8
Distance travelled: 15.6 miles / 25 km
It was more wind turbines today as the trail continued along a dirt road through the wind farm.
I am amazed at the expanse of the farm. It feels like I’ve been walking through it for a week and it’s still going!
Once the trail deviated from the dirt road and back into single trail I was rewarded with beautiful mountain and valley views.
I walked through sections of trail blooming with wildflowers, from the beaver trail cactus to the California Poppies. They were beautiful.
It was another warm day and the water sources are few and far between on the section of trail up to Walker Pass so I took time to stop in the shade and cool down while I could.
It was another short day, 15 miles. It feels weird and a little wrong stopping so early in the day when there is still plenty of light until 8.30pm but it is also nice to relax and take it easy while I have the chance.
Thursday 6 June 2019
Location: Mile 558.5 to Mile 559
Distance travelled: 0.5 miles / 1km
I had planned to wake up early this morning, hike 8 miles to Highway 58 and then get a bus into Tehachapi for a zero or two. Unfortunately the morning buses didn’t line up for me and because I’d booked a hotel room in town for the night I didn’t want to wait around for the afternoon bus. I wanted to check in early and make the most of the hotel room. So I waked just under a mile to the Willow Springs trailhead where I hitched into town.
A lovely gentleman named Wayne gave me a ride into town. He was on his way to the city to file a case about receiving a medal for his service in the airforce. He had initially driven past but when he noticed I was on my own doubled back to give me a ride. He is a local in the area, with a plot of land where he lives off the grid. He was already aware of the trail and has picked up several hikers in his time.
The trip into town was about 15 minutes. After stopping for petrol Wayne dropped me off at the hotel and bid me farewell. I promised I’d send him a photo from the finishing monument.
It was still very early, way too early to check into the hotel but I went in anyway so I could leave my bag with reception while I went to the local bakery to get something to eat. The hotel had a huge hikerbox which was overflowing with quality pickings. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t rifling through someone’s resupply box so I asked the receptionist if that was the hiker box. She looked at it with exhaustion ‘oh there is more stuff’. It was a mess, overflowing onto the floor. ‘Yeah, looks like it could do with consolidating’, I said. She asked me If I would mind sorting through it for her. ‘I would LOVE to’ I replied. Not only do I love sorting, organising and getting rid of rubbish but it would also let me thoroughly look through everything in the boxes. I threw out 3 bags full of rubbish, collected an arm full of good stuff for myself and organised the boxes into 3, gear, food and hygiene. I felt so satisfied.
The lovely receptionist, for ‘helping her’ then gave me an upgrade and let me check into my room early. It was as if all of my Christmases had come at once.
I spent the day doing the usual town things of eating, washing and resupplying. I checked out the local bakery for a sandwich and cinnamon bun and had my first Dunkin’ Donut.
I satisfyingly sorted through my pack to strip out all of the cold climate gear I could send through to Kennedy Meadows to cut down my pack weight for a little while including my microspikes and some extra food I was carrying. I made the most of my hotel room, spent the night eating and watching movies in bed. It was pure bliss!
Friday 7 June 2019
Location: Mile 559 to Mile 562.5
Distance travelled: 3.5 miles / 6 km
It felt like I was sleeping on a cloud last night in the comfy hotel bed with pillows that were incredibly the right level of soft and firm. The only thing getting me out of the bed was the complimentary breakfast with eggs, English muffins, muffins, bagels, waffles, cereal, yoghurt and most importantly coffee. I did my best at trying some of everything before conceding defeat and heading back to the room to digest, pack and catch up on blog writing while fitting in one last movie. Check out wasn’t until 12 so I took my time.
Once I’d checked out I headed to the post office to send forward my warm clothes, microspikes and a little extra food I’d overbought. Along the way I stopped in at one of Tehachapi’s delightful little antique stores where I found the perfect birthday gift for my mum. It’s not easy to find birthday gifts on trail so I felt like this was meant to be.
After sending off my parcels I headed back to the bakery for a sandwich and cake where I saw my old trail buddy Graham. I started the trail with Graham but hadn’t seen him since leaving Big Bear 2 weeks ago. I’d heard the counter lady call out an order for a Graham and I thought, I bet that’s him. Sure enough, it was!
We caught up on each others adventures over the last 2 weeks. It turned out that my other friends, Sarah and Jeff were only a few hours behind him on the trail. I had already decided to head back out on trail and arranged a ride with a local trail angel so I wouldn’t get to catch up with them that night but assured Graham I would see them on the trail the following day.
Adam isn’t due to arrive in Lone Pine until the 24th June. Lone Pine is really only just over a week of walking away for me but given the current level of snow in the Sierras and North of the Sierras it makes sense for me to slow down and wait for Adam on the 24th rather than flipping forward for a few days of walking to head south which we had originally thought to do. We had always planned to walk the Sierras together.
Given I’m slowing down and planning to take some extra zeros I expect the others will overtake me shortly.
I headed back to the hotel where I’d left my pack. It turned out that the trail angel, Fran who was giving me a lift out to the trailhead had also agreed to give another couple a lift out and they were also at the hotel. They were ready to leave early after Fran had taken them on a round trip to the post office so we ended up heading out to the trailhead at around 4.30pm.
Fran’s dog, Little Guy also came with us for the ride. He was the friendliest little Chihuahua I’ve ever met! He spent most of the 15 minute car ride on my lap. It had been a while since any doggo cuddles so it was good to get my fix until the next town 😆.
I had a short but incredibly windy 3.5 mile walk through the windfarm. I’d seen a note on guthooks about a ‘partially’ sheltered campsite behind a juniper bush beside the trail. The description was right. I found the site. It is semi sheltered but the winds are still strong so I slept without the fly. I guess strong winds should be expected when trying to camp in a windfarm.
It was nice to be set up and in the tent early. I enjoyed the changing colours of the sunset from my bed until the glowing lights of the city began to appear on the horizon. Although a hotel bed would have been comfy and a little less gusty, you can’t beat views like this.