Day 42

Day 42
May 30
24.5 miles

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I was extremely tired and wanted to keep sleeping, but finally got up at 6:09. My sleeping bag was wet with condensation! It was 42 degrees, but felt much warmer than that! For breakfast, I had granola with chocolate bits in it, a banana, and coffee! I was very surprised that no one had passed by the entire time that I was camped directly by the trail! All night long, I was expecting Drama to come by and find me. I wondered where everyone was!
I started walking at 7:18. The landscape had changed into more of a woodsy feel with leaves all over the ground.
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Just after 8 am, I heard an unexpected sound…water! I thought that the next source was only a dried up puddle and not a cascading stream! My water report had no mention of this! There was a guy camping with a hammock up on the hill. He was just starting to break down his tarp, and I assumed that he was a weekend or section hiker. I collected some cold water and sat on a rock to filter in and then proceded on my way.
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My mood was good and thoughts about other things than how many miles I had left until the end of the day, until my next resupply, until the end of California, and until Canada flowed through my head. I decided that after the trail, I wanted to make jewelry (like Weeds does for a living), and that I wanted to write and teach yoga, as well. I had two climbs that were each about 1,000 feet during the morning. The temperature rose to 94 degrees, but didn’t bother me very much. I must be getting acclimated to the heat.
I reached a sign that had something written on it in marker. It advised that there was a better water source here than the one listed in our guidebooks. It instructed to find the second Sugar tree, stop and listen for water, and then head down the bank through the trees to find it! So, I did just that! It was kind of fun. I set my pack under the big tree and scrambled under the branches to find the water, filter it, and head back out for my next climb of 2,000 feet over the next 6 and a half miles. Part way up the climb, I reached Fox Mill Spring and decided that I would make my first ice coffee of the hike! That was nice.
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I kept climbing and soon reached another burn area! Sometimes, these areas have their own beauty because flowers grown quickly around the charred trees, but this area just looked like dead trees. I listened to some music to help me with the climb, even though it was quickly draining my battery to do so. The burned area was going on forever and by now, my stomach had started hurting again. I hoped to stop and take a break when I reached the top and had a nice view, but there turned out to be no nice views around here!

I moved on until I came to a bend in the trail around 5:45 and sat down. My stomach was in a lot of pain. I decided that I would make my dinner here. I boiled water for my pasta, let my noodles sit, and added some tuna for protein. The wind was picking up. I didn’t know what to do about my stomach. I tried to go the bathroom, but couldn’t. So, I kept walking along the ridge for the next 75 minutes. I saw no places to camp along the way!
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At one switchback turn, I saw a tiny spot that could possibly fit a sleeping bag, but I would have to wedge myself in between a prickly bush and a charred log! No, thanks! I continued on, hoping to find someplace soon. Finally, I saw a clump of trees in the distance and knew there must be something there for me!
I was right! I turned off the trail and scouted out the area. Parts of it were filled with anthills, so I chose a spot lower down. I later saw that I had put my stuff sacks on top of baby poodle dog bushes when I took them out of my pack!

As I lay in my sleeping bag at 8:36 pm, it is 61.8 degrees out and the crickets are chirping. I hope it is not too windy tonight! And I hope my tummy feels better tomorrow! Tomorrow is a big day- crossing the 700 mile point and reaching Kennedy Meadows- the gateway to the Sierras!
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Day 41

Day 41
May 29
mile 652-667.2
15.2 miles

I actually started to really sleep last night and did not want to get up! Sleep only happens on the second night of my stays in town because the first is filled with adrenaline and anxiety over everything that needs to get done in such a short amount of time: showering, washing clothes, shopping, eating, communicating with people from home, organizing resupply, journaling… There is never enough time!
I walked down to the Dam Korner for another avocado, bacon, and cheese omelet and wheat toast while I observed the interactions between the locals around me. I pondered whether or not I should order some french toast and decided to go with a half order. My stomach seemed to be feeling better this morning.
I returned to my room to sort through my food and do my final packing, and ended up having a little time to journal while I waited for Salty’s Dad. A saw a white van pull into the parking lot and got up to return my keys. Roadrunner, Will, and I climbed into the backseat and the little dog snuggled in between me and Roadrunner.
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The ride back to the trail was very quiet and I started to get overheated and a little claustrophobic as there were no windows in the back of the van where I was sitting. I continued to write and then gave up when all traces of cell signal were lost. I wouldn’t be able to post anything anyway.
We reached Walker Pass and climbed out of the van to retrieve our packs, still in a space of awkward silence. The wind was blowing my shirt up, making me even more uncomfortable. I took a picture of Salty and his Dad, thanked them for the ride, and gave Salty a hug, which was not well-received. Both of them had a feeling of distance.
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As the van drove off, Roadrunner and Will immediately started up the trail. I spent a couple of minutes taking pictures of the historical plaque and drank a half liter of water so that I was left with four liters to carry up the climb. I ended up having to pee a lot during the beginning of the climb, which always happens after leaving town. I felt good again after my stay. I had eaten enough that I didn’t feel hungry and I felt happy and filled up in every sense.
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I made it to the top of the switchbacks and saw a nice little resting area ahead. However, I knew that Roadrunner and Will would be relaxing in that spot and I was right! I continued on and found another little area that looked like a good break spot. I entered the cove to find another hiker with raccoon eyes from his sunglasses tan, who was airing out his sleeping bag. I had never seen this guy before and asked him his name. “Crazy Nuts,” he said. He didn’t smile or seem to want to talk at all, so I excused myself from the area and walked on, finally reaching a little tree that I could sit under all by myself! I ate my avocado and found a text from my resupply people concerning a shirt that I had ordered before the start of my hike, which still had not been delivered. I didn’t remember what company I had ordered it from, so they were guessing where I had bought it and were calling up companies who had no record, instead of looking in my e-mail account that I had sent them, where it could have been easily looked up. It’s frustrating to not have a computer to be able to sort these problems out myself. My phone battery was starting to drain as I spent time trying to search for the initial order.
A bit later on, I received a text from Drama asking me what my shoes prints looked like! Drama was hunting me down! How fun! I knew that there was no reception before Walker Pass and knew that he must be close to me if he could text me! I looked around with wide eyes and started moving! I quickly lost any range of reception and was unable to communicate any further with him.
The temperatures weren’t too hot and the scenery was beautiful, especially during the first half of the day. And there was some beautiful stonework along the trail to prevent erosion.
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As the day wore on, the sun grew stronger and made it difficult to see. I grew hungry and my energy started to fade. I sat down and ate a power bar and wished I could dump some of the water weight I was carrying. It felt like it was getting heavier and heavier!
At 5:06, I made it to the intersection of the Joshua Spring path, where someone had dropped off their pack.
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I walked past it and found a tree to sit under and cook my dinner of pasta and peas. I didn’t plan on collecting water at this spring because it was a long walk downhill to get to it and there were reports that it was unsafe to drink because of the amount of uranium that it contained. However, when I looked more closely at the water report, the next source appeared to be a one inch deep, 5 inches wide puddle that people were pumping from! I didn’t have that kind of filter, so I had no choice but to go back and collect water from Joshua Springs. I saw the owner of the pack emerge back up the hill. He was extremely skinny and was wearing a brown hat with flaps on three sides, and a bright orange cape-like thing around his neck. He looked like Michael Jackson to me! I hoped that it wasn’t Drama! I hadn’t seen him since Warner Springs and didn’t know what he might look like by this point! The strange-looking hiker took his time collecting his things and spent several minutes photographing the Joshua Springs sign. Finally, he slung on his huge blue pack and walked by me.
I felt something on my seat and after waiting a moment to make sure that it wasn’t imagined, looked down to see red ants all over me! I had sat on top of an ant hole! I quickly got up and brushed as many off as I could!
Then, I made my way down the third of a mile to the springs. I startled the anti-social guy who was climbing back up from there. I asked him if anyone else was down there (“No”) and if he knew who was ahead on the trail, as I had just spent a day and a half in town. “No.” Great! Thanks…
I collected my water, slowly climbed back up to the PCT, filtered the water and headed out for a couple more miles. The trail went down, down, down, and then kept climbing back up! I felt thirsty but couldn’t drink much water because I needed to conserve what I had for the next 20 miles!
I took a couple of pack breaks to rest my aching shoulders and then as I walked on, saw a flat spot that was just big enough for my sleeping bag along the side of the trail. It was now 7:35 and I decided that is where I would stop for the night! I was hungry and snacked on a coconut Kashi bar, some of Icebucket’s grapenuts mixed with a little protein powder, and a peppermint patty for dessert. I actually took some time to journal (a rare event), and snuggled into my sleeping bag. The temperature had dropped from 67 to 61 degrees in the last 20 minutes!
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Day 40: Zero in Lake Isabella

