Tehachapi. May 28

Day 37

Start – Mile 558

End – Tehachapi Mile 566

Miles – 8

Today was a short day just to get into Tehachapi to do my resupply and rest. I’ve been noticing that my legs are more tired lately, with fatigue setting in by mid morning rather than late in the afternoon. So I am considering staying for a full day in town.

The morning started with my third visit from Coppertone. I was the only one there so I talked to him for a while before crossing the second stretch of the windmill farm.

The rolling hills that I remember in this area held up which made the morning hike really enjoyable. I passed a small ranch nestled among the hills with roaming cows.

Made it over the ridge and dropped down to Tehachapi pass and highway 58. I found the number for a trail angel that offers rides to town back where I camped the night before so I called them as I was approaching the overpass and a nice guy came and picked me and a couple other hikers up and drive us into town.

My first stop was Albertsons to get my resupply out of the way. I ran into a bunch of folks I know so they offered me a spot in their hotel room so I’m going to do that tonight and then figure out what I’m doing after that. It feels good to be off my feet for now.

May 27

Day 36

Start – Mile 535 7:00 am

End – Mile 558 6:45 pm

Miles – 23

Wind turbines maintain a constant whir so despite my earplugs I didn’t sleep well beneath them. Got up around six and started getting ready. Noticed a small bobcat cub in the bushes nearby but it ran off before I could get a picture of it.

The Burning Man crowd was still there getting ready for breakfast, but I wanted to get moving do I didn’t wait around.

Luckily today was back to the normal trail- no more dirt road along the aqueduct. For whatever reason my feet do better going up and down hills so after some discomfort in the morning today was mainly ok.

The first couple miles were straight through the wind farm in order to approach the Tehachapi mountains. Cindy told me they designed this route because the majority of the mountain range is owned by the family that founded the LA Times, and they wouldn’t consent to allow the trail over their land.

So despite the fact that you could connect the Tehachapi section with the Angeles National Forest section and keep it in the mountains, instead we have to do nearly 40 miles across the desert floor and then just cover the Eastern tip of this range.

I’ve actually been really looking forward to the Tehachapi since both times Tracy and I have driven through the area I thought the rolling hills along the perimeter of the valley were gorgeous.

But today I’m approaching from the South and they start off not much different from the desert floor in terms of vegetation. After a couple hours I crossed a small creek and hit more water before heading up a four mile incline to cross the highest point that we would touch, which was only about 6000 feet.

I like to time my breaks around tasks, so I didn’t want to break for lunch until I’d finished the climb. There was supposed to be a campsite right at the apex, so I aimed for that and kept pushing. As luck would have it as soon as I came to the crest I saw umbrellas and chairs set up and found myself in the midst of more trail magic. Southern California is going to have me thinking this is normal throughout the trail, but partially it’s because this is Memorial Day weekend so more people are out doing this stuff.

Daniel, our host, lived nearby until a wildfire destroyed his cabin 11 years ago. Now he lives in Tehachapi and maintains a water cache at the summit. But today there were snacks and fruits and more water. I stayed about an hour and then pressed on hoping to make it close to highway 58 before camp.

After lunch I still had about 10 miles to go to get to my target, which would put me about 8 miles from the highway. The hike down wrapped around a beautiful canyon, and pretty soon I was back in the thick of the wind farm that I had left this morning. It was starting to get late but there was no flat ground along the trail and this being a wind farm, I also needed a windbreak. I could see trees in the canyon below now blowing in the wind so I figured I’d just keep going until I hit my original target, which was a road crossing in the canyon. There has to be flat ground if there’s a road.

Getting down past six I was proven correct, there was flat ground but a lot of other people were already camping there. So I pushed on a bit further until I found a livestock camp with a picnic table. Four of us latecomers camped around this area which had another water cache, which is always nice.

Anyway I’m exhausted from the desert section and have 8 miles to do in the morning before heading into Tehachapi to resupply and rest for a night.

