Ridgecrest and Walker Pass (Day 46)

I’ve been off the trail this week – I got called away by a work meeting that was a short drive from the pct and whose subject I just couldn’t miss. That makes my trail update short, but going back to “civilization” was interesting…

First of all, cars are insanely fast. I felt like I was basically stuck in 2 mph mode – in fact, when I saw the sign for UCSB in 2.5 miles, my first thought was “ok, about another hour.” Or two minutes, whatever…

Cold drinks. I’m not sure how much there is to say about this other than that I nominate ice as the eighth wonder of the world. Iced coffee especially.

The meeting went very well, despite the fact that I had to go to the urgent care clinic for what may very well be giardia – the tests will come back in a couple of days. The good news is antibiotics have stemmed the tide and I should be in good shape to get back out tomorrow! And not a moment too soon, I am very tired of sitting still…

Today we are taking it easy in ridgecrest, waiting out the heat until tomorrow morning when a trail angel is giving us a ride to walker pass campground to get going again. The heat here is ferocious – it was 105 today. I have a feeling we have a siesta in store tomorrow…

A week since our last post and so much has happened! Jared and I hiked from the Saufleys in Agua Dulce (mile 454) to Casa de Luna (mile 478 – Terry and Joe were awesome! Only stopped by for a few hours), and took a ride past the road walk/Power House Fire Detour to Hikertown (mile 517). We crashed there for a night (and played with 11 adorable puppies) then we separated for nearly a week – I hiked on the 150 miles to Walker Pass (mile 652) while Jared took off a few days for a work meeting in Banta Barbara. Originally planning 20 mile days, we figured Jared would be waiting for me for days…but instead I pushed on long days and “raced” Jared. It was a tie. And I am tired. And feeling great.
I left Hikertown at 6 am on Monday and hiked my longest day! An epic 32 miles. Over the flat California aqueduct, through windy wind farms, into the hills, and up a mountain, stopping at 9:30 pm to cowboy camp (tentless) at a water cache with 3 other hikers. I hiked and overlapped with Hans and some new friends we met at the Saufleys and Hikertown – Sara aka Happy Feet, the Turtles (Crystal aka Sea Turtle and JoJo aka Tortoise), and Swimmer. The weather was mild, and so this typically hot stretch which usually requires long siestas and night hiking, I was able to do during the day with an hour lunch break. The aqueduct was flat, the winds were strong, and the sunset was beautiful.
Tuesday, the next day, held in store a short 8 mile day and a stop over in Tehachapi. A late start, more wind farms, Joshua trees, and a nap behind a cow trough punctuated the walk to the Willow Springs trailhead. Hans and I got a ride to the airport, where hikers stay for $5/night, from a very sweet older trail angel named Ken. At the airport I was greeted with food boxes (thanks for dropping them off Jared! And for shipping them Mike and Allison!) and who else but Lorna (who introduced herself by a new trail name and quickly exited the scene before I had a chance to call her out). The Turtles met us at the airport, and seeing our plan to hike out of town was foiled by windmills in place of the campsites we’d hoped for, we all camped at the airport after an all-you-can-eat Chinese food buffet…groan…
Wednesday was a mild/not hot day. I hiked 25 miles with Hans and the Turtles. We got a ride to the trailhead from pilot Bruce Lockwood (he was a stunt pilot in Pearl Harbor among other things), hiked through more windfarms, paused at a water cache where we talked to the mother of a kid named Howle just returning to trail (she was also dropping off 20 gal of water at a dodgy cache far ahead), climbed “the ascent” which seemed daunting by the account on Mike’s blog (aka Hikerbox Special – see our links page) which for us was not bad due to relatively cool weather, and we camped at the Golden Oak Spring – a tiny 1L/2 min trickle coming out of the side of the hill and home to a cow as evidenced by numerous cow pies. A large, noisy animal stalked me and Tortoise as we filled our water bottles after dark – we never saw it but were freaked out enough by the sounds…