Day 40
May 28
zero day

When I opened the door of my motel room in the morning to step out into the world, I was blinded by the sun and had to quickly shut the door and retrieve my sunglasses! It’s funny how new this California sun is to me still and how easily I forget about it! I walked over to the office to find out when the mail was expected to arrive, hoping I wouldn’t be stuck there until the late afternoon waiting for my sleeping pad to arrive. I planned on walking back to Nelda’s for breakfast, but the owner told me that there was a closer place called the “Dam Korner” that had better breakfasts, so I headed there instead. I ordered my usual omelet and toast and then asked for an order of french toast after I finished. I felt like I could sit there all day, eating!
I decided that wouldn’t be the best idea, however, and headed out to find the post office to pick up the box I had sent to myself from Mojave as well as send Erik a check for the fleece jacket that he was mailing to Kennedy Meadows for me. I returned to the motel office to see if my sleeping pad had arrived and found Salty sitting there! “Wendy…” he said. “I turn my back on you for five minutes and you run off to the highway!”. Ooops… I explained that he went off with Iceman and Cattywampus and didn’t seem to care about me, and how uncomfortable I was in the wind, so I decided to try my luck at hitching! He apparently was hoping that I would help get him a ride, but it turned out that he got a much quicker hitch than Chip and I! Everything was fine. We agreed to have lunch together in a few hours. I still had to figure out when and how I was getting back to the trail. The motel owner said I could make a cardboard sign and stand at the freeway exit. Or I could wait until the following morning and get a guaranteed ride with Salty’s Dad. What to do, what to do… The owner commented on my inability to make a decision. I decided it would be nice to take a rest day and paid him for another night. I now had my new sleeping pad and waterproof mittens for the Sierras and I spent the next couple of hours sorting through my resupply items and journaling for a bit before heading back to the Dam Korner for a chicken sandwich with Salty. I bought a mocha from the espresso shop on the way back and Skyped with my Swiss friend in the afternoon.
Salty and I planned on walking to Nelda’s for dinner, and he gathered up Will and Roadrunner to join us. They had hiked the PCT about six or seven years ago and I asked him Will if it was so windy back then (Ted had explained that most of the windmills in the area were a recent addition within the last couple of years). He said that no, it was not nearly as windy then, and that there were not nearly as many burn areas as there now are along the trail. We talked about hikers we knew and there whereabouts and he told me that Lorax was about a day behind. I wondered how that could possibly be!
All day, I had been experiencing cramps and was having other PMS symptoms, but it was much too early for this to be happening and I couldn’t understand what was going on! By the time we reached Nelda’s, I was in a lot of pain and sat in the booth with my hand on top of my stomach. I ordered a chicken sandwich, which turned out to be really bad. We had a new waitress and for a reason that we couldn’t understand, she found it extremely funny that Salty asked if he could have cornbread with his chili! Roadrunner told us about her near-death experience from almost drowning in a raging creek in the Sierras the last time they hiked the PCT and advised me to listen to my gut and wait for someone to come along if it told me a creek was too dangerous to cross alone. I told her I would.
Our milkshakes arrived, but my stomach was now hurting so much, that I couldn’t enjoy or finish mine. Terrible!
Roadrunner and Will headed to the grocery store on the way back, while Salty and I went to the drugstore so I could buy a few things that I needed, included the tube of Vagisil for any future chafing! I had no idea where to find it in this huge store, so I had to ask a male worker where it was! I was also getting worried that I might run out of memory card space in the Sierras, so I decided to buy a second one in case. I bought two more Snickers bars, an avocado, and a banana and then headed to the check-out counter while Salty played with a bouncing ball. I asked him if he could help me download a map and waypoint App onto my phone and he filled me in on what I was doing wrong.
Once back at the motel, Salty said that he would not be going out for breakfast in the morning in order to save money, and would eat out of his pack, instead. Will and Roadrunner had made the decision to get a ride back to the trail from Salty’s Dad in the late morning, so Salty said he would knock on our doors when he arrived. We said goodnight and headed to our separate rooms.
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Almost to the Sierras!