Crossing the Mojave. May 26

Day 35

Start – Mile 511 7:00 am

End – Mile 535 6:00 pm

Miles – 24

Got up at 6:00 and Karen already had breakfast ready for my. In addition to sending me out with a full stomach, she also prepared a sandwich and gave me a bag of fruit. I really can’t thank her enough.

My plan for the day was to take advantage of the unseasonably mild weather to make the bulk of the Mojave Crossing in one day before it jumps back up into triple digits. I’ve gotten pretty lucky with the weather so far and didn’t want to lose this opportunity since the temp was supposed to jump 20 degrees by the next day.

By the time we were loading the car to hear back to the trail it had started to rain very slightly. As I set out on the trail to cross the last few hills before dropping to the floor of the Antelope Valley the wind and rain picked up to where I had to put on my rain gear. At one point the wind was so strong I almost tripped on the side of a hill but I eventually made it down into the valley.

The first stop was Hiker Town. This is another hostel with a mixed reputation for Bering kind of seedy. Karen told me some stories about the owner and I can see why. I only stopped in briefly to see what it was and get water. There was hardly anyone around so either they were still sleeping or had gone into town for food.

Either way there wasn’t any reason for me to stay as my plan was to get moving ASAP so that I could take advantage of the cloud cover for as long as possible.

This section of the trail is mainly across private land, and most of it is contained on dirt roads. The first couple miles take you along a few ranches and by an abandoned school, and then you ascend a small ridge to come face to face with your companion for the day, the LA aqueduct. For the rest of the day you’re walking next to or on top of this river, but only the first couple miles are open air. After that it’s either in a tube or under a concrete lid.

Most people complain about this section because of the heat and the monotony. In fact a lot hike it at night to avoid the heat and because there isn’t anything to look at. I didn’t have the heat to worry about and actually found the landscape pretty interesting at first.

The open channel was nice to walk along and the pipe led me by a Joshua Tree forest. But after about six miles the river is under concrete and you’re just walking a dirt road in the desert so I lost interest. In fact the only thing I was focused on was my feet hurting. That blister is still bothering me and making me walk funny, which adds to my fatigue.

After several hours and one long break to rest my feet I finally came to the largest wind farm in the country, which signaled I was close to my destination – a small bridge with a water pipe that LA dept of water and power leaves on sometimes for hikers. I didn’t actually need water but figured I’d resupply in the morning before heading into the Tehachapi and it just seemed safer to camp near water in the desert.

As I was trudging along the last quarter mile what I though was wishful thinking or a mirage turned out to be the largest trail magic set up I’ve ever seen. It was put on by a Burning Man camp who decided to come out here for Memorial Day weekend with a smaller version of what they bring to Nevada in order to bbq for hikers.

So at the end of a long day with weary feet I got to sit in a big tent in a chair and relax with a bunch of nice folks. Today was great for being bookended by great and generous people.

The desert section isn’t quite done. There are a few more miles before the Tehachapi but the worst is over. I’m camped with the largest wind farm in the country so it’s pretty blustery but my tent is holding up. Hopefully only a day and half to the town of Tehachapi.

My own private trail angels. May 25

Day 34

Start – Mile 493. 7am

End – Mile 511 3:30 pm

Miles – 18

Got up at the normal time and hit the trail hoping to make good time down to the valley to meet up with Karen and Cindy. Cindy is my moms neighbor and she was in the area visiting her friend Karen who lives a couple miles off the trail at mile 511. Karen offered to host me for the night which seemed like a good alternative to a place called Hiker Town. I had no idea how right that was.

But first it turned out that Fern, who I first met at the murder cabin, had camped near me so I spent most of the morning leapfrogging with her and her friends. That ended up being pretty fun except for the fact that one of them convinced me that Australia has a species of bear called Drop Bears that fall out of trees to maul people and I believed it.

This was one morning when I was especially grateful that I tend to carry more water than I need. Everyone else was having to debate which water source to try to make, and choosing between cisterns that either had a dead snake it it or a full animal carcass. Even with chlorine drops I’m not enthusiastic about those options.

Thick fog covered the trail for most of the day, which made it a pretty cold morning hike. But the actual terrain was pretty mild, mainly pine forest. By mid morning we got our first glimpse through the clouds of the Antelope Valley below, and crossed the 500 mile mark.

