PCT Journal: Days 41-55 (Southern California)

Day 41

Zero in Tehachapi

Daily mileage: 0

Total PCT mileage: 558.5

It felt great to sleep in a real bed! The four of us – Hitch, Dingo, Steel Toe, and I – woke up pretty early for a day off. Blame it on being in tune with the sun. We indulged in the continental breakfast. I for one did not pass up any of the carbohydrates that were available – english muffin, bagel, and a waffle. This trail diet has its advantages at times. Mama Duck joined Steel Toe and I as we chatted about life on trail.

For most of the day, Steel Toe and I lounged around. We knew it was our one day for a full zero so we watched some television, gave each other foot massages, and showered multiple times to attempt to wash away all the residual dirt.

We met up with Hitch, Dingo, Mama Duck, Tank, and Crayola for dinner. Primo Burger was the spot we chose. Any place with good food at a decent price is a gold mine for thru-hikers.

As night set in, we relaxed in the hot tub with Tank and Crayola, as we watched Superbad and shared a pint of ice cream. Now being snuggled in bed under the covers with the AC on and the television playing is a real treat.

Day 42

Hitch from Tehachapi/Mile 566.5 to Mile 576.4

Daily mileage: 9.9

Total PCT mileage: 576.4

Check out this morning wasn’t until noon, so we took full advantage of the morning. Sleeping in, unfortunately, doesn’t happen these days, so we were wide awake by 6:30 am. We binged at the continental breakfast once again, and then lounged in the room as I iced my foot and paid bills online.

I repaired a few pieces of gear and then on our way out we stopped at a local German bakery for lunch. Burger King was next to pick up a cheeseburger for our trail dinner. We weren’t sure if getting a hitch would be difficult, but we decided to give it a shot. In a matter of five minutes, a woman turned around to offer us a ride to the trailhead.

We ended up skipping 8 miles by hitching to the second trailhead that leads to Tehachapi because we weren’t in the mood for a 25 mile water carry and I wasn’t about to be mad about missing 8 miles.

We were in for a climb right from the get go, but once that was over we didn’t have far to camp. Although the next water source was 17 miles ahead, our goal was 10 miles for the day. We found a spot just off the trail in a cozy, woodsy area. The wind is active and the air is cool tonight, but we kept the rain fly off to gaze at the stars.

Day 43

Mile 576.4 to Mile 592.8

Daily mileage: 16.4

Total PCT mileage: 592.8

The day started off well with coffee and breakfast, but it wasn’t long before I started feeling under the weather. I have to be honest, I’m writing this a few days late as I didn’t have the energy to write at the time.

I remember developing a sore throat and feeling weak. Steel Toe helped to encourage me to keep moving to at least make it to camp. We stopped short for the day around 16 miles and got into the tent to lay down. It might have been around 4:30 pm when we fell asleep.

Day 44

Mile 592.8 to Mile 615.9

Daily mileage: 23.1

Total PCT mileage: 615.9

We woke up around 3 am to beat the heat since it was clear the day before how much worse I felt in the sun. My throat felt much worse this day, so eating and drinking water were quite painful. As you can imagine, this becomes a problem when thru-hiking. Getting in calories and staying hydrated is super important on the trail. We did hit the 600 mile mark, but our celebration was short lived.

We decided to check out a campground where the water source was located in order to hopefully get a ride into Lake Isabella early, but it wasn’t frequented by many people. Therefore, our next plan was to continue on to get to the next main dirt road and potentially get a ride from there. I wasn’t sure if I could make it another 7 miles after having already gone 16, but Steel Toe was super supportive and helped me along the way.

We found a spot with service on the way to the dirt road and left messages with trail angels to see if they would be willing to meet us. Luckily, one trail angel returned our call and we were all set to get a ride in the morning. We hiked to the road and camped near a few others, including Bullshit, Machine, Quick Draw, and Rapunzel. I felt worse than ever, but relieved to know that tomorrow morning we’d be making our way to Lake Isabella.

Days 45-49

Zeros in Lake Isabella, CA

Daily mileage: 0

Total PCT mileage: 615.9

We spent five days in Lake Isabella resting and recovering. We basically became locals and frequented Nelda’s Diner daily. Between Nelda’s, Vons, and Rite Aid, we had everything we needed from our room at the Kern Motel.

The first day we arrived in town, we planned on staying at Lake Isabella Motel, but there was a problem with the water, so we wearily made our way to the Kern Motel. We heard mixed reviews, but our experience was just fine. The owner was very kind, and although the rooms were older, they were clean. Plus, it was much cheaper than what we originally planned on paying.

I was able to get an appointment at the local clinic and was prescribed antibiotics for tonsillitis. It didn’t take long to slowly start feeling better, but Steel Toe started to feel a bit under the weather as well. We stuck around for a few nights to get adequate rest and were happy we did so. I also received two care packages, one from Kristyne and one from my aunt, uncle, and cousins. It really lifted my spirits, and I was so thankful to try new snacks (thank you so much!).