I am currently in the town of Lake Isabella, 35 miles away from the trail. I couldn’t decide whether or not to send a resupply box here or not because I heard that hitching here (and getting a ride back to the trail) was incredibly difficult! But this town supposedly has the best milkshakes on the trail!
It was decided for me, however, when my sleeping pad blew away from underneath me while I was camped on a sloped ridge on an extremely windy night with four miles to hike to get to a road to hitch into the town of Mojave.
That was my worst night on the trail!
The winds have been unbelievable! Extremely high and constant. There are windmills everywhere in this section!
(And that was, by far, my toughest hitch yet! I stood out in the wind and cold for over an hour and no one picked me up until the only trail angel in town came by to deliver another hiker to the trail).
Anyway, luckily my sleeping pad was the only thing the wind stole. I had been using my down jacket as a pillow and when I lifted my head up to see why my hip was hurting so much, it flew away as well! I quickly struck out my arm to grab it! And I saw that not only did I roll off my pad, but there was no pad there at all! I switched on my headlamp to try to see if it was anywhere nearby, but you can only see, at best, a foot around you.
So, with freezing cold hands, I texted the people who are sending my resupply boxes to ask them to send one of my replacement pads to Lake Isabella- 94 miles away. The winds never died down!
I decided to take a zero day here after hiking 27.5 miles yesterday (and an additional mile and a half to get from the diner to my motel room afterwards!). I hiked the 94 miles in 4 days.
Tomorrow, I will get a late start, but a guaranteed ride back to the trail with Salty’s Dad. Then, I have 51 miles until I reach Kennedy Meadows- the gateway to the Sierras! A whole different hiking experience to get prepared for! I personally can’t wait to be reunited with my regular hiking outfit. This desert get-up is not working for me! The skirt is altogether too big and the button down, stained brown shirt is not doing anything for me. And my hat is way too floppy!
Muk Muk and UB are days behind. I will hang out in Kennedy Meadows on the 1st so I can see Dr. Sole (he will arrive that afternoon). And then we will see who else is there and whether I can wait for Muk Muk and UB or not!
I’ve been hiking consistently and like to stay ahead of the “herd” so I can occasionally have my own space. That is when I feel happiest- just me and the mountains. But sometimes, it’s nice to hike with people who are funny or have good stories.
I have a couple of stories from each section, but they take so long to type out, and it is past my bedtime already!
I did start having some painful problems this last section- chafing and painful callouses on 2 of my toes. And one night, I did not get any sleep at all because of the high winds, which made the next day quite miserable. Wind is my least favorite element. There is nothing you can do to escape it.
Some days are challenging out here, but other times, I feel incredibly happy and filled with gratitude for being able to be here. I am so happy I made the decision to do this.

I’ve hiked 652 official trail miles and still have well over 2,000 more to hike before I get to Canada! Sometimes, it boggles my mind!

Some of the men out here are amazed at me because the weight of my pack is twice the weight of theirs, and yet I continue to hike strong and consistently. One guy said, “I’m doing all I can with a pack that weighs 20 pounds. Yours weighs twice as much and yet you hike faster and farther. I don’t know how you are doing it!”

I met a nice man, originally from Romania, who was hiking southbound for the Memorial Day weekend. He said to me, “You’re a strong girl!”.

Thank you, sir. That I am.

A lot of people have been saying that they are “finished with the desert” for quite some time now, but I am happy that I have been content to be where I am and not wanting to be anywhere else.

I have no idea what the conditions are like in the Sierras now- how much snow and ice, what equipment is needed, or how dangerous the creek crossings are going to be.
I’ll just take it as it comes and see when I get there!

(We have entered more remote areas with no cell reception and this will continue throughout the sierras, so I am not sure when I will be able to update this again…)

Thanks for reading and thank you for your patience!

