Mile 492.9 to Hikertown, 24.7 miles
FINALLY I got to take down a tent that is dry and not soaked all the way through. A good start to the day. I really never imagined that in this stage of the desert I would be thankful for the sun but here I am, reveling in back to back sunny days.
I enjoy the first few quiet miles, lost in thought by myself and enjoying the warmth of the sun. It was a mediocre day, overall, though. My head just wasn’t in it, which is fine. At home there are says when you’re not feeling engaged or 100%, so it seems natural that there would be days like that out here on trail too. I did pass the 500 mile marker, though, which is the highlight of today’s miles. 500 miles! Almost 20% of the trail. As I approached the last mile, the clouds to my left became darker and darker, creeping towards me. I am so happy I beat the rain today.
We get a ride in to the cafe where we can sleep in a side room and also get food. Burger. Gatorade. Again, eating the diet of a fifth grader. A place to stay inside even though it smells like feet and another hiker set up well inside my personal bubble space. At least I’m not out in this weather.
Someone’s playing piano and even though it’s nice I hope they stop soon. It’s hiker midnight (9pm). Wait, hold on. This person is really good. And they’re now playing Lion King songs?! This feels like a weird dream. Carry on, pianist, carry on.
Hikertown to Tylerhorse Canyon, 24 miles
We, on the other hand, leave at 9am because it has been everything but hot. Walking the aqueduct is flat. This is good because it’s easier physically, but hard because my feet and knees seem to take a beating doing 17 miles on flat dirt roads. I listen to a lot of podcasts, too, to keep my mind preoccupied. At one point, we come across a sign pointing toward a cooler with drinks and snacks. Trail magic strikes again! Even without the heat, it’s a welcome excuse to sit for a bit…especially since it’s not raining, either.
I’m not actually sure that I’ve ever had a Smuckers Uncrustables before (please note hiking pole strap tan line in that photo), but it hits the spot. Could be the sugar, could be that everything tastes pretty good when you hike all day, every day. If I survive this trail without a cavity I’ll be impressed.
After 17 miles, we get back on an actual trail and decide to push another 6.5 for the day, even though it means heading into the clouds in that picture above. Within 20 minutes, we leave the sunshine and are hit with rain and crazy winds. I go into power hike mode, doing those 6.5 miles of gradual uphill in less than two hours. I’m writing this entry after the fact – as I was in no mood in the moment – and man, if only I had known what a ~treat~ I was in for that night.
Upon getting to my stopping point, I set up my tent in the pouring rain, trying not to get the inside soaking. A bit damp, but survivable. Cooked a hot meal, ate snacks, and curled up in my sleeping bag. Once it got dark, I realized a stake had popped out. The wind and rain had stopped for the moment so I went out to fix it, noticing the stars and then thinking “WAIT! Stars? Clear skies?! The weather must have passed!” Oh, young Kathryn. What a sweet thought. I don’t even know where to end this entry and begin the next days, because it sort of all blends into one miserable night…
Tylerhorse Canyon to Tehachapi, 17 miles
Last night went like this: if me and my tent were a windshield, the weather was a giant seagull in the sky absolutely shitting on us. That’s really the only way to put it. It rained. It snowed. And the wind. The wind! I wish it was overly dramatic to say I slept 3 hours at most, but it’s not. I spent almost every hour awake, sometimes simply unable to fall asleep but mostly because I was using my arms to help support the tent walls as they bowed in the wind. Any second I was sure my tent would collapse or tear, leaving me exposed to the freezing cold, wet night. This wasn’t type 2 fun, or even type 3. It was like, 8 or 9. Off the charts NOT fun.
At least I knew I wasn’t the only one in this misery. Around three in the morning I see bright headlamps from across the stream and catch bits of voices barely heard through the wind – I assume someone is outside trying to secure their tent. I also see light from where my friend Golden is camped and hope his tarp is surviving. In the morning, I find out someone’s tent did indeed collapse and Golden’s tarp did not, in fact, survive the night.
When the light hits me around 6, I start moving around. I briefly entertained the idea of cooking a hot breakfast, but then I realize it’s still unbearably windy and all I want to do is get far away from this awful windy place. As I’m getting ready in my tent, I hear a woman’s voice scream “F*** you, mountain!!” and I just nod to myself in silent agreement. Say it again, girl. I pack up my still wet clothes, and hike out in leggings, rain gear, a beanie, and gloves. My hike this morning will take me up into higher elevation with snow, and I’m already cold.
The sun is out, though, so as I gain elevation I start to hit sun covered trail and man, that feels good. In the back of my mind, I am chanting “hotel, pizza”. In the midst of this crazy May weather, we’ve taken to the rallying cry “hotel, pizza, hotel, pizza” to inspire us when days on trail just suck. So I remind myself that today, after 17 miles, I can hotel, pizza.
Seven miles in, I come across a water cache named the 549 Bar and Grill. It’s funny to see a table and chairs set up here on trail, and it would have been a great spot to sit for a minute if it wasn’t under an inch of snow. I actually use the water, though, as with all the rain, my water sources were silty, sandy, and brown/gray colored.
With 5 miles or so to go before getting to the road that will lead me to hotel, pizza, I start the part of the day that crosses through another wind farm. The trail wound by the windmills, each one like a little demon reminding me, in case I somehow forgot, that it was in fact a terrible, wind filled place. Apparently the wind advisory for the day was “over”. Yeah, “over”, just like California is the “Golden State” and like the desert is always “dry”. The wind was biting cold, strong enough to push my body forward and backwards, stumbling off trail at times. My eyes even hurt from the wind, even with glasses on. I tried jogging down the trail at points – anything to get out of this section faster.
Then, at last, hotel, pizza. It’s a fairly easy hitch into town, where we have a hotel room, and I am happy to get inside. When I go to comb out my hair before a shower, I find it is absolute knots. Another gift from the wind. We order pizza so that we don’t have to leave the room. Hiker midnight hits and that’s about it for me.