Back on the trail
From Agua Dulce to Tehachapi is 110 miles on the PCT. We woke up early and set out to walk. It was fantastic. We talked about what was ahead, what was behind, and what was now. When the trail resumed onto the crest the beauty multiplied. The temperature was comfortable and the view was incredible. We had a steep climb but that didn’t bother us. We would finish our hiking by 5 pm and catch a ride to our next trail angel at Casa de Luna. Today we hiked 24 miles.
Back in the Desert
At Casa de Luna we reunited with some trail family: Nap Time, Ocelot, and Nemo. We made another steep climb and planned to eat lunch in a cave. Caves that where right off the trail. Apparently created by miners attempting to obtain some rare metals unique to these mountains. There is history in the rocks, people lived in died here. Dreams where realized and lost here. From these rocks success was created and even still disaster was born. Estates and Alcoholism. The future is built with your own two hands, or so we believe. But the rocks are a manuscript of parables, seed scattered, some find fertile ground, and some die. A crapshoot. Is there something we can learn from these lessons? We touch the rocks and remember.
The cave we stopped at had a small mouth opening. You had to crawl in. I was the first to go in. 20+ miles a day isn’t my thing, crawling into a cave that might house a bear, a group of bats, another hiker, or might just lead to a bottomless pit is 100% my thing. The cave opened up past the shallow mouth. You could easily stand up in it without touching the ceiling. 15 hikers could have lunch in it together. I crawled back out and gave my report. Another hiker went inside and returned to say the walls didn’t seem stable and we were due for an earthquake. Thru Hikers. We carried on to a spring another mile up and attempted to rest in the patches of shade burned-trees provided. I was still having a good time, I was giving name to the doubt that was creeping. I gave it a name and shood it away. The group separated after lunch. Jade and I hiked alone again. Suddenly there were trees and shade and beauty. But also bugs. Nats and flies played a dangerous game in front of our faces. Diving close and then flying away. Jade developed a technique. She waved her trail poles in front of her face which kept them away for as long as you were waving poles in the front of your face. This wasn’t rewarding enough for me, I put my hand in front of my face where there was the most traffic, waited for the population to rise and then clapped. I recon I killed at least three each clap. We camped that night on the top of the world. Down bellow were lights from cities and town, the wind was blowing the bugs away, the stars were still bright despite the city lights. I wouldn’t find out until the next day that the nats were attracted to the salts on our face, that if I just wipe my face clean they don’t swarm. Today we hiked 20 miles.
Rough End, Rough Start
We were feeling good after such a nice night, the bugs where still swarming but after discovering that a clean face kept them away, they weren’t really a problem. The rest of the day we hiked down. We walked with Hey Girl most of the day and found out a lot about her. She is an interviewer through-and-through. Asking her a question would lead to her answering and then asking her own. If she was allowed to she would keep the questions focused on us. We didn’t allower her to. When in camp she spends time in each group. She makes you feel like whatever you are talking about is interesting and worth time to hear. These personality treasures have developed incredible work opportunities as well as connections. She will do influential things, she has done influential things. I told her I wrote about her, she smiled and replied “Oh golly”. I love that.
We hiked into Hiker Town which consisted of a frustrating 4 miles running parallel to the highway that would get us to our destination. My feet were hurting pretty bad after that. Hiker Town looked like an old western town straight from a Hollywood movie set. It was a short-lived reprisal. Soon enough we would be waking up at 230 am to start hiking at 3 am just to beat the 105 degree afternoon heat. Today we hiked 20 miles.
Plan B,C, and D
Waking up at 230 in order to hike 12 miles so we can rest during the hottest part of the day is worse than it sounds. My feet and knees hurt from the day before. I really wanted to take a zero at Hiker Town but the rest of the group was headed out and I didn’t want to hold Jade back. We were walking along side the LA aqueduct. One more way the trail could torture us, hearing hundreds of gallons of water rushing past us, but being unable to access any of it. In the desert you are always thirsty, you always crave a cold gallon of water, and then you get into town, drink the water and forget you ever needed it. It is a horrible game of amnesia but at least in the desert your cravings are upfront, no hide ‘n seek. We hiked out with Hey Girl, her and Jade talked, I tried to listen, tried to tell myself this was all mental and I could overcome, tried to stay involved. Right around day break, when the sun started coming up I asked Jade if we could talk privately. Here we were with a beautiful sunrise, amazing reds and yellows filled the sky, the horizon was littered by the silhouettes of Joshua trees with their arms stretching and bending every which way, all I could think about was how miserable I was. Again. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t be a thru hiker, I had seen other people who tried to be thru hikers, they slowly became people everyone else avoided, they had become bitter and angry.
Jade and I designed another plan. I would return home, pick up a way-to-old SUV, pick up our dogs, drive out to the trail, and follow Jade. I would hike some sections of the trail and skip other sections. The sections I skip, I would find a good middle point, drive to it, hike down the trail 10 miles or so, set up camp and wait a day or so for Jade to get there. Hike back with her, get in the truck and repeat. She would be able to carry less food, I would be able to hike my own hike. We liked this idea.
We got to our afternoon destination. The shade of a bridge provided some comfort for 15 thru hikers, water nearby provided hydration. I napped, gave Jade a foot massage, rescued a rabbit from death, found the rusted carcase of a really old truck, now used as target practice, and caught a ride into Tehachapi to wait for Jade. Today I hiked 15 miles.
A lot of Miles
From Tehachapi I got a ride to Bakersfield. From Bakersfield I got bus to Union Station in LA. From Union Station I got a shuttle to LAX. From LAX I flew a plane to O’Hare. From O’Hare I took the blue line to Millenium Station. From Millenium Station I took a train to Michigan City. This all took 22 hours and I napped. In Michigan City my sister picked me up. I got to sit in the back next to my niece. She stared at me for a while, she wanted to know why I was back early and where was Jade. When I was trying to tell my sister why I was back early and where Jade was my niece decided she wanted to talk to me. She is adorable and my favorite. She must share that spot with Silus, Tyrus, Annabell, Keira, and a new Fiver. It was fun being back, it was good being back. Seeing my brother be a new father, seeing his wife be a new mother. Taking a 1.5 hour walk with my sisters and their kids and only going a mile. Watching my mom and her new love, love one another. Seeing my mom’s new love play with my dogs and follow them around like a younger sister follows around an older sister (its a puppy just to be clear, and they have a on-again off-again relationship). But, I wanted to be back as quickly as possible. I missed Jade. I wanted Jade. I chose Jade.
Hopped in my truck drove out of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska. Stopped in Colorado for a quick hike up the side of a mountain, crawled under a melting glacier that could have crushed me if it broke, swam in a glacier fed river that was so cold I could only stay in it for seconds before going numb.
Hopped in my truck and drove out of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada. Stopped in California, and met Jade in Ridgecrest. Ridgcrest is a very hot town. 110 degrees the day we were there. There is a Navy base there. I don’t know why a Navy base would be in a desert hundreds of miles from water. A man who worked on base told us the town wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the base. We needed no convincing. He also told us that the Navy base was the location for films such as ‘Planet of the Apes’ and “Hulk’. We needed no convincing. Jade hit the trail again from Walkers Pass.
Hopped in my truck to meet her at Kennedy Meadows. A three-day hike, a 1 hour drive. This would be the end of the desert, this would be the start of the Sierras.