Day 39

Day 39
May 27
27.7 miles

As I climbed the switchbacks that I had hoped to climb last night, the wind blew strongly and made the walking tough. I assumed that it was even stronger last night and was glad to be doing this part in the morning, hard as it was. I scanned the terrain as I walked to see where I might have camped had I continued on last night and was happy with my decision to stop where I did. Although the wind made me feel cold and uncomfortable, the moon was still out and I tried to take in the beauty of my surroundings.
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The lack of trees made the world seem more open around me and I spent a moment at the top of the climb, looking out at the new landscape that was now revealed on the other side.
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As I descended into a small desert valley, I came upon Razor taking a break. I greeted him and headed up new hills and wound my way around ridge lines where telephone poles that gave no reception stood. As I got closer to the location of the next water cache, I heard someone call my name. I looked up to see Salty standing on the side of the trail and all I could do was laugh. With my stopping short last night, my non-existent ability to ever get up early, and Salty’s desire to get as far as possible in order to make today’s mileage to get to Walker Pass reasonable, it was immensely funny to me that we were now in the exact same place! I laughed and laughed and then we walked over to the water cache together. Salty told me that the wind was awful last night and that he wasn’t able to make it as far as he had wanted because of it. And to make matters worse, the moon took forever to rise! Mark ended up sleeping at the cache, but Chip stopped short and camped close to Salty.
It was now close to 9. Salty still intended to make it to Walker Pass and I thought I had a chance to do the same. First, we had to make it over the big, exposed climb in front of us, which was not recommended to be climbed mid-day. I debated whether or not I should take the time to make some hot chocolate. Salty said he definitely would if he had some. So, I did. He went on to start the climb. As I was preparing to leave, Razor came along and wanted to talk. His personality is very different from mine and the conversation was definitely not easy for me. I strongly felt that he wanted me to be someone other than who I am. I tried to be polite and provide him with some company, but I really desired to get hiking!
Finally, I excused myself and started the climb. When I was about half way up the mountain, I realized that this climb was not nearly as tough as it was billed and that I was actually enjoying it! Beautiful trees provided respite from the sun at the top of the mountain and I noticed several nice camping spots in case of a possible future visit.
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As the day wore on and I began to tire, I realized that I still had fifteen miles to hike until I made it to Walker Pass. Fifteen miles! That was a lot and my spirits sank. I needed a way to boost my energy. Somehow, in the next couple of hours, I checked my progress and realized that I was hiking 3 miles per hour, which I almost couldn’t believe! That piece of information gave me the boost that I needed!
I climbed another hill and began looking for a place to take a quick break. I ended up choosing a particular tree to sit under and was very surprised to find that I had some reception there! I took a minute to send out a quick e-mail to my friend, Erik, who happened to be visiting his family in Michigan at the time (he now lives in the Netherlands), and asked him if there was an outfitter close to where he lived. I explained that I was in need of a fleece jacket before I entered the Sierras (now only about 60 miles away!)- otherwise, I was going to freeze! I had an extremely narrow window frame to get this request out, and was so happy that I was able to do so! I ate a quick snack and got moving again.
Later, I caught up to Salty. I asked him what his plan was in terms of waiting for his father. Nothing had changed. I asked him if he knew there was reception a little ways back and he exclaimed, “No! And I guess you didn’t leave a sign for other hikers on the tree saying ‘Free Wi-fi’ or ‘Wendy’s phone booth’ did you?”.
He pointed out our first distant view of the Sierras as we walked. His guidebook was an informative one!
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Later on, I found a place to take our last break of the day, but jumped up when I noticed ants swarming me! We had one last push to get to Walker Pass and we wishfully talked about a barbecue and an easy ride into town awaiting us!
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Of course, we found nothing of the sort. Mark was there and had collected most of the water that had been left by someone for himself and Chip. There was also a plastic bag hanging from a tree that contained some individual packets of Oreos and a couple of eggs. Other than that, there was only the wind blowing. Mark was wondering where Chip had disappeared to and Salty began looking for a place to set up camp. I followed him down and wondered where I should set up. Then, he was called over to another area by Iceman and Cattywampus. The wind was blowing strongly and the sky was covered with gray clouds that looked like they might burst open with rain. It was only a little after six and I wondered why I would spend the night in these conditions when I had the chance to get into town! I picked up my pack and followed Chip out to the road. He and Mark had decided that it would be easiest if only one of them tried to hitch into Onyx and agreed that Chip could pick up both of their resupply boxes. Mark would spend the night at Walker Pass.
And so, I waited for passing cars with Chip. Unfortunately, almost all of the traffic was headed in the opposite direction! The few cars that came towards us didn’t even slow down. I figured I would spend an hour trying to get a ride and if that didn’t work, I could head back to where the others were sleeping.
After 20 or 25 minutes, however, a car that was coming from the opposite direction gave us a sign and turned around. They had seen us when they passed by the first time and turned around for us after letting their other family members in another car know what they were doing. How nice! They lived about half way between Onyx and Lake Isabella, so it was no problem for them to drop Chip off, and they said that I could hitch again at the gas station further up the road. Chip was extremely talkative as usual, and didn’t allow the couple to get in a word! I just sat there and smiled. He said I was welcome to camp with him outside the post office and perhaps go to jail with him if he was caught, but I said I would try to get into Lake Isabella that night.
As we drove on, the woman said, “You’re friend sure likes to talk a lot!”. The man ended up dropping his wife off and taking me all the way into Lake Isabella. His wife said that her husband was very quiet and not at all like Chip, and I told her that was a good thing! He delivered me right to the motel and when I offered to give him some gas money, he said, “You’re not going to give me anything.”
I checked in and got a room and after I asked how to get to Nelda’s where the milkshakes were, was told it was a mile and a half away. However, he might be able to give me a ride there since things at the motel were quiet. I think he expected me to shower before I went, but it was already so late and I wanted to get there before they closed. So, off we went and I had a mediocre burger, but a very delicious milkshake that lived up to its reputation! I also got to talk to Erik about the fleece jacket that I needed. Then, I walked the mile and a half back to my motel along the highway, because what’s a mile and a half more when you’ve already walked almost 28 miles with a heavy backpack? I finally got to shower and sunk into my bed.

Day 38

Day 38
May 26
mile 603.4-624.3
20.9 miles

I finally slept well! It was neither too windy nor too cold and I had some very intense dreams. I would wake up and then go right back into the scene repeatedly. I allowed myself to sleep in until 6:30, but I really wished I could have slept so much longer! I was so tired!!
I started walking at 7:36 and soon caught up to Salty. He called down to me from above the trail and I asked him what he was doing up there. He said that he was checking out an old water tank. He wanted to go down the hill and explore some log cabin ruins that his guidebook had talked about. I wanted to get in my miles (especially since I had just started the day) but I ended up going down the hill to find the ruins with him. It was fun to do something a little different and wonder about how people lived out here all by themselves many years ago.
As we walked back up to the trail, Chip and Mark came along. We took the lead and stayed ahead. Salty was getting overheated and wanted to take off his extra layers, but said he would wait until we got to the next water source. I told him that was still 2 miles away! He pulled out his GPS to confirm what I had just told him and then stopped right there. I told him I would let him catch up to me.
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I crossed over a marshy area and then a dirt road and came to a registry. There were benches beyond it, so I put down my backpack and went to look for a place to go to the bathroom.
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I was happy that I had a little time to myself. Salty came along and after reading through the registry himself, said to me, “I wish you had stayed with me… I just saw the biggest bear of my life! I stood there watching him for five minutes.” Darn it! I totally missed that! My stupid hat really restricted the view of my surroundings! Salty said the bear was making its way out of the marsh. Its fur was all wet and he assumed it had been taking a bath. He also told me that he had seen a mountain lion in the dark after the Anderson’s oasis cache! Lucky guy!
We walked to the road and then turned left to head towards the campground which had a water source nearby. Salty contemplated spending the day there since he had so much time to kill before his father would arrive. He said he has a hard time taking zeros in town and I wondered how he was going to take a zero out here and watch everyone walk by him! He agreed that that would be a very tough thing for him to do. I asked him why he didn’t call his father to ask him to come earlier and he said that he had had no reception. “What about at that blue house?” I asked.
“I saw a man walking around that house with a pistol on his hip! I didn’t see a sign that said ‘free Wi-fi'”, he exclaimed. “I wasn’t about to linger around that place!”.