Thursday – we are alive! We were not eaten by the large creature in the woods! I also hiked 29 miles (just shy of my 30 mile goal) across a warm 19 mile waterless stretch to the next spring, and 10 miles beyond into the woodsy desert. I hiked solo ahead of Hans and the Turtles until 4 pm when I found more hikers! at the spring – I was greeted by Swimmer, James, and Howle. As I made dinner, Hans reappeared and began cooking himself. The Turtles are behind somewhere. I went on ahead, passing several hikers – a young guy, an old guy, Honey Buzz & Emily, Swimmer, James, and Howle. Around 8:30 darkness began to set in and I started to feel a bit freaked out after the previous nights’ being-stalked experience. I cranked Cat Stevens on my iPod and planned to stop around 10 pm or the cache at mile 616, whichever came first. A deer leaped across the trail ahead and my imagination turned every bush and crackle into mountain lions and bears. I rounded a corner a saw a red headlamp light glowing in the dark. “Sara?”, I called, hoping it was Happy Feet setting up camp. “It’s Love Monkey”, the voice replied, “I dig your music”. I explained that the music was to scare away the animals of my imagination and proceeded to recount the tale of the spring. Love Monkey (there with Medicine Man) assuaged my fears like a mom explaining to her kid that there was no monster under the bed. She convinced me that the large animal at the spring was merely a noisy squirrel, and assured me that any animal out there was more afraid of me than I was of it. Feeling sufficiently soothed and calm, I forged ahead into the darkness. Not a half mile later, I rounded another corner and my headlamp beam was met by a pair of eyes, not 15 yards away. “Get the fuck out of here!”, I yelled at the mountain lion. It scampered away. My face felt hot, and fueled by adrenaline I walked as fast as I could without running or acting like pray, another mile to the campsite at mile 612. It was 9:30. I continued to blare Cat Stevens as I set up my tent. I crawled inside, safe and sound. Over the next 30 minutes, I saw the headlamps of two hikers pass by (James and Howle), then three more (Honey Buzz & Emily and Hans). Hans peeled off upon seeing my tent and set up camp nearby. Never was I happier to see Hans. A few minutes later another headlamp passed (Swimmer). I drifted off to a dreamy sleep free of mountain lions.
Friday I woke early, a bit anxious about water. The next cache was 4 miles away, the one after that 15 miles from there (and dodgy…the trail angel who used to maintain the caches was no longer doing so…this is where Howle’s mom dropped off the 20 gal). Aside from that, there was one off trail spring between the two caches, one seep in 20+ miles, and 40 miles to Walker Pass. If I could do 30 miles today, then I can do 10 on Saturday and beat Jared. I walked on an easy 4 miles, leaving camp before Hans even stirred, to where I finally caught up with Sara/Happy Feet at the cache. We talked about water then I walked on, loaded down with 5 liters. The day warmed up quickly and it was starting to actually feel like the Mojave. Happy Feet and I caught some shade around noon, and trudged on through the sand taking shade breaks every few miles. We caught up with James and Howle. We reached the mile 631 cache at 4:30 and rested until 6:45, tackling the ascent as the sun was setting. Nervous about night hiking I set up camp at mile 634. A windy night on the ridge. 18 miles to go…
Saturday I woke at 4:30, determined to reach Walker Pass by early afternoon. I left camp around 5:15 – it was the longest day of the year – the Summer Solstice! (Also naked hiking day. I did not celebrate.) I zoomed across the ridge and down, overlapping with a German hiker and spying bear (?) prints. I got to the pass at 12:06! Literally as Jared pulled up in his rental. Very perfect timing. He whisked me off to Ridgecrest and we rested for the rest of the day. Hiking again on Sunday!..

Photos coming in the next post – no time!

5 thoughts on “Ridgecrest and Walker Pass (Day 46)

  1. 32 miles! Badass! Lucky with the weather, those hills get twice as steep in hundred degree heat =p

    You’re going to love the Sierra! It doesn’t get super awesome until a little ways before Crabtree Meadows though so don’t be disappointed the first two days out of Kennedy Meadows. Also Tom’s place and the general store in Kennedy Meadows is awesome!

    1. We’re living the Sierra so far – 2 days in. Can’t wait for more awesomeness! Toms place was closed but the KM store was amazing, Scott was really cool, and the burgers were soo good!

  2. I am SO enjoying reading about your adventures! I admire your courage with the mountain lion, Jean! I think I would have been frozen with fear. Stay safe out there. xo

    1. Thanks Allison! I was frozen with fear, it’s only through hearing what other people have done in the face of a mountain lion that I had any clue what to do!

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