After that I was just pushing on to get to Karen’s. I arrived at mile 511 around 3, and Cindy came and picked me up to take me to Karen’s a couple miles away. There I found an actual hiker paradise, but an exclusive one which made it even better. I got a shower while Karen did my laundry, then was shown to my room which was actually it’s own little tiny house.

Karen’s property is pretty remote and she has two proper houses and a bunch of tiny outbuildings that have been converted to different uses. Mine was the Scout Camp, complete with a bed and bathroom and a porch.

After getting my laundry underway I had a chance to visit with them while Karen made dinner and Cindy restitched the terrible seeing job that I did on my pants at Hiker Heaven.

I couldn’t have asked for a more accommodating and gracious host, and really relished the home cooked meal after being out here this long. I would have liked to stay up talking longer, but by 8:30 I was fading and needed to get up early to tackle the Mojave Crossing so I left them and went to bed.

May 24

Day 33

Start – Green Valley Mile 478 9:00 am

End – Mile 493 5:00 pm

Miles – 15

Since I got to bed so late and did a pretty long day yesterday I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I delayed it quite a bit and finally got going around 8. Since I was still in town and off the trail, I started to walk the 2 miles through town to get back to the PCT. Luckily a passing truck driver took pity on me and let me jump in the back of his pickup to take me the rest of the way. So I didn’t actually start hiking until 9.

A lot of folks were staying at Casa De Luna to take a zero, but I didn’t want to spend all day in the driveway and I’ve been trying to make consistent miles to prepare for the real Sierra, which is now less than two weeks away. Thank goodness because I need a change of scenery. The desert is beautiful but I feel like I’ve been going over the same mountain for a week. I’m ready for the Sierra to start but first I have to cross the Mojave and Tehachapi.

Because I was still so tired I wasn’t planning on today being a long day. I was only planning on going about 15 miles which would position me to take advantage of an offer from a friend of my moms who lives near mile 511 to host me for a night in a bed and my third shower in a week. I’m starting to get spoiled with all these chances to clean myself.

Luckily I had enough of a cell signal to email her so we could arrange to meet up at he end of the day tomorrow. I still have 18 miles to go to get to where she lives, and I have a new blister on the bottom of my left foot that I’m hoping goes away tonight.

So even though it was kind of early, I pitched my tent at 5 in a wooded area and sat down to get off my feet and to pop my blister. There are reports of a bear in the area so I’m trying a bear hang for the first time. Unfortunately I don’t keep my food in a hangable bag, so I put all my food and garbage in my pack and just hung that. It’s pretty heavy so hopefully the branch doesn’t snap.

It’s nice to be camping in the woods again after the past couple nights. The only noise are birds and the wind, and hopefully it stays that way and I don’t hear peep from that bear.

Tomorrow I’ll get up early to get my 18 miles in since I assume I’ll still be moving slow with my feet and how tired I am. I’m also still trying to figure out my approach to crossing the Mojave the next day.

Casa De Luna. May 23

Day 32.

Start – Agua Dulce mile 454 8:00 am

End – Green Valley Mile 478 7:30 pm

Miles – 24

Well the chickens woke me up early but it didn’t matter because I forgot to buy stove fuel yesterday so I had to wait until the hardware store opened at 8am to get a canister. Since I was up I had a real breakfast in town at the Sweetwater Grill before setting out, and got going right at 8.

The trail through Agua Dulce just follows the road, so the first two miles were a road walk. I didn’t think I’d mind roadwalks before I started, mainly because I walk along roads all the time in my normal life, but out here I really dislike them. They are bland, usually there’s no sidewalk so you’re either on the edge of the lane trying to get a flat surface, or you’re on the dirt shoulder walking at an angle. All the while trying to make sure you’re giving traffic enough space. Anyway they aren’t my favorite.

After two miles of walking through town we finally set off into the hills for the first of a couple pretty steep ridge crossings. I’ve started to feel more confident about climbs but with a full pack and 5 days worth of food these ones took a lot out of me.