We both moved on after filtering our water and having a snack. We came to yet another burn area and as I stopped to take pictures of flowers, Salty went on ahead.
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As I descended to the road and water cache, Mark caught up to me. I arrived there just before 1.
Salty spotted a lone Joshua tree across the road and up a hill and wanted to take his break there. I didn’t want to spend the energy to go all the way over there, so I set up in the sand on a hill above the water. I shaded my legs with my umbrella and snacked on a power bar, an english muffin, some peanut butter, some pork jerky, and a snickers. Chip and Razor came along and joined the other guys under the Joshua tree.
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I tried to nap a little in between wind gusts that threatened to blow my umbrella away. When I finally got up, I discovered that I was covered in dirt!
I was the first to head out at 2:10, and Mark followed close behind. As I read through the next register, which dated back to last year, Mark went ahead. For the rest of the afternoon, I walked alone, which was really nice.
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We had another big climb coming up and with four liters of water, my pack was very heavy! Joshua trees dotted the environment and the sand on the trail was deep, which took a lot of energy to get through. I took my time and plodded along.
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Once on the ridge, I sat down and ate another power bar. The sun was burning my legs! Forty-five minutes later, I was hungry again.
I was also having bad chafing problems in the area I was having trouble with yesterday. It was incredible painful. I finally decided to walk without my underwear on. For 10 minutes, I experienced incredible stinging and then, very slowly, it subsided a little.
I reached a flat area that looked like it would be ideal for camping, but I wanted to get in another 2-3 miles. I walked on and came to another spot that I could see myself camping in. I debated for a couple of minutes, and even though it was only just after six, I decided I had better stop here or I would have proven to myself that I didn’t learn my lesson after that awful night when my sleeping pad blew away. I could see that we had a climb ahead and I didn’t want to be caught on switchbacks in high wind again. So, I set up my cowboy camp under a Joshua tree that I hoped would provide enough shelter from the wind. As I was cooking dinner, Salty walked by, but didn’t seem to see me. I called his name, startling him a bit. I wasn’t expecting to see him because he had told me that he was going to walk down to a campground 2 miles off the PCT which had water and spend the night there. Apparently, however, Weeds and Icebucket made it to the water cache before Salty left and said there would probably be a barbecue at Walker Pass tomorrow because it was Memorial Day. But Weeds told Salty he would never make it there by then. “Don’t even try!”. At that point, he decided he was going to get to Walker Pass by Monday no matter what! And so, his plan was immediately changed!
He asked if he could join me for dinner and then headed back out to get in as many of the 28 remaining miles to Walker Pass as he could. Razor later walked by and told me about having set up his tent in a saddle. He was cooking dinner when the wind came whipping through, ripped up a tent stake, and knocked over his boiling noodles! He then decided to pack everything up and move! (He also told me that he had gotten sprayed in the face by a skunk earlier on the hike!).
As the last remnants of light were fading, Chip came along in his funny hat, with a smug smile on his face. He asked if I had seen Mark and seemed intent on catching up to him that evening with the help of the moonlight.
(Oh, Chip…)

It took a long time to wipe the dirt from my legs, and the extra time that I thought I would have to journal quickly disappeared. I wrote down a few words with cold hands and then huddled in my sleeping bag.
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Day 37

Day 37
May 25
mile 582-603.4
21.4 miles

I was unable to get any sleep due to the constant roar of the wind all night long! It was at least as bad as the night my sleeping pad blew away, but this time, I was on pretty level ground. I imagined that Weeds and IceBucket were sleeping soundly in their low elevation, sheltered spot. It was very cold and there was no way that I was going to get up at 5 something! So, I remained in my sleeping bag until 7:00! The wind still hadn’t lessened. I spent 10 to 15 minutes futily trying to put in my contacts. It was impossible! The wind would not let up for more than a second. While I was trying to do this, a couple walked by. I couldn’t see who they were. They said it was SunDog and Giggles. “I thought you guys slept at the water source last night!” Nope. They stopped just short of where I did, but found a spot away from the trail in the woods. “Were you guys able to sleep at all?”. They said they got some sleep early on, but couldn’t sleep because of the wind during the second half of the night. Still, they were smiling and chipper, as usual.
I finally got going and was able to put my contacts in on a stretch of the trail where the wind wasn’t as strong. I passed by Joe, who had also camped before the water source. And then, I walked by Jug, still in his sleeping bag next to the dirt road by the trough, and found Salty at the trough. We had all slept in! Wow! I didn’t feel so bad anymore! SunDog and Giggles were about to move on, so it was my turn to collect water. Joe had come along by this point. He was cursing over and over because his Sawyer squeeze bag had a tear in it. I asked him if he wanted some of my duct tape to repair it and he took some, still angry. As I was finishing up my filtering process, Chip and Mark rolled in. I had to get going! It was now 9:00! I had never started so late before!
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Soon, I reached another huge burn area. All of the trees surrounding the trail were charred. I had walked through many, many burned parts of the PCT by now, but this one made me mad. It was too much!
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I was tired and my mood was not good. The side of my big right toe was hurting where there was a huge callous. I wondered if a blister had formed underneath it. I was also experiencing more chafing pain. This time, it was not in an area that IceBucket could have helped with even if he was around. The burn area was extensive and there was no protected place that I could go to take care of my problem. I climbed up a slope along the trail and sat under a burned tree. I still had my baggie of Goldbond powder that Dr. Sole had given me back at kick-off, as well as a tiny free tube of ointment that I had picked up in Big Bear. I hoped no one would walk by.
Of course, someone did. I remained still, and I was amazed that the hiker did not see me! He had headphones in and was distracted by the music, I guess. Later, two other hikers also passed by without seeing me! I realized, that with our attention so focused on this narrow ribbon of trail, that we are missing out on seeing a great deal of our surroundings!

The zipper on my wind jacket had broken and I started worrying about freezing in the Sierras! I wished I had left my fleece jacket with my resupply people, but in my preparation for this trail, I thought my wind jacket was the replacement for that layer. It did not provide much warmth, however, and even less so when it was unable to zip up! I wondered if I was going to have an opportunity to buy a fleece jacket in Lake Isabella or at the Kennedy Meadows General Store.

