Overlooking the Mojave
07May-Acton KOA (445) to mile 465
I’d like to arrive in Tehachapi in 6 days, which means doing 15-20 mile days. This is supposed to be the hottest stretch of the entire PCT. I woke up at 4:15 this morning and was on the trail by 5 am with a headlight to see the way. It was cloudy overhead and stayed that way all day, keeping the temperature from what is normally sweltering to quite cool, needing a jacket when stopping to rest. Typically I go through about 3-4 liters of water a day, but today I drank a liter of grapefruit juice which I put into one of my Smartwater bottles (what we use instead of canteens) and just a little bit more. I arrived in Aqua Dulce at 9:30 and stopped at a local restaurant for a coffee and breakfast burrito. Soon afterwards, Donna Saufley arrived with a load of hikers including Rescuer, I introduced myself but apologized that I was heading on. Soon afterwards I met Gerhard and Lucia, an older couple from Munich, and so we spoke German together. They had my hiking speed, and personalities so similar to Katja and Hannes that I was sometimes thinking I was walking with them. We set up camp at the same spot near to a water cache. The Lord blessed me today with very cool weather in what is typically hell-hot conditions, and the weatherman predicts the next 5-6 days to be the same. Thus, I am not wasting time in “party” mode, but rather expediting transit through the desert on feet with no name. A few things to mention. I am seeing large amounts of Monarch butterflies, sometimes in massive swarms. They must be migrating north. I am meeting huge numbers of Germans on the trail, of all ages. They seem to all be enjoying the adventure, and they are all very polite. It is amazing how many Europeans come over at attempt the PCT!
08May- mile 465-mile 478
The weather continued to be cool, and I was making good time, but my left leg was hurting and so I decided to slow down a bit. When I arrived at Francisquito Valley road, there was a trail angel there waiting to shuttle me to Casa de Luna, one of those places that most hikers will stop at. It took nothing to persuade me to stop. I was able to chill out, and get in some fluids. The solder German couple arrived, and we decided to not spend the night at Casa de Luna but to be brought back to the trailhead. It was a very misty night.
09MAY- mile 478-495
I decided on a short day today, and mostly found the trail in either gentle climbs or descents. I again decided to take it easy and stopped at about 2pm. The German couple intended to spend the night in the same place. The day started out wet, and stayed wet all day. This was great that the normal hot conditions were not encountered. It began to become a bit drizzly, and soon after getting in the tent, serious rain began, which continued much of the night. I cooked dinner in the tent, and was asleep sporadically much of the night.
10MAY- mile 495-517 (Hikertown)
I awoke and wished for an early start today but it was raining and everything was drenched. Though I was dry inside the tent, and my sleeping bag was dry, the tent was dismally soaked. I packed everything in side the tent, quickly took down the tent and headed out at about 7:30, a very late start for me. Gerhard and Lucia were not yet up and we agreed to consider camping at the Horse Camp 15 miles away. I arrived at the Horse camp at about 1 o’clock, had lunch, and decided it was only 10 more miles to Hikertown, and to head down, since it seemed like it would be raining some more. It did. I wore my rain coat all day, it was cool, and I arrived at Hikertown drenched, hoping that they would have a cabin free. 40 or more other hikers hoped for the same thing. We all got shuttled to the community center at Neenach, where the mayor graciously opened up every possible room to accommodate us. It was crowded and uncomfortable but we had no other options. There was an associated restaurant and C-store where we were able to be fed, and a few hikers to satisfy their desire for beer. It wasn’t the best night, but it allowed us to get some sleep outside of the rain.
11MAY- mile 517- mile 540
Today is a day that is almost always done as a night hike, since there is no shade and one is fully exposed to the sun. On awakening, the weather appeared to be cool and overcast, so we decided to go for it. I got my belongings packed, was able to dry out my tent in a drier out back, had breakfast at the restaurant, and then got shuttled back to Hikertown. I will re-emphasize how grateful I am to the people at Neenach for caring for us hikers in desperate circumstances. It was most delightful to walk the path that almost always is walked at night. Almost the whole day was walking either roads or the Los Angeles aqueduct. Only towards the end of the day did the trail start to climb. The trail went through about 5 miles of a wind farm. Finally it started back into the mountains. At that time a thunderstorm came in. I wanted to make it to Tylerhorse Canyon campsite, but being unsure about the thunderstorm, arrived at a campsite about 1.2 miles short of my goal and quickly set up camp for the night, getting into the tent just before the downpour. The sun then came out briefly, but the anticipation is for cool weather for the next few days. Without to much difficulty, I should be able to make it to Tehachapi by tomorrow evening. Each night, I cook dinner, often in the tent, carefully inspect my feet for problem areas and sore spots, and then review the maps and Yogi’s guide and make a plan for the next day. Each morning, my tradition on the trail is that once I hit an easy spot on the trail I will sing (out loud) the Doxology and Gloria Patri. The trail has educated me on the glory of God’s beautiful world, full of the most creative and enchanting beauty, whether in the landscape, or the plant life, or all the diverse animal life on the trail. Being anthropocentric in my thoughts on the world, I realize that God created this all for our enjoyment and delight—His creation loudly bears witness to His being as well as His loving care for us, His children. Thus, it is good to start every day off with the Doxology!
