Southern CA E

June 12, Sun.–3.3 miles–So. CA E Tehachapi

Sunday, June 12     Miles today: 3.3             Total so far: 558.3 miles       So. CA section E

The wind was blowing fiercely when we got up–absolutely roaring in the treetops overhead–and we were eager to get to Tehachapi, so we planned to really “make tracks” for the last 3 miles. The wind, however, had other ideas.  Once we were out of forest cover, we were being whammed and slammed so hard by the gusts that there were times I could barely make headway.  One really big gust knocked me three feet off the trail, even with 2 trek poles to help keep me on track.  But I was VERY glad that the wind was blowing us into the UPHILL side of the trail, since the downhill side was very steep, and it was a loooong way to the bottom.  Having wind blowing us in the downhill direction would have been truly terrifying, but instead, it gave us a sort of fun “wild, wild ride”. 

I have to admit, though, I did do some praying when the PCT passed close by a Joshua tree–I did not want to be blown onto their sharp spines!  Above us were the huge windmills of the giant Tehachapi wind farm, whirling and twirling.  They looked very well-maintained, and were definitely impressive!  I really like wind farms–they are like sci-fi come to life, and in their own way, are rather “artsy”. 

We finally made it down into the valley, protected from the wind, and found “the gang” at the trail camp there, just starting to get up.  There was a trail register–the entry just before ours was one of the thru-hiker gals we gave water to yesterday.  She had pushed straight to the camp last night, arriving after dark by headlamp, and she finished her entry with, “I am tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiired!”  We saw her still in her sleeping bag, so I believe it!  We wrote, “Wheeeee!  That was one WILD ride getting down here this morning!”   There was plenty of water at the camp, so we ate our granola with the sleepy, touselheaded other hikers, and headed for the road, to hitch-hike in to Tehachapi. 

We tried to spiff ourselves a bit before sticking our thumbs out, but the cars just passed us by.  Then along came a big van with a family from Lancaster who were on their way to church.  They offered us a ride, and encouraged us to first go to church with them.  I looked at them all so clean and dressed up, and at us, so dirty and smelly.   I REALLY, really wanted to go to church–it’s been over a month for us of no chance to get with other Christians for worship or Bible study or anything–and I said tentatively, “We’d love to go with you, but we have been on the trail a long time and we’re pretty grubby and smelly.”  The family just grinned, and the mom said, “No problem!”  And so we found ourselves riding up a beautiful green canyon with lovely trees until we reached a hillside monastery for the Norbertine order.  The building and grounds reminded me somewhat of St. Columba’s Retreat House in Marin County, back home.  I had never heard of the Norbertines, but they certainly chose a beautiful location!

The chapel had a bathroom where Bill and I quickly washed up as best we could and changed into our “town” shirts.  I kept my hat on, since I noticed that the ladies in the chapel all had head coverings. We quietly slipped in, very happy to be there!  The service turned out to be a lovely mass, sung in Latin, with the Norbertine sisters doing Gregorian chant in such pure and reverent tones as I have never heard before.  And the homily was excellent–it was on the heresy of Marcion, who was the first to promote the silly idea that God in the Old Testament is not the same as God in the New Testament.  Marcion said that the Old Testament God was “judgemental and vindictive”, while the New Testament God was “loving and merciful”, therefore, “they must be two different gods.”  Anyone who knows anything about the Bible knows that this is nonsense!  God is just as loving in the Old Testament as in the New, and He is equally “judgemental” in both.   It was the bringing together of His incredible love AND His righteous judgement that put Jesus on the cross to bear the judgement we deserve so we can be forgiven.

After church, we received a very warm welcome from everyone, including the priest, Father Francis, who rode his bike 187 miles (often against a headwind!) to be there this morning!  He said he’s often seen the thru-hikers trying to hitch rides into town from the trailhead, and often stops to talk to them.  “Wish I could give them a ride,” he said.  “but that’s kind of hard when I’m on a bike!”  The church families had almost a polite “argument” over who got to take us home with them for breakfast (Of course, being Catholic, it’s no breakfast before mass).  In the end, a family from Tehachapi “won”, because we were headed for Tehachapi, AND, as the dad said, “We’ve got 10 kids–two more mouths to feed is not a problem!”

So that’s how we ended up eating a splendid breakfast with a splendid family!  It was a great time of fellowship with these sweet people, who, as we discovered, are caught in the middle of an orthodox vs. modernist/revisionist division in the Catholic church.  They are orthodox, as are the Norbertines, but many other Catholics are not.  We told them we’re in the same boat, as part of an orthodox, Bible-believing Episcopal church caught in a modernist diocese. Our host family are ALSO (hooray!) homeschoolers, with the same philosophy we had in our homeschool–“Homeschooling is NOT school-at-home!”  It’s totally different.  Like ours, their kids were able to study at their own pace, and work on the things that interested them in depth,  didn’t bother to “do high school”,  and now some of the older ones are already in college. 

This kind “trail angel” family then blessed us with hugs, promises to pray for us, invitations to return, etc., and took us to the Best Western in Tehachapi, where we are now clean, resting, and wellfed.  We are grateful to God for His people everywhere–and I have a feeling we may be on the Norbertine sisters’ prayer list!  And last but not least (I HAD to put this in!) I am having a blast with trainwatching!  The railroad runs past right across the street from our motel!   Tomorrow we’ll be headed for Oregon!