Later in the afternoon, I saw Salty up on a slope. He appeared to be talking to someone on the phone. (I figured he must have been calling his family to tell them to come earlier). I kept going and later found a place to take a break along a climb. He passed by and wanted to know if I had seen him. He said, “I think you caught me talking to myself” and seemed embarrassed. I told him I thought he was on the phone, and that I talk to myself all the time! We were now only a couple of miles away from the 600 mile point!
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He continued on as I finished my snack.
After the climb, the trail turned onto a dirt road. I walked by a blue house that was set off the road that gave me an eerie feeling. I turned on my GPS to see what mile I was at and discovered that I had reception! I texted Muk Muk and found out that she and UB were now three days behind me.
Then, I reached the 600 mile mark! It was impossible to take a picture of myself by some rocks on the ground, but I tried. I was a bit disappointed that Salty couldn’t have stayed with me for that little bit so we could have taken pictures of each other! He had told me earlier that he was excited to reach this point.
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I listened to some Beyonce and Ray LaMontagne to help me through the last few miles of the day.
When I reached the intersection to Robin’s Spring, I turned away from the PCT and headed down the side trail to collect water. Salty was just coming down from the spring on the hill and he helped me open the wired gate, which was a Colorado style enclosure, and nearly impossible to get through! He spent a few minutes re-looping the wiring. I went up the hill and was surprised to see a man sitting up there with his winter hat on. I assumed he was a weekend hiker. He asked me if I was going to camp there. I didn’t feel so comfortable and told him I was going to move on.
As I was getting ready to leave, Mark hiked in. He planned on staying there for the night. Salty was hoping he could catch up to SunDog and Giggles, as this was one of his last chances to spend time with them. He was headed home for two weeks and would start the hike again with his mother for the next two months.
I made my way back to the PCT and after a mile or so, started looking for a spot to camp. I thought I saw a possible area down a hill, but after making the trek down, it turned out to be unsuitable. My guidebook was misleading as to possible camping spots in this area.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I rounded a bend and saw a place I could set up. I was done for the night! I set up my cowboy camp, cooked dinner, and was in my sleeping bag at 8:45. I hoped tonight would be less windy so I could finally get some sleep! Today was a hard day!
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Day 36: Back into the Wind!

Day 36
May 24
558.5- about 582
23.5 miles

I woke up early, but was only briefly able to speak to my friend, as he was running late for jury duty. He told me that he could call back at 9 am, my time, but I told him I would be hiking!
I walked over to the fastfood restaurant and founds Weeds and Icebucket. They had taken my advice of bringing over their Starbucks via packets, as this town had no good coffee! I asked them where they got the hot water and they said they just added it to the coffee from the restaurant! I ordered the french toast special and sat with Weeds, while Icebucket returned to the motel. I felt very rushed, as I had still had to fill up my water bottles, which I had forgotten to bring to the restaurant, and finish packing my last few things. Weeds reminded me that Cheryl Strayed had started her hike from Mojave, and I sat there for a moment, taking in this information. I wondered what motel she stayed at and thought about how she had spent her last night before the start of her hike. I also thought about how much of the PCT she had skipped. I told Weeds my opinion of the book and that to me, the conclusion of the book seemed too nicely wrapped up to be believable for someone that had hiked only 1,000 miles. I had already backpacked over 3,300 miles, and my life is definitely not drastically different and better than before I ever hiked. She is definitely a very good writer, and describes what it is like to be on the trail extremely well, however. Weeds told me that she has already witnessed transformative changes in some hikers. One time, she found a hiker crying on the side of the trail, saying, “I’ve been an asshole my whole life.” She said she has witnessed others writing deeper things in the registries along the trail. I suppose the amount of change one can expect greatly depends on the person’s starting behavior, as well as how much they truly want to change themselves.
Weeds left me to finish my french toast and said she would stall Ted. I hurried back to my room, filled up my water bottles cup by cup (as they were too tall for the sink), and packed everything up. My phone wasn’t even fully charged.
Everyone was standing around chatting by the car and hadn’t even begun to fill out Ted’s questionnaire for the article. I suggested we start doing that. Weeds and Ice Bucket wrote down some basic info and I wrote a few lines on why we hike these long trails and what it does for us. Weeds was growing impatient and called me a “time consumer”! Then, we were off to the trailhead! Ted entertained us with stories about mingling with Miss Ohio and Miss California at a conference at Disney World during our drive.
We arrived at the PCT, got out of the car and had our picture taken by Ted for the article. As he left, I shouted out, “We’ll never forget you!”.
Weeds said that I most definitely won’t be forgotten, either- along with Miss Ohio and Miss California!
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There were a lot of informative signs in the area at the start of our hike, and we took our time reading them and taking pictures. Weeds put on a bandana so the wind wouldn’t blow her hair all over the place and it gave me the idea to put on my buff. But I was antsy to get going, so I decided I would do that later.
I headed into the brown hills feeling happy and alive. The wind was forecasted to be strong again today, but we are thru-hikers and push through whatever is given to us! I headed towards the next batch of windmills.
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Ahead, I saw a farm and lots of cows and I stopped to observe them for a few minutes. Two hikers were approaching and I saw that it was SunDog and Giggles, who had stayed in Tehachapi. SunDog told me that he had come up with a trailname for me- Sweet Tooth because I have a cute smile and eat lots of candy, he said. He thought it was much a much better name than Sasahy. (I had stopped introducing myself as Sashay after Chip kept calling out, “Hey Sasha!” over and over again while he and Mark were hiking with me. It was very annoying!). SunDog opened the gate for Giggles, and I wished I had a nice strong man to do the same for me!
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I found a bush up ahead to stop and dig out my buff. Ice Bucket came by and asked me if I was okay! My friend from home said he would call me at 9, but did not. I kept checking my reception and finally found some at 9:23 and texted him, but he did not respond. I later stopped under a bush and left him a voicemail. Weeds and a male hiker that I had not met passed by me.
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We descended a series of switchbacks down to the road, arriving at a small water cache. SunDog, Giggles, Salty, Weeds, and Icebucket were all there. We headed out in pairs at slightly different times, walking along a road. I asked Salty if he was going into Lake Isabella and he said that his father was coming to pick him up at Walker Pass on Wednesday. “Wednesday? Then you better slow down!”. I told him that I planned on getting there on Tuesday and he walks faster than I do!
As I continued to walk, I thought about my friend having to serve on jury duty, as well as continue to work full-time, and I felt bad that I was out here hiking for myself without having to deal with any of that kind of stress. Then, I realized that I had CHOSEN to do this, and that he could do the same if he wanted to!
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We walked over the highway 58 overpass and soon found a display of trail magic treats that had been left by Chief’s wife! She had left homemade cookies, apples, and soda, and while I definitely did not need any of this food, we all stood around and enjoyed it for a few minutes. Icebucket was having some problems with his most recent download of PCT maps and waypoints and was only getting an image of the Atlantic Ocean, which I thought was funny.
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The trail continued along the highway for awhile before climbing back up. When these climbs are built up by people before I start them, I often dread them, but once I am actually climbing, I remember that this is what I love to do! I passed Ice Bucket, feeling very strong.
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When I took a short break along the trail, I saw him approaching. For some reason, he did not seem to see me! I said, “Hi Icebucket” to let him know I was there and not be creepy and he jumped back like I had just given him a heart attack! “How could you have not seen me?” I asked him. He told me that he gets very lost in his thoughts when he hikes.
I continued to the top of the climb and found a Joshua tree to rest under while I ate something for “lunch”. Salty passed by and I later caught up to him and SunDog and Giggles after their break. They all went ahead sometime later.
I was very thankful for the sleeping pad that Ted had given me, not only for sleeping on, but for sitting on during breaks. The PCT is a very dirty, sandy, and eroded trail, and a sitting pad is necessary for breaks! There is no outfitter store in Mojave, and it was incredible that he did this for me! Somehow, whatever I needed was appearing…
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I decided to stop and cook my dinner instead of waiting until I set up camp. Ice Bucket walked by and got scared again when I said hi! I wondered how he doesn’t get lost all the time if he is that into his head!
I even scared him a third time when I caught up to him after resuming my walk! He had to have known I was going to be right behind him! By this time, my lower back was on fire from chafing, which I didn’t understand. Why was this happening after I had already hiked 580 miles and why was it happening on the day I left town, after having washed my clothes?
I kept pushing on, wincing every few steps. When Ice Bucket pulled over, I followed him, complaining about the pain. He didn’t understand what I meant by chafing, but when he lifted up my shirt to see, he gasped! It was all red and raw. I asked him what I should do- put goldbond powder on it? He said he had the perfect thing and went about digging in his pack. He pulled out a purple tube and told me it was a miracle cream- Vagisil! He rubbed some onto my wound, and told me to let it heal overnight. I said I was going to continue hiking! He said I should sit for 10 minutes to let it soak in and then see how it was tomorrow. If I needed more, I could wait for him. And he told to buy a tube for myself in Lake Isabella.
Weeds came along and asked me to watch their packs while they scouted out their campsites. She was afraid of bears taking them. When I told her I was going to move on, she was very dismayed. “Stay with us! We’re a hoot!”.
“But I am stopping at Lake Isabella and you guys aren’t, so I have to keep moving.”
I told her I would see them tomorrow.
I continued on through the evening hours. More windmills came into sight! No! We weren’t done with them yet! These ones were of an older style.
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As the light began to fade and the mountaintops glowed pink, I rounded a corner and saw three deer! The sight of them took my breath away.
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I was glad I had continued on. (Although Weeds and Ice Bucket probably saw an incredible sunset where they stayed!).
Then, I saw another deer and two grouse with funny plumes sticking up on top of their heads!
I rounded another bend, and this time, I was just stunned. The moon was just coming up behind the mountains, hanging full and bright in the sky.
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My jaw dropped open. Is this real? It was huge! I had never seen anything like it. This was the reason I was out here! I watched it rise as the remnants of light faded.
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I knew that I wasn’t going to make it to the water trough tonight (where I thought everyone else was camping) and started scanning for a place to camp. Just above a bend in the trail, I found a space that would just fit my sleeping bag. I wedged it in between a bush and rock, put on my warm clothes, and washed up. I was talking to myself, as I was taking out my contacts and was startled my a hiker. I told him I didn’t think I knew him. He said his name was “Jug.” I wished him a goodnight and tucked myself in. It was 53 degrees by 8:20. The temperature had dropped quickly and the winds began to pick up…
I would not be able to sleep again…

