Trail Miles: 566.5–702.2
With hot and dry miles ahead of me I wanted to get an early start. Thankfully there was a trail angel in Tehachapi who was willing to drop off hikers on his way to work at 6 in the morning. I had a nice chat with Jeff as he drove me to the trailhead, and we bonded over the fact that his job was closely related to mine in the software / technology field. Saying goodbye I started up the morning climb.
As the sun rose higher in the sky I could feel it beat down on me. Finding a little shade I stopped for a break to eat some snacks and give my feet a break. After the break I continued on. The scenery was filled with windmills, but thankfully it wasn’t crazy windy and I didn’t have trouble hiking through them.
Soon the scenery changed to trees and I came upon a spring. There were about 7 other hikers laying by the spring taking a nap. Since this was the last water source of the day I decided to cook my dinner there so I wouldn’t have to cart water for dinner up the trail.
With a full belly I headed down the trail 4 miles to my campsite. Unfortunately the campsite was in the middle of an old forest fire and didn’t look very appealing to me. I pressed on 6 more miles to find a nice site that was shaded from the wind.
I woke up with the sun and set out down the trail. Since I had gone 6 extra miles the day before I had less to go today, and I was looking forward to that. The trail was shaded by trees which made the hiking nice and enjoyable. I kept my eyes open for a bear that others had mentioned seeing in the area, but I didn’t see one.
I came upon another spring where I took a short break to fill up on water, eat some snacks, and give my feet a break. I happened to have cell phone service there so I also called Monica and talked for a while. It’s hard on the trail not being able to talk to her everyday. Going from seeing and being with her everyday to not seeing her or being with her for days on end is hard. Finishing up my call with her I set out down the trail.
The trail crossed a lot of dirt bike and ATV trails, which I think it would be fun to come back some day and ride those trails. It didn’t take long for me to arrive at Landers Meadow Camp where I’d be spending the night. Landers Meadow Camp is a public campground, but there was only one set of car campers there with their dirt bikes. I wandered over to the spring, the last source of water for 42 miles, and chatted with other hikers. After a while I headed back to my tent to cook up dinner.
Heading back to the spring to wash my dishes, a lady on a dirt bike pulled up and told me and a fellow hiker that she was a trail angel named Cinnabon. True to her name she had Cinnabon’s for us which were so delicious. She told us that the two water caches in the 42 mile dry stretch had plenty of water and that we shouldn’t worry about carrying tons of water. She said that a cache isn’t marked as reliable unless it’s guaranteed that 1,000 gallons are available at all times. Since these caches were only around 200 gallons each they weren’t considered reliable, but she said they were good to go. I was thankful she stopped by as I didn’t really want to carry the weight of 8+ liters of water. With the good news of the caches in mind I headed off to bed.
Even though there would be caches, the weather was nice and warm, and the shaded tree cover was soon gone. In the distance I caught my first view of the Sierra Nevadas as I could see some small distant snow capped peaks. I had walked so far, and I could finally see what is considered one of the most beautiful parts of the trail.
The sun beat down and the trail changed into a sand dune like consistency which made walking a little hard. I came across the first cache, and sure enough there were 200 gallons there. I took a short break and kept going. The stretch to the next cache was uneventful, but hot. I couldn’t get the idea of an ice cold Coke out of my mind — probably because of the hot dry weather.
I arrived at the next cache in late afternoon, and amazingly enough there was a bucket filled with ice and Cokes. I couldn’t believe it! Sitting down in the shade of a big joshua tree I relaxed and enjoyed the Coke. It was a nice reward after a long hard day of hiking. Seeing some other hikers, I was informed that had I been there around lunch time a trail angel had stopped by with food along with the Coke!
Waking up I set off up a nice big climb which was actually quite enjoyable in the cool of the morning. I was heading to Walker Pass where the 42 mile dry stretch ended. It was a quiet day and I didn’t see any hikers at all until I arrived at Walker Pass. The hike to the pass was uneventful besides for a couple more glimpses of the Sierra.
When I arrived at the pass there was some trail magic of Gatorade at a picnic area. I chatted with some fellow hikers and made up dinner. After a bit a truck drove up and the driver offered everyone sodas. Eager for the sugar and caffeine I enjoyed a Mountain Dew. Waiting a little while for the sun to go down a little I relaxed in the shade. Satisfied that the sun wouldn’t roast me, I set off for 4 miles to my campsite.
I woke up kind of slow and got out of camp almost an hour later than normal. It was partly due to the temperature with a high of 72 for the day. The cold was a welcome change from the usual heat, and I made good time hiking.
The day was filled with ups and downs as I hiked over several mountains. I stopped for a break by a creek where I got some ice cold water. Other than three hikers I saw no one else, and the day was uneventful. I rolled into camp tired and hungry after a 25 mile day. After making dinner I quickly fell asleep to the sound of a nearby creek.
I woke up ready to go as this was the day I would arrive at Kennedy Meadows — a signal to the end of the desert and the beginning of the Sierra. I also wanted to make it to the General Store for a burger before they closed at 5.
It was another cold day, but that only helped me move faster. I had a 6 mile climb and then downhill and flat till Kennedy Meadows. The miles melted away and I was treated to some nice views of the Sierra. I soon came upon the South Fork Kern River. After the water-sparse desert, it was a treat to have so much water. I stopped to soak my feet in the ice cold water before tackling the last 4 miles to Kennedy Meadows.
I soon passed the 700 mile marker and stopped to take in the fact that I had walked so far. In the moment it’s just one step after the other, but when you zoom out and look at the big picture it’s crazy how far I’ve gone.
Two miles later I cruised into the General Store where other hikers greeted me with claps and cheers. An icon of the trail, the General Store did not disappoint. I grabbed an ice cold Coke from inside and ordered a double cheeseburger from the grill. I savored the burger while chatting with other hikers.
After the store closed I caught a ride to Grumpy Bears — a sort of chow hall that has food, showers, laundry, and camping on their property. I saw some hikers from earlier on in the trail and caught up with them over my milkshake. Next up I took a shower and washed my clothes so I could be all clean when Monica arrived the next day!
I woke up and enjoyed a hearty all you can eat pancake breakfast before heading over to the local outfitter. Yogi, a former PCT hiker runs the outfitter and besides having the best prices around she is a wealth of knowledge about the trail. I even have a guide book she wrote. I picked up a couple of things before heading back to Grumpy Bears to write this up and wait for Monica to arrive. I’ll take a couple zeros with Monica and then head out into the Sierra.
This past section from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows has been tough with not being with Monica. I miss her a lot and just want to be with her. I miss her laugh and her smile. I miss waking up next to her. I’ll cherish the zeros I have with her and look forward to when I see her again. While the trail is amazing, I can’t wait till we’re back together each and every day.