Southern CA F

August 13, Sat.–22 miles–So. CA F

Sat. August 13        Miles today: 22          Total so far: 1,587.9      So. CA section F

Worried about another hot day ahead, we got up in the dark at 5:00 to break camp and drink some more water.  At first light we began the long, long climb up and out of Bird Spring Pass.  The great thing was, even though the morning was rapidly getting warm, we were climbing in a cool wind, and on the SHADY side of the mountain!  It took over an hour to get up to a saddle where we ate breakfast and enjoyed the “giant bonsai” pinyon pines and the wildflowers among the rocks.

Then came MORE climbing, now in the sun, but not quite as hot as yesterday.  Whew!  It took us till 9:30 am to reach the cute sign that told of the turnoff to Yellow Jacket Spring, where we’d thought we might  get water.  But tacked to a tree nearby was ANOTHER recent sign warming that the “main” Yellow Jacket spring was not reliable, and hikers should go to a different spring where you have to dig a hole, let water seep up, then filter from there.  Not good.  We looked at our water supplies and decided we could manage with what we had, thanks to the water caches.

A little while later, the PCT reached a road.   The guidebook MAPS that Mel had copied for us did not show the fact that the PCT would follow this road to the left, for over two miles, and there was no sign at the junction indicating where we should go.  We were very puzzled and worried about “Where did the PCT go?  Is it on the road?  But which way?”  Fortunately, the guidebook TEXT makes the matter clear, and even though Mel had not bothered to copy the text, in this particular case, one of the map pages “happened” to have the text explaining where to go at this road intersection.  AGAIN, it was God looking out for us.  He knew what we would need, even before we needed it!  So of course, we had to stop and thank Him. 

We’d hiked a mile or so, when we were passed by motorcycle riders in full, colorful “stormtrooper” armor.  We actually met and talked to them later.  They were all big, tall, strong, impressive guys,  but when they heard what we were doing, THEY were impressed by US!  Their leader was guy who looked just like the actor Sean Bean, who plays Boromir in the film “Fellowship of the Ring.”  We had fun talking to him and his buddies before mushing on through a large burned area, where  (as usual for that situation), the wildflowers and bees were doing very well!  Finally we came to where the PCT heads off the road and hunted for shade in the burned-over area where we could rest and eat lunch.  Shade was not easy to find!  Finally we located one unburned “island” of large trees–just what we needed.

After lunch, it was many more miles of walking through the burn, including a bright new PCT emblem on one of the burned trees.  Thankyou to whoever took the time to mark the trail!  And I have to admit, with the trees reduced to blackened pillars with no branches, you do get more mountain VIEWS.   The trail climbed up and up.  We felt as if we’d been just going uphill all day, and it was a bit tough.  But finally the trail headed down for Walker Pass.  Near the bottom, we hit ANOTHER burned area, this one very fresh (only 6 days ago since the fire, we found out.  Yikes, if we hadn’t been delayed in Tehachapi, we would have been walking right into a forest fire!   ANOTHER reason to thank God for the mysterious delay of our box!).

At last, hot, sweaty, dirty and thirsty, we reached Walker Pass Campground and decided to take a couple of “zero hours” there.  Our clothes were so soaked with sweat that when they dried out, they were as stiff as if they’d been starched!  They smelled “interesting”, too.  (Eau de trail!)  Nobody was at the campground, so we made ourselves at home.  We took off our sweaty clothes, rinsed them thoroughly at the faucet, hung them on bushes to dry in the hot sun, and also washed OURSELVES.  I even stuck my whole head under the faucet to rinse my hot, dirty, sweaty hair.  Boy, did it feel good!   And when we put our dry clothes back on, ahh!  (Especially my socks–they felt soft again, instead of stiff with sweat and dirt!)   Bill and I also drank a lot of water, and rested in the shade till late afternoon.

With the arrival of nice, cooler temperatures,  we pushed on across Highway 178 and immediately began ANOTHER climb!  But we were clean, it was lots more pleasant temperature-wise, and we got great views of the pass on the two miles of climbing to the top.  At a saddle, we found a wonderful campsite with a gorgeous sunset view, located among rocks and pinyon pines.  I considered it to be one of the prettiest campsites we’ve had yet, and we two very tired hikers got a good night’s rest. 