Day 35

Day 35
May 23
mile 554.5-558.5 (Mojave)
4 miles

I had been debating since the planning of this hike on whether or not I should stop in Lake Isabella to resupply. It is a town that is 35 miles off the PCT and notoriously hard to hitch to. However, it supposedly has the best milkshakes on the entire PCT and it splits up an otherwise 145 mile stretch, which equals a VERY heavy pack in the desert. Once my sleeping pad blew away, the choice was made for me. I resisted turning on my phone and texting my resupply people at 4 in the morning and instead tried to relax my mind for a bit and try to rest. When it became a reasonable hour, I sent out a text explaining what had happened and asked if they could ship out another of my sleeping pads to Lake Isabella. The wind continued to blow strongly and there was no way that I could put my contacts in in those conditions. I ate a quick breakfast, looked around to see if my sleeping pad had perhaps gotten caught in a branch, stuffed my things into my pack, and moved away from that awful spot. I continued down the remaining switchbacks, bundled up in all my layers. The wind knocked me sideways. I was not in a good mood! As I descended, I found that one direction only provided a bit of respite from the wind, and I decided to stop and put in my contacts there. As soon as I rounded the corner, it picked up again. It was a long four miles!
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As I approached the bottom of the hill, I saw a yellow tent. The person appeared to still be sleeping peacefully. Had I known about this spot…I read through the register comments (some people hated the wind, while others enjoyed it) and made my way toward the road.
A hiker was trying to hitch into Tehachapi without any luck and asked to borrow my phone to call for a cab. He said I could share the ride, but I had sent my resupply box to Mojave, which was 11 miles in the other direction. I walked down the highway to Willow Springs Road, set my pack down, and stuck out my thumb. One guy waved to me, but I didn’t need a wave. I needed a ride! I was so cold and had to keep moving around to generate a little body heat. It seemed that every truck that passed was a working vehicle. It wasn’t looking so good for me! I got hungry and had to dig a Snickers bar out of my pack. I tried to send out happy energy, but no one would stop! I had been waiting an hour already and wondered if I wouldn’t get my breakfast.
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A car turned down the road and I waved it down. It stopped and I asked the man if he could take me to Mojave. The driver, Ted, happened to be a trail angel in Mojave and had seen me on his way to dropping off another hiker at the trail head. He assumed that I would be picked up in the meantime, but if I hadn’t, he planned on taking me in! I don’t know what I would have done if it weren’t for him! He told me about the boom in windmill construction in the last couple of years and talked about a few of the hikers he had met this year. He seemed impressed with our various backgrounds! We drove past his house and then into the town of Mojave. I told him that I had been looking forward to getting some breakfast and he said he knew just the place. He was meeting his friends at the donut shop and would take me there. I had been looking forward to an omelette, but made do with a breakfast sandwich and coffee with powdered creamer. The donut shop had enormous pastries and I stared at them, wondering how anyone could eat such a thing if it was unappealing to even a hiker appetite! I joined Ted and his friends at their table, happy for some company.
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Weeds and Icebucket came in and sat at the table behind us, reading the newspaper on their zero day, which looked very relaxing!
Ted had to get going to a meeting, so I left with him and he dropped me off at the Motel 6, where I had my resupply box sent. He offered to give me an extra blue foam sleeping pad that he had at home and said he never used. Amazing!
I spent the remainder of the day washing myself and my clothes, sorting through my resupply items, walking a mile to the post office to ship extra items ahead on the trail, and then walking the mile back through the strip mall. I ran across the highway, dodging traffic, to finally get an omelette at a fastfood restaurant, and then went back later for a very bad bacon cheeseburger!
Weeds and Icebucket had told me to come find them to figure out a ride back to the trail the following morning. I found them in their room, was invited in for a beer and a chat, and called up Ted to see if he was available to take us. He had told us that he wakes up at 7:00, but agreed to meet us at 7 at the motel. Wonderful! He asked us if we would be willing to write down some information for an article in the local paper about our hikes, which, of course, we were more than happy to do! Weeds and Icebucket had put together their own hiker box of unwanted items, and I ended up taking a ziplock bag of Icebucket’s leftover grape nuts cereal that he had been carrying from the border, as well as a baggie of chocolate protein powder, and I took Weed’s city scarf that she was discarding! It was nice to hang out with them, but I had to get back to my chores.
I decided, that since I had received no care packages by this time, I would put a message on facebook, letting people know that I could sent them my resupply stop addresses if they wanted to send me a little love along my journey. To my surprise, several people responded, asking for them! It took a lot of effort to write each person back with the instructions on how and what to send. I wished I had a person at home who could organize that for me!
Finally, it was time to lie down in my bed for a few hours before an early morning wake up to talk to someone from back home. I could hear the wind roaring outside my window and was thankful to be ensconced inside.