Now is the time to add a few comments about trail physiology. The 2nd through 5th day at the end of the day, I found myself to be increasingly dizzy and lightheaded, something that happens to me after a hard bicycle ride, when I realize that my blood pressure was dangerously low. Finally, I realized that I needed to back off on the blood pressure meds, and I’ve been feeling great since then. I’ve talked a bit about a common experience of insatiable hiker hunger. Quite honestly, I haven’t experienced that yet, and my hunger is actually diminished. Rather, I have an almost insatiable thirst, best met with ice cold sugary soda pop. After my I-10 incident, I’ve also had a strong craving for grapefruit, which is superb at quenching thirst. Something not often spoken of is hiker brain. After many exhausting days on the trail, the brain shuts down to thinking about most things. I constantly think of Betsy, but serious thought, or ability to read a book is almost impossible.
I was a little slower getting up than I had wished, but was a 5:45 start for a bit shorter day of just 18 miles. The sky was cloudless. It was fairly easy hiking, but all uphill for more than 9 miles. At the top of the climb, some precious trail angel left chairs, umbrellas, and water, which served as a nice place for a break in the day. It was mostly downhill from there. On descent, I was making good time, but started to have excruciating unbearable pain in my right leg anterior muscle compartment. It got worse the longer I was on it. I had this pain several days before descending into Hikertown, and noted mild discoloration of the skin of that area, but now the leg appeared swollen, very erythematous, and painful to touch, with pain on ascent and descent. I knew that I needed to give the muscles more than a day or two rest. Thus, I will be pausing the hike for a bit. My plan is to skip the last 85 miles of the desert and resume north of the high Sierra, returning in August/September to complete the high Sierra.
So far, I’ve gone 558 miles of the PCT. Except for a very short portion, I’ve completed the desert section of the trail. It is also the hardest section, in that one needs to be obsessed with water, which happens to be quite heavy. I’m sure the water weight had a small bearing on my leg injury. The desert was beautiful and for those who live here, it’s been the greenest ever in many years. So, even though this year is bad as a snow year, it has been a great desert experience. I’ve learned much in this short time, like gaining a better understanding as to how to deal with long sections without a Resupply, the types of foods that one would prefer while hiking, what equipment suits me best, and how to maintain a psychological positive frame of mind. Regarding equipment, a double walled tent flunks, especially in adverse weather. I will be doing with a single wall, lightweight Zpacks Duplex, weighing 19 oz versus 36 oz for the tent I’m currently using. It Is not free-standing, but uses your hiker poles rather than tent poles. Freestanding is a misnomer since the tent MUST be stakes down in all but the mildest weather, when you really don’t need a tent. I miss an inflatable air mattress and will change brands to one that seems to be more reliable, or just go with a slightly heavier pad. Though my shoes are super comfortable, my feet need to be out of them at the end of the day, and lightweight cheap sandals will soon be a part of my pack load. My Osprey hydration valve started leaking, a common problem for that brand noted on the internet, so I’ll be using a military version of the CamelBak nipple. That’s it for now. People asked me why my trail name is Pilgrim. I just sort of got that name, I’m not sure exactly how. But, we are all Pilgrims. Hebrews 11:13 (KJV) calls us strangers and pilgrims on earth. John Bunyan’s most read classic of all time, Pilgrims Progress, depicts us all as pilgrims. John Bunyan also gives Pilgrims their own song, one which has been put to music and commonly sung in the church in Bedford, England, Bunyan’s home.
- Who would true valor see, let him come hither;
One here will constant be, come wind, come weather; There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent his first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.
- Who so beset him round with dismal stories,
Do but themselves confound his strength the more is. No lion can him fight, he’ll with a giant fight,
but he will have a right to be a pilgrim.
- Hobgoblin nor foul fiend can daunt his spirit; He knows he at the end shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away; he’ll fear not what men say; he’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.