When we were feeling more alive, we explored the town a bit and discovered Silver City Ghost Town. Made up of old rickety buildings transplanted from a former nearby mining town, Silver City allows for a glimpse back into American history. Rumor has it that some of the small buildings are haunted, but we seemed to be the only visitors around that day.

Days 50-52

Zeros in Bakersfield, CA

Daily mileage: 0

Total PCT mileage: 615.9

We were fortunate enough to be hosted by Jan and Bob, family friends in Bakersfield, CA. After still feeling a little under the weather, we couldn’t say no to the offer of a comfortable bed and homemade food. We were given a tour of Bakersfield and consistently spoiled with fresh garden vegetables and fruit, and delicious cooking.

Steel Toe was expecting to have a difficult time getting back on trail, but I knew in comparison to my very last day hiking, I would be completely content with a tiny bit of suffering as long as I wasn’t feeling sick. For the meantime, we made ourselves at home and enjoyed the rest and relaxation. Thank you Jan and Bob for taking care of us!

Day 53

Hitch from Bakersfield, CA/Walker Pass to Spanish Needle Creek

Daily mileage: 16.6

Total PCT mileage: 668.7

Waking up knowing we were about to head back on trail certainly wasn’t the easiest. You never realize how much you take a comfortable bed and hot shower for granted until you don’t have them for days on end. We finally gathered our things and reluctantly headed out the door.

An hour and a half later, we arrived at Walker Pass where we were to get back on trail. We decided not to begin back where we left off at mile 615.9 due to the lack of water and ease of just going to Walker Pass. Knowing we’ll be acquiring more miles by summiting Mt. Whitney in a week or so and by hiking side trails to get closer to towns in the Sierra, we aren’t too worried about it.

With our packs full with 3 days of food, 4 liters of water, and fresh fruit, we said goodbye to Jan and hiked into the mountains. We immediately began craving ice cold beverages and fruit. It was a little difficult to swallow down trail food after having been spoiled for a few days.

We hoped to hike at least 10 miles and were super happy when we realized we felt good enough to keep going afterward. That and the fact that we were running low on water and not as hydrated as we should have been, pushed us to keep moving toward the water source. We arrived at the source just as sun set. There were a few camp sites so Steel Toe got to work on setting up camp as I filtered a few liters of water. I’m certainly tired tonight, but I’m happy to be back in nature and listening to crickets as I fall asleep.

Day 54

Spanish Needle Creek to Fox Mill Spring

Daily mileage: 14.4

Total PCT mileage: 683.1

We woke up today among a few other thru-hikers. It seemed like no one was in a rush to get the day started, but we did end up breaking camp at a good time, around 7 am. We filtered our water at a source just a mile ahead, and then braced ourselves for the main climb of the day. It wasn’t too bad though considering it was still early and we were mostly on the shaded side of the mountain.

The scenery began to change a bit – higher altitude, more greenery and rocks, less exposure and sand. It seems the flowers are really in bloom in this area. The day became pretty warm so we took a break at a water source for lunch. We ended up relaxing for a longer than we originally planned since it was so humid out. We watched Mr. Robot in the shade, napped for 20 minutes or so, and I gave Steel Toe a mini haircut before moving on.

As we expected, the thru-hikers we met today were all new faces. Steel Toe wasn’t feeling the best due to the heat so we took another break at the next water source to cook dinner and discuss plans for the rest of the night. After an hour or so, we decided on camping nearby since we’re only a day away from Kennedy Meadows. Our tent is set up near an old burned down shack. Rusted pieces of metal are scattered around, but we’re tired and besides, it sort of gives the place character.

Day 55

Fox Mill Spring to Kennedy Meadows

Daily mileage: 19.1

Total PCT mileage: 702.2

The day became hot at an early time once again. It was no later than 7:30 am when the sun peaked its head over the mountains and we could feel the heat. After grabbing an extra liter of water, Steel Toe and I headed out and started our one climb of the day. Thankfully it was gradual, and at the peak we caught our first glimpse of the snow capped mountains that lie ahead. It was a morale boost for sure!

We were excited to run into our first river in a while. So much so that we jumped right in and took a full hour to enjoy the refreshing water. This was beginning to be a great introduction to the Sierra. We kept moving though to try and get to Kennedy Meadows before the day was over.

When we finally arrived, everyone clapped to congratulate us for making it as far as we had. It seems to be a tradition for anyone that walks up to the store. It’s hard to explain my feelings. I’m in awe that it’s already been 700 miles. I feel accomplished for getting this far, and I can finally call myself a thru-hiker. The Sierra is a section I’ve been looking forward to since planning this hike, and now we’ve arrived at the gateway!

We were ecstatic to find out that the general store was still open, so we loaded up on soda and snacks for the night. I indulged in a muffin, chips, Oreos, spaghettios, soda, and a beer, then called it a night.

2 thoughts on “PCT Journal: Days 41-55 (Southern California)

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