Day 34

Day 34
May 22
mile 529.7-554.5

After about four hours of sleep, I woke up to start a new day.
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I was motivated to stay ahead of the group that had left around 3am from Hikertown. They were planning on reaching the Cottonweed Creek bridge around 9 or so. I resumed my walk along the sandy road lined with joshua trees, seeing this environment for the first time in daylight!
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After about an hour of walking, windmills started coming into sight. I was about to enter a new land of gigantic alien-like machines. And as if on cue, the wind began picking up with the appearance of these towering objects. It suddenly became a bit harder to move forward! The desert is generally a windy place, and I struggled often to keep my hat on my head, pulling up the bead on the leather ties that made my chinstrap, and pushing down the brim of my hat. In this new land, however, it was futile to even try to wear my sunhat. I took photograph after photograph of the landscape of windmills. The symmetry was quite pretty. As I passed by some of them, I could see little doors and wondered about the people entering them.
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After a few more miles, I approached the bridge and was surprised to see a vehicle crossing it! I didn’t realize this part of the trail was accessible to cars. It creeped along and I could see the driver looking out, but they didn’t seem to want to interact with me. I found a side path leading down to another tank of water that was stocked by Hikertown. I collected and filtered the water, ate a snack, and was greeted by Chief, who was the first of the late-night hikers to roll in. He found his own shady spot a bit away, and I continued along the trail, enjoying the flat terrain and the contrast of nature and machine. The wind became stronger, so I put on my winter hat. My pace slowed as I worked harder to fight my way through the moving air. Juniper bushes started to appear and I looked for one to take respite from the high wind. I found one that could shelter me, unrolled my sleeping pad, put on some warm clothes, and curled up. Lying down felt so delightful! A hiker passed by as I was packing up, whooping, and throwing his arms in the air. “You gotta love it!” he shouted out. He had the right attitude!
I moved on, hoping the wind might have died down, but it only seemed stronger. I was beginning to hate the windmills. I wondered if they were creating more wind, or if they were just placed in an already very windy area. As I looked ahead, it seemed like there were only a few left, and I kept telling myself that I only needed to make it that far until I was out of their vicinity. But they never ended…
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I started the descent into Tylerhorse Canyon, where I could see a couple of hikers. By the time I arrived, they were just about to leave. I looked for a sheltered place to sit and decided to cook a meal in the afternoon instead of the night to help warm my body. As I ate, Chief came in, scouting out a place to camp, and then Iceman and Cattywampus followed, searching for a place along the creek. While Chief napped with a bandana over his eyes, the couple went about setting up their tent. It was only 3:00, but Chief’s wife was coming to visit him in Tehachapi in two days, so he had plenty of time to kill. I went down to the creek to collect water and then returned to my spot on the hill under the tree to filter it.
I moved on, starting the climbs out of the Mojave desert. The open space between the brown mountains surrounding me made me feel so happy. I decided to listen to some music, feeling so thankful to have such an expansive area to myself. One of the songs strongly reminded me that I know the truth of my experience from what I feel, and that no one else’s words or actions can ever take that away.
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I moved from the rims of bare mountains back into trees. The moon was rising as the sun set. I watched the changing colors of the sky as I moved along.
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Soon, I came upon a group of chairs in a small cove beside the trail. A nice carpenter named Daniel had created this resting spot for us, and had left apples and bottled water, as well! He put out a sign welcoming us to Tehachapi! I never factor in time to spend at such places, so after drinking a bottle of water, I resumed my walk. Night was coming. I was motivated to get as far as I could tonight, because I wanted to get to the town of Mojave in time for breakfast- my favorite meal! I figured that since I had night hiked last night in the moonlight, I could do it again tonight! The temperature dropped and my hands got cold. I walked past a tent and saw by the outline, that it was Puma inside. I decided to continue on so I had a better chance to get my breakfast.
I saw the road down below and wondered if I should hike all the way down to it, but decided I didn’t want to camp next to the road. The sky turned pink as I moved down the switchbacks.
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Soon, there was nothing but black, and the moon oddly did not seem to provide nearly as much light as it had the night before! I began to tire and decided I should start looking for a place to camp. However, I was walking down a path of never-ending switchbacks, which meant that there were no flat spaces. At 9:00, with four miles to get to the road, I decided that I was finished for the day. I picked the best spot that I could, given the situation, which meant that I would have to sleep on a slope. I placed my backpack on the sloping side, but I was also set up on a vertical slope and knew I would slide downward during the night. After putting on my warm clothes, I huddled in my sleeping bag. The wind grew stronger and stronger throughout the night. At one point, I woke up wondering why my hip was hurting so much! I realized that I had rolled off my sleeping pad and when I went to get back on it, discovered that there was no sleeping pad there at all! It had blown away in the ferocious wind! I lifted up my head to see if it was anywhere near me, and my down jacket that I was using as a pillow, immediately flew out. I instinctively reached out my arm and just managed to grab it! Oh my gosh… this was a bad situation! I looked around to see what else might have blown away. Were my shoes still there? I turned on my headlamp and shone it into the bushes around me. I saw no trace of my sleeping pad. This was a terrible, no good, very bad night!