But I finally made it to the Sierra! Ok not the Sierra Nevada, but the Sierra Pelona. These are more rolling hills than towering peaks and I spent the day working my way around Bouquet Reservoir.

My plan for the day was to try to make it from Hiker Heaven to Casa De Luna in Green Valley, a distance of 24 miles. Casa De Luna is apparently similar to Hiker Heaven in that it’s a trail host family that just lets hikers stay on their property in the mountains and according to most of the summaries of previous years, it supposed to be a lot of fun.

Because of my late start I didn’t think I’d actually be able to get in 24 miles, and since I was having to go over ridges in the heat, I really didn’t think it would happen. So I was looking for a campsite that I could get to that was supposed to be 5 miles short, and I got there around 3:30. That would have been an early day but I figured 19 miles was still pretty good. What wasn’t good was the campsite. It was small and narrow and not quite flat. So despite being tired and not sure if I could do another 5 miles plus get a hitch into town to actually get to Casa De Luna, I pushed on.

Made it over the last ridge and into Green Valley by 7pm, which is later than I usually hike. Got a hitch by 7:30 from a woman named Elizabeth who drove me all over the little town of Green Valley before dropping me at my destination around 7:45.

Hiker Heaven it is not. Where that was clean and organized this place is messy and ramshackle. But I see the appeal for most folks. The host, Terri, welcomes you with a hug and gives you a Hawaiian shirt to wear. Her front yard and drive way are a lounge area and she serves free food for dinner and breakfast out of a kitchen set up in her driveway.

Behind the house is a giant manzanita forest, so you just keep going back until you find a place to camp.

She also gives out free commemorative handkerchiefs, but you have to dance for those. Most people just sit in the driveway drinking beer and talking. I got there so late I scarfed down some food and then rushed to set my tent up in the dark. One of the reasons I decided to hitch to this place was that based on the entries in the trail register today I thought some of my old trail buddies might be there but I guess they skipped it.

There are several of these iconic trail stops along the way. I’m glad I took the time to experience these two over the past two days, but don’t know how many if the additional ones I’ll make an effort to patronize. They really aren’t part of the wilderness experience but rather part of the culture of the trail that has grown up around it. One thing I will note is that in both Agua Dulce and Green Valley, without them there aren’t a lot of suitable campsites along this section, which may be one reason why they developed in the first place.

I definitely appreciate the generosity of the hosts, but with so many people these tend to not be relaxing for me at least. Everybody else was having a good time.

Hiker Heaven. May 22

Day 31

Start – Acton KOA Mile 444 7am

End – Hiker Heaven Agua Dulce mile 454 12 pm

Miles – 10

Today I took what’s called a “Nero” – a near zero. It was a short hike day just to get to Hiker Heaven where I could finally do chores and resupply for the push to Tehachapi.

I woke up fairly early at the KOA because the noise from the nearby railroad tracks and Soledad Canyon Road were pretty consistent and loud all night. Definitely not a restful place to sleep, but I got a shower so I wasn’t too upset.

Right after setting out I crossed the railroad tracks and came across the monument to mark the competition of the trail. It’s basically just a standard benchmark on top of a short brick pillar. The trail was initiated in 1968, but wasn’t considered complete until 1993. Pretty amazing how folks did the trail before that point.

The hills north of Acton were pretty gentle and I saw my first deer before passing under Highway 14 and emerging immediately in the Vazquez Rocks County Park, which looks like you stepped through a portal into southern Utah or Arizona

After hiking through the park I came out into a county road and had to road walk about a mile into the community of Agua Dulce where a couple host hikers at their home, known as Hiker Heaven. Agua Dulce is an interesting area – incredibly rural but also very affluent. The “town” consists of one block with a grocery, two restaurants, a hardware store, veterinary clinic and real estate office. The rest is private ranches but really fancy ones. This is the type of place with cats up on blocks in the front yard. Instead it’s the place where ranches advertise that they can be rented for film shoots.

