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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.