  

August 12, Fri.–28.2 miles–So. CA F

Fri. Aug. 12         Miles today: 28.2            Total so far: 1,565.9           So. CA Section F

This morning it was cool and pleasant for awhile.  We actually had to look for a “sun patch” to eat breakfast!  But that didn’t last long–pretty soon it was HOT!  At first we were in a lot of dry, but pretty forest.  The only drawback were the dozens of tiny flies that swarmed our faces to the point where we couldn’t avoid breathing in some of them.  Yuck!  Bill finally put on his headnet! 

There were signs everywhere of recent heavy rain that made us glad we’d been delayed in Tehachapi.  Gullies of all sizes,  cut by rain runoff, ran right across the PCT.  Then we had a very pleasant surprise! At one of the dirt roads that cross the PCT, there was a little water cache!  So I filled up our one liter bottles that we’d drunk up at breakfast, and we rejoiced at a note which said more water was cached up ahead.  What that meant was we wouldn’t have to walk literally miles offtrail to get the water we’d need.  To put it mildly, we were thrilled!  The morning was so hot that we’d already gone through a lot of the water we were carrying.

The trail took us on through more wildflowers and awesome rock formations, till we finally reached the next water cache at St. John’s Pass.  It was 95 degrees in the shade, and we gladly drank a whole liter each of the cache water, adding powdered lemonade.  Man, did it hit the spot!  We are very careful at these caches not to take any more than we absolutely need.  Who knows what other thirsty hikers might be coming along next?And I loved the name of the pass–at home we go to St. John’s Episcopal church.

Now we were in really arid country–no more trees, but beautiful in its own way.  We walked across several flash flood canyons–it’s interesting to see what fast-moving water can “sculpt.”  At noon it was close to 100 degrees, but we found a clump of Joshua trees that cast enough shade that we could be reasonably comfortable stopping to cook lunch, after we’d FIRST kicked a lot of dry old cow “pies” out of the way.  Obviously the cows like this shade, too!  After eating, we took a short siesta because it was so hot, and I took a picture looking straight up at the “design” of the Joshua tree branch above me.

From there, we continued to climb up through sagebrush and rocks.  I noticed a lot of beehives in the valley below–somebody must like sage honey!  We also passed several old mines.  Topping another ridge, we got a whole new “valley view”, which included a mirage lake shimmering in the heat.  It was a tough afternoon, hiking-wise, having to do so much uphill when it was so hot.  Bill and I were drinking lots of water and still feeling thirsty, but we didn’t dare “overdo” on the water, because our supply was limited.  Even our supper stop with food and lemonade left us thirsty, and we hiked as fast as we could toward the next cache at Bird Spring Pass.  But oh, frustration!  The trail was full of “moguls”, created by dirtbike people riding on the PCT.  We’d do a few steps down, then a few steps up, then down again.  Grrrr.   But the scenery was great, and as the sun went lower and lower, the light became prettier and prettier.  We got buzzed by a very large rattler curled up in the shade of a bush right by the trail. He refused to move, and I don’t blame him!  So we went around.

It was 7:30 by the time we reached Bird Spring Pass.  When we spotted the water cache up ahead, we almost ran to it, we were so thirsty.  However, it turned out that the jugs of water had been sitting there for some time.  Many were full of yucky, slimy water.  I managed to find some “minimally slimy” jugs and used powdered lemonade to make two liters worth. Bill and I gulped down a whole liter each.   That made a total of SIX LITERS of water for EACH of us today!  There was a little notebook where you could write comments, and a number of hikers had written very rude, grumpy remarks about the slimy water.  But I happened to know that this cache is stocked by a very dedicated and determined old lady who rides in on a MOTORCYCLE, because the road to Bird Spring Pass is washed out and impassable to cars.  It’s a very tough ride for her, so she can’t come up as often as she’d like.  So I wrote a very GRATEFUL comment, and I meant every word of it.

It was getting dark and it was very windy as we set up camp on the lee side of a clump of Joshua trees.  We were really tired and sweaty and  dirty, but we enjoyed the pretty sunset, and cheered when we added up our miles.  Twenty-eight miles, yahoo!   Even in the heat!  Those water caches saved us a lot of time–God bless the kind people who help thirsty hikers!