After getting a hitch in the back of a pickup for the 1.5 mile drive from town to Hiker Heaven, I was given a tour by a guy named Numbers who volunteers to live at Hiker Heaven along with about 6 others to help provide services to the hikers. This includes laundry, showers, mail (both incoming and outgoing) shuttles to REI in LA, weather & trail info, bathrooms, onsite camping and a place to watch TV and do real cooking. The owners completely turn their property over to hikers during the season, and don’t charge anything for the convenience.

I got an outfit of loaner clothes and dropped my entire wardrobe off to be cleaned (the volunteers actually do your laundry for you) and then headed back to town for lunch. Since the local grocery is so expensive, a group of us got a Lyft and went into Santa Clarita to go to the Walmart to resupply. After that we just made dinner and relaxed. The place holds a max of 50 people, and there were probably almost that many when I stayed. I recognized a good number from the trail so it was good to have some company.

A lot of folks were staying at Hiker Heaven for a couple days to relax, but I’m still feeling good so I decided to only stay he night. Luckily the free roaming chickens got me up pretty early the next day.

Acton. May 21

Day 30

Start – Mile 421 6:50 am

End – Acton KOA Mile 444 5pm.

Miles – 23

My campsite last night turned out to be better than I expected. The wind died down around 9:30 pm and I was unusually warm and comfortable. That strange because I woke up engulfed in clouds. I had to actually don my gloves and wind jacket for only the second time.

(I swear there were mountains there when I went to sleep).

After packing up I started the long hike down out of the San Gabriels to the outskirts of the town of Acton where there is a KOA campground that I was told would have showers and laundry.

Didn’t really see anyone on the trail today, which is pretty unusual. I tend to hike alone but I’m usually passing or being passed by groups throughout the day. That didn’t happen today and instead I was just by myself to hike through the low cloud layer that is pretty unusual for this time of year

My midway point today was the North Fork ranger station where one of the rangers, Ron, sells snacks and drinks to hikers. He didn’t seem to have much else to do as the road to his ranger station was closed to traffic, so the only people coming through are hikers. Ron was really nice and I bought some drinks from him, then he offered the three or four of us there free hotdogs, so I got a free lunch.

I knew I wanted to make it to Acton early enough to do my laundry (my clothes are crunchy at this point), so I only stayed for 30 minutes before pushing off.

The afternoon was much like the morning as the other hikers at the ranger station quickly left me behind. As I dropped out of the San Gabriels the view to the north of Actin and the next mountain range were spectacular.

I also encountered the longest snake that I’ve seen so far when I was just one mile from the end of today’s trek. This wasn’t a rattler though so I don’t think I need to have been worried. Stubborn thing though, didn’t want to move despite all the tricks I thought I’d learned. Took a few minutes but it eventually waltzed away.

Made it down to Soledad Canyon Road and ran into one of my favorite trail angels in the parking lot, Copoertone, who I last saw a week ago herb leaving the Deep Creek area. Coppertone stays in one place for a week at a time so I expect to see him again before Kennedy Meadows. He’s always got drinks, snacks, and seats, which may be the best part.

Again trying to get my laundry done I didn’t stay long and made it to the KOA by 5pm only to find that their laundry wasn’t working. So it’s a shower and then back into my grubby clothes again, just like Wrightwood. Tomorrow I have to resupply in Aqua Dulce and there is a place called Hiker Heaven, which is just a couple of trail angels who open their house to hikers. Apparently I can get my laundry done there so I don’t have to go another entire week like this.

Pacifico Mtn. Wilderness May 20

Day 29

Start – Camp Glenwood Mile 400 6:30 am

End – Mile 421 7:00 pm

Miles – 21

Started at 6:30 with plans to hike about 2.5 miles to where the trail once again crosses highway 2. This is the last spot where the trail and the highway dovetail so that’s where Alex and I decided to meet. There’s a little restaurant a couple miles down the highway from this point, and they are apparently accommodating to hikers so my dirty clothes and offensive stink shouldn’t be unexpected.

