Tehachapi, CA. 558 miles north of the border by Trail, more than 20% of our entire trek. Our pace has quickened, and 20+ mile days are the norm now, so we're feeling pretty good. We left Agua Dulce (Spanish for Sweetwater) last Thursday the 28th, and walked the 104 miles between there and here in less than 5 days. Since our next section will be our longest so far, at 144 miles from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows (we're going to skip Onyx), we decided a hotel room here was in order. Eating, drinking, resting, swimming, soaking, and TV watching has made up our day today, and we've enjoyed every minute of it.
This last section was different than all the others. Originally, the PCT was supposed to follow a mountain-crest route around the Mojave Desert. However, the Forest Service was not able to obtain the land due to some stubborn ranch owners. Therefore, rather than the trail connecting the southern California PCT with its Sierran continuation known as the Tehachapi Mtns, we were forced to follow a hot waterless stretch across the Antelope Valley, the western arm of the immense Mojave Desert, along dirt roads and the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which was constructed in 1913. Pre 9/11, this aqueduct proved useful as a water source, but no longer, apparently to prevent terrorists from poisoning LA's water.
Leaving Agua Dulce and the Saufley's backyard paradise on Thursday (28th) was hard, but the Trail was calling us. We elected to not partake in the case race (drinking 24 beers during the next 24 miles) and proceeded north after lunch with full packs. We put in a half day and camped on a grassy ridge that night. The following day, we made it almost 15 miles before lunch as we pushed on due to dark grey skies and an approaching ranger station. When we arrived at the road, we were greeted by Terry Anderson, of Casa de Luna fame, and caught a ride down along with Joey and Creamsicle down to her house. We wanted to make more miles that evening, so we only stopped for an hour to talk with other hikers (20+ probably), sign our names on the 2009 hiker sign, and down a couple chili & cheese dogs. The next day brought a lot of vertical miles, as well as our first encounter with a "guzzler". It was a sloped concrete patio with a reservoir on the down end to collect rainwater, poured right there in the middle of the woods. Pretty cool. Later that day, we had our first rain! Of course, it only lasted for 10 minutes, and it was only a drizzle, but it was enough to send us into a frenzy, making sure all of our gear was waterproofed (in dry bags, ziplocs, or garbage bags). Beetle got to don her Red Sox poncho for the first time. Sunday was our biggest mileage day yet on the trail, at 25.5 miles. As I wrote above, we had to cross the Mojave. Like a large number of thru-hikers, we rested up at Hikertown (a house/yard where the owner lets hikers stay for free, complete with an outdoor shower, shade trees, campers, running water, and refrigerators) after an 11-mile morning, and left a few hours before dusk to try and get in and out of the desert during the cooler hours. We couldn't quite make the 27 miles we had planned, but only fell short by 2 miles, and camped just after 11pm. Since we were parallelling the aqueduct on flat dirt roads, and I didn't need to use my trekking poles, I took advantage and had a few beers along the way. Em thinks I'm crazy. The next morning we entered the Tehachapi Mtns and climbed back up to 6,000 feet, and spent most of Monday crossing numerous dirtbike tracks that have scarred and destroyed a lot of the land. It's quite sad. We camped at an awesome flat sandy spot that reminded me of Frisco campground in the Outer Banks, which I love. An easy 9 miles this morning to the road, and here we are, at our 7th resupply stop.
Life and the Trail are great!