Wrightwood to Tehachapi-
Disclaimer: I wrote this after a night hike and am running on 3.5 hours of sleep.
It’s been a long time since my last post! I’ve been so busy hiking, that there hasn’t been any time left for blogging. In fact, since my last post, I’ve hiked over 200 miles, passing the 500 mile marker. I’ve blown past anything I’ve ever hiked before. In fact, this entire endeavor has become the most all encompassing thing that I have ever pursued .
After our first night in Wrightwood the crew decided to “slack pack” for the next 25 miles. A slack pack is when you hike a section of the trail without actually caring your backpack, leaving it in town. Instead you carry a small day pack with some water and snacks. We could do this because we planned on staying in Wrightwood next night. We caught a hitch back to mile 347. The lady who gave us a ride was a nice mom from Wrightwood was driving down to the. desert for her son’s birthday party. It was a much better hitch than the one that we got going into Wrightwood. He was a drunk guy named Quinn who offered us 40 ounce cans of Budweiser while swerving around rocks and almost getting into an accident.
In any event, I wasn’t looking forward to this day of hiking. I was tired and just wanted to get the miles done. This is a really mountainous section of the trail with no water. However, 15 miles in we came upon some sweet trail magic. As I turned around a corner on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere I heard music playing. A hiking club out of San Diego called Extreme Adventures and organized a party on the mountain. There was music, beer, pancakes, grilled cheese, and a sofa that had been pawned off of craigslist. We had a rocking time and hung out at the party long enough to get tipsy for the rest of our hike.
We ended up getting in 3 hours after what we’d planned and went out for pizza and drinks.
At the Raccoon Saloon The bartender was trying to confiscate the car keys and the drunk patron. His name is Chris and he tried to convince the bartender that he didn’t have the keys, instead he explained that his “hiker friends,” who he was hosting, had his keys (we’d never met chris before). To make a long story short we had a place to stay for the night. Chris’ place was nasty, but it was warm
The next day, the NarNar crew left wrightwood was able to finagle a ride to where we last left off, the base of Mount Baden — Powell. We climbed up endless switchbacks for over 4000 feet, ending up the top of one of the tallest mountains in Southern California. The views were spectacular. Thousands of feet below us on one side of the mountain ocean of clouds that extended to the horizon. On the other side was an expanse of desert. As I looked over the desert, I knew what I would soon need to traverse its harsh landcape.
On our way down we took a wrong turn and ended up with 6 miles away from where we were supposed to be. To try to save time we ended up doing a road walk back to the trail. Before the trip I would have assumed that a road while would’ve been easier since it’s flat. In fact walking on the road is incredibly hard on the knees and feet. To pass the time, the group played games. We probably spent two hours playing a game called “fuck, marry, kill”. For the uninitiated, To play this game you name three people on the group has to decide what happens to each person. It’s surprisingly entertaining.
At the end of our road walk we were rewarded my ride into Altadena by my cousin Michael Schwartz. We drove 45 minutes down the San Gabriel mountains towards LA. We enjoyed a feast, slept in, and played a pickup game of ultimate frisbee with some locals. Running was refreshing. In fact, since the game I’m not sure what specifically has shifted, but hiking has gotten considerably easier. After a day at Michael’s, we started off again at the trail at Caribou campground.
Since it was late in the evening, we did a Nero (hiking almost zero miles) and set up camp on the side of the trail at mile 398. For dinner, instead of cooking a meal, we had a cookie dough challenge, in which each participant has to eat 1000 calories of cookie dough in the least amount of time. I’m happy to say that I won by a significant margin.
The next day we hiked 27 miles from, camping at mile 425. This section was decimated in the Station Fire, which happened 5 years ago. It was still beautiful, but was infested by Poodle Dog Bush, which is like a ugly/huge mutant cousin of poison ivy. PDB grows in areas impacted by fire, and I kept on clumsily crashing into it. Luckily, I’ve shown no signs of a bad reaction.
I barely slept that night because we cowboy camped on a slanted surface that was next to a ledge. Every 20 minutes, I would wake up in a start, thinking I was falling off the ledge.
Next day we hiked to mile 453, a 28 mile day. There was a section that dropped 2000 feet over 8 miles. I sprinted the entire way down the mountain. Typically, the ultra runners run the downhills while Team Hobble (of which I’m a founding member) huffs and puffs behind, being left in the dust. This time, it was different. My joints felt great and my pack light. I overtook the runners. It’s not a competition, but I’m still surprised at how quickly my body is adjusting and transforming to be able to cope with the impact of hiking and run inflict distances.
At the bottom of the mountain, we stopped by a KOA and ate pizza while we threw the frisbee around and bathed in the jacuzzi. It was glorious.
Well rested we hiked into the sunset, setting up camp in Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce. We camped in a cave!
The following day we made the mistake of stopping in Agua Dulce for breakfast. We only hit the trail around 11am and had to climb almost 4000 feet in the hottest hours of the day. Although we just hiked 26 miles, it was one off hardest days. At the end of the day, we hitched to Casa de Luna. A hiker haven run by the Andersons. The house is basically a party house for hikers. In the past, Mrs Anderson has used to wrestle any hiker who would dare challenge her. To get people to smile in photos, instead of saying cheese, Mrs. Anderson would bend over and moon the unsuspecting hikers.
From the Anderson’s, it’s a 20 mike road. hike to hikertown. Another haven for thru hikers on mile 517. In previous years this section would have taken twice the distance, however a fire closure has closed off that section of that trail. The PCT offered two alternatives for hikers. The straight up road walk or a longer hike that included road and trail. Since I’m in a bit of a rush, I decided to do the road walk and temporarily split with the rest of the NarNar crew. This was the first time I hiked along since mile 104. And it was surprisingly refreshing. I love hiking in a community, but I now see that to have a complete experience, you need to have some time alone. There is a saying on the PCT “hike your own hike. “ with the group, although there would be long stretches that I was alone, my identity was completely enmeshed with that of the NarNar crew. To really experience the trail, I need to have opportunities to meet new people and to make independent decisions. have no doubt that we will reconvene soon, but the experience has been strangely liberating.
I arrived in Hikertown alone at 7pm. The next section on the trail goes from mile 517 to mile 566. It’s a terribly hot and dry section with little water along the way. I decided to head out that night at 3am and hike the majority of the trail at night.
I joined up with a hiker named One Step, a mechanic out of West Virginia with enormous dreadlocks. We headed out in the early hours of the morning with the goal of hiking 17 miles. This section of the hike goes along the LA aqueduct.
We were headed to a bridge that had a water cache and that hikers camped under for an afternoon siesta. We got to the bridge on time and were joins by a plethora of other hikers. There was Sage (a nurse), Terminator (am ex police officer), Sbills (a cartoonist), and Aesop (am electrician). This is one of the things that I love he most about the trail. It’s an opportunity to meet people from vastly different backgrounds. What each of us did before is irrelevant. In “normal” life, asking what a person does is one of the first things you ask a person. On the trail, that is less relevant. A lot of the labels and baggage gets dropped. It doesn’t matter how much you own or what you do. Everyone is a hiker. It’s a privilege to interact with all of these people, who would have otherwise been strangers. I think that there is no better way to learn a country and know its people than to walk from one corner to the next.
The final 30 miles to Tehachapi are a blur. When all was said and done, I had hiked 55 miles in 30 hours. In fact, I’m writing this blog on 3.5 hours of sleep.
** written on my iPhone