We got there at 8:15 am and found they were setting up for a biker convention. Probably the same one that happens every weekend, but they had booths outside with biker clothes, and a country band setting up for a gig starting at 9am. It was great to see Al and catch up, and a full meal was a bonus. Al even brought be some Dunkin Donuts as a bonus that I packed out on the trail.

After that I was playing catch-up. Still wanted to get in a respectable mile total for the day and get to water. This section of the San Gabriels is lower elevation and more desert landscape similar to some of the San Diego ranges so it’s pretty dry and with minimal tree coverage. Since I had a big breakfast I skipped lunch and just smacked on the trail.

I was aiming for the Mill Creek fire station at mile 418 where I heard there was water and good camping. When I arrived around 4:45 I found the water, but the camping was s parking lot and the fire station blared announcements to itself every few minutes. I was pretty tired but that wasn’t appealing and it wasn’t too late in the day so I decided to take advantage of the water to have dinner, the diva full water resupply before heading out to find a camping spot about three miles further. The next reliable water is nearly 26 miles, so I didn’t want to be down any to start the day tomorrow.

At 6pm I headed out to find a spot that was supposed to be up a ridge about 2.5 miles, but I couldn’t find anything at the indicated spot so I went a bit further to come across an abandoned road at the crest of a ridge. It’s flat, but really windy. I probably should have stayed at the fire station but this isn’t the worst place I’ve camped. Plus I already got over s big up hill climb that I would have had to start the day with tomorrow otherwise.

Going to try to make it to Acton tomorrow where I should be able to do laundry and get a shower. Everyone says I’m living the dream but the dream apparently makes you filthy and stinky.

Best part of the day was finally getting a signal and being able to call home briefly.

Its mah burfday. May 19

Day 28

Start – Little Jimmy Campground Mile 384 7:15 am

End – Camp Glenwood Mile 400 6:00 pm

Miles – 16

Got up a bit late and on the trail by 7:15. Fairly easy morning compared with the last few. I went about three miles and then crossed Highway 2 again before starting up the side of Mt. Williamson. The views back into the valley below were fantastic and make me really want to come back to do the drive along Highway 2 at some point.

Stopped for a break at the junction with the Mt. Williamson peak trail, and decided to take the time to walk up to the summit even though this one isn’t as high as some of the others around. The views seem great in this area and so I wanted to check them out from the top.

Great views down into the Angeles National Forest and the desert valley to the north. I also found a red can with a trail log in it going back to 2016, so I signed it and noted that I climbed the peak on my birthday.

After that I got back on track but was forced to take a detour around part of the trail that was closed for endangered species habitat. This ended up taking a huge chunk out of the day as I had to walk along Highway 2 for more than 2 miles, then wind through a huge campground to find another trail to take me back to the PCT. so while I went 16 PCT miles today, I actually walked a lot more in order to get that far.

This area is really popular with day hikers from LA, and since it’s a Saturday, there were tons of people around. Bikers cruising the highway, hiker groups, families, and trail runner groups. I was actually stopped by a hiker group and offered a free Gatorade (yes, I took it) and then peppered with questions like a celebrity simply for being a through hiker. I was a rock star to those people!

It was odd being around so many day hikers because everything I’ve come to view as normal was thrown into question. I stopped while still in the detour when I got to a creek crossing and decided to refill my water. One of the other things you regularly do at streams is rinse some clothes- usually your spare socks, and in this case I wanted to rinse my spare undies. But I had a moments hesitation to think about how odd it would be as a day hiker to come across some filthy guy washing his drawers in the river.

After that I was found a hiker from Australia named Luke that I met a few weeks ago and we hiked the last 5 miles to a camp called the Glenwood Dads camp- it’s a place dad’s bring their sons, but they also accommodate PCT hikers. After dinner I treated myself to a slice of carrot bread that I packed out from Wrightwood for my birthday.

My biggest frustration aside from the long detour today is that I had no cell service all day. So no ability to talk to my family and for the first time in 17 years I didn’t even get to talk to Tracy on my birthday. I know doing this hike was my idea, but that made today lonelier than I expected it to feel.

The milestone today was right before camping I reached mile 400. So that was the positive.

54 miles to Aqua Dulce – my next resupply point.