June 11, Sat.–27.3 miles–So. CA E

Saturday, June 11     Miles today: 27.3       Total so far: 555 miles!!      So. CA section E

It was a clear, pleasant, but VERY windy night last night!  When we started hiking at 5:30 am, we discovered that only a little farther along, a group of 4 thru-hikers had camped ON TOP OF one of the concrete boxes along the aqueduct!  (I’m afraid we gave them a bad time about it later–“Wussies!  Whatcha scared of–thought a Mojave Green would crawl into your sleeping bag, or a scorpion into your shoe?”)

Early morning in the Mojave

Early morning in the Mojave

We hiked till it was a bit warmer before stopping for breakfast, and enjoyed the beautiful early morning views of the desert while we munched our granola.  Eventually the other thru-hikers caught up with us (they are much younger and much faster), and one of them kindly offered to take our picture.   Wow, we finally have a picture of us TOGETHER on the trail!  Then off they went, and soon had outdistanced us.  The funny thing is, we generally end up passing them every morning, because we start hiking earlier and generally finish later, too. 

Thruhikers at the only Aqueduct "water hole"

Thruhikers at the only Aqueduct "water hole"

Several cool, windy miles later, we reached our first target–Cottonwood Creek and its aqueduct water faucet.  The whole gang were gathered there having a snack.  We got out our gear for collecting and filtering unsafe water, since there was a warning sign–and just then, who should show up, but Chris and Barbara!  (We gave THEM water when they had completely run out back on the Desert Divide.  Only Chris is hiking now, with Barbara doing resupply.)  They brought us a bunch of clean water and cold sodas!  We all happily filled our platypuses and hiked on, till at last we were DONE walking the aqueduct and back on trail.

Baby rock duck

Baby rock duck

Almost right away I saw one of the really cute things I’ve been noticing for the last couple of weeks along the PCT–a little tiny “baby rock duck” to indicate where the trail goes.  It looks just like a regular “big duck”, but it’s only 2 or 3 inches high.  I don’t know who’s been leaving them to mark trail, but I really enjoy seeing them!  And the trail now, amazingly for the normally winding PCT, headed straight like anarrow for the Tehachapi Mountains.

After a couple of miles, the PCT did begin to climb and wind again, and with a vengeance!  Carrying full water loads (enough to get us through 23 miles) was really tough.  The trail was beautiful, but it was up, and up, and I just could not hike very fast with such a heavy water load.  Close to the top of that first climb, while the PCT was temporarily on a dirt road, we were overtaken by 3 motocross riders in full “stormtrooper” regalia.  They looked to me like a dad and his two boys.  They immediately started to do what motocross riders like to do–head straight up the STEEP mountainside to see if they could make it to the top.  The youngest, who was only a kid, barely made it, but in the end, he succeeded.  I’m glad I’m not his mom!  Mommies should never watch their little boys ride motorcycles up cliffs.

Tylerhorse Canyon creek

Tylerhorse Canyon creek

We persevered in our climb as well, finally reached the top, and were down into Tylerhorse Canyon where we unexpectedly found the creek still running. The water looked a bit weird, though–glad we didn’t need any.  After that, the PCT was kind for awhile–nice and level, with views, including the NASA Space Shuttle Center. 

The PCT in the Tehachapis--before the motocross mess

The PCT in the Tehachapis--before the motocross mess

But when we came to Gamble Canyon, it was a mess.  Motocross riders have torn up the hillsides and PCT so much that it’s very hard to figure out where the trail goes. And more damage is done as motocross vertical trails cut through the generally more horizontal PCT.  While we were in Gamble Canyon, a motocross rider was revving up his bike on the canyon floor far below, then came tearing straight up the canyon wall, right at us.  Turns out he never even noticed we were there. He was following a “mototrail”, so we stepped back, stopped, and watched him roar past, dirt flying.  Just then he saw us, too, and stopped.  “Folks,” he said, “I sure din’t mean fer ta dust ya like that.  Sorry–didn’t even see ya.”  We didn’t make a fuss, but did have very mixed feelings.  We can see where the riders are having a lot of good, “clean” dusty fun–but the damage they do is pretty bad. 

Tree branch blockade on the PCT

Tree branch blockade on the PCT

Later on, the damage to the PCT got worse.  It was obvious that the motorcycle riders were totally ignoring signs saying that the PCTis for hikers and horses only.  They were riding their bikes on the trail, and creating “moguls” that may give them some thrilling “air” time, but are really tough for us hikers.  Some exasperated thru-hikers have started dragging tree branches across the PCT to deter the motorcycles.  Finally it got so bad at one point, that we totally lost the PCT in the woods honeycombed with mototrails.  We finally relocated the PCT, but not before poor Bill slipped and slid quite a ways down a steep path. Fortunately, he was not hurt.

High up in the Tehachapis now, we came across some of the “gang” of thruhikers,  sitting by the trail in the lee of a tree and looking a bit grim.  It turned out that they had completely run out of water and were worried about many miles yet to go.  We gave them some of our water, and they were very grateful.  I had been very unhappy about the load of water I carried up the hills this morning, but being able to have enough to share really made my day!  In fact, later on when we stopped for a crackers n’ cheese supper out of the cold, gusty wind, those same hikers passed us by, looking much more cheerful!  We enjoyed being out of the wind for awhile (though it sure was roaring in the treetops!), and hoped to make several more miles before bedtime.

  But not much farther along, we were stopped by private property warning signs that said for the next several miles, NO CAMPING ALLOWED.  So we turned back into the forest, called it a day, and found a nice camp with a mountain view but still sheltered from the wind.  I like the wind–it keeps away the mosquitoes!  Boy, did the sleeping bag feel good!  And when I totalled our mileage for the day, I could hardly believe it–our best day yet, even with two “killer” hill climbs when we weren’t hiking very fast!  Thankyou, Lord!