Archive for the ‘CA Southern – E’ Category

Monday, May 31 Zero day in Tehachapi

Monday, May 31st, 2010

At 5:30 am, I woke Bill up so we could both take our “waterbug medicine,”  and I was very happy to find that I was feeling much better already.   The nausea was minimal, and I felt stronger.   I actually managed to eat breakfast–very slowly, and in little nibbles, but I could eat again!  Hooray!

Bill and I spent the morning resting, drinking water, nibbling at food, and reading.  The Rosanders have an awesome collection of hiking books,  thanks to Christy’s enthusiasm for backpacking.   And the weather report contained an advisory for rapidly rising rivers–the snow is melting fast!   Very good news!   

 On the sobering side, though, reports from the PCT did not sound encouraging.   Forester Pass “needs mountaineering skills and ice axe to traverse” right now.    We talked about what to do.   Neither of us are in any kind of shape right now to tackle that, much less the climb from Tehachapi Pass up into the Sierras.   It is beginning to look like we may need to go home for a little bit to get well again, then come back.   We are definitely getting better, but still nowhere near as strong as we were when we first got here to Tehachapi.

Friday, May 28 Gale winds at Tehachapi Miles today: 22.7 Total: 566.6 miles

Friday, May 28th, 2010

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Good thing we rigged the tarp last night–it RAINED! It wasn’t a deluge, but I am so glad we weren’t out in it, “rigging by headlamp.”  Bill said that when he got up during the night, he noticed that the wind had stopped, but the poor tarp was a bit discombobulated because it wasn’t staked down and the rocks we’d used to hold down the guy lines had shifted.  So he moved all the rocks back to where they belonged, and the tarp was all nice and tight again.  After that he went back to bed, and THEN it started to rain!  It was a nice gentle rain, not a downpour, but once it stopped, the wind came back with a vengeance.  (Unknown to us, the trail angel Rosander family in Tehachapi were having heavy-duty gullywasher downpours at their house, and they were really worried about how we were surviving it.  I guess their side of the mountains got more rain than we did!)

 The wind was pretty bad when we got up a bit after 5 am to begin the 1,600 foot climb out of the canyon and up to the summit.   It was 38 degrees, the wind  felt like ice, and there was fresh snow on all the mountaintops around us.  The PCT follows many LONG switchbacks as it makes a 1,600 foot climb up the sandy mountainsides, and hooray!  Somebody had really fixed up the trail itself and put up lots of PCT signposts to guide us through the maze of motocross trails.  We were never “lost” this time, as we were in 2005.

When we were high enough up, we were walking through the snow-dusted area, and that’s all it was–about a half inch of fluffy snow on the ground, and melting fast.  We were walking IN the cloud for awhile, then the cloud lifted and we could see back toward Antelope Valley, adorned with a pretty rainbow.

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But sadly, there had been a forest fire, so instead of green trees and grass high in the Tehachapis, we were walking through blackened, skeleton forests.  One tree had a worried note on it, titled, “Have You Seen Billy Goat?”  It was dated in April.   I added a note saying, “He’s fine–we saw him in Big Bear in May”.

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Finally we got back to green forest, green grass and wildflowers.  At our midmorning Snickers break, we found a sunpatch out of the wind, and almost fell asleep, we were so tired!  I was glad Bill was able to eat his Snickers.  He did manage to choke down breakfast earlier on, but said he still feels sick.

Eventually the PCT took us to the “windfarm side of the hill.”  I knew we were in for it, windwise, but what we didn’t know was that today there was a wind ADVISORY for up to GALE force.   No kidding!   It was hard to walk straight.  We both were staggering around like drunken sailors as the gusts hit us.  And it was a cold wind–I was wearing all my layers, and my gloves, trying to stay warm.   After the second set of windmills, the PCT was closed, due to what looked like more windmill construction.  Instead of a trail, we had to bushwhack downhill, following little bright pink ribbons tied to bushes.  The detour was full of weeds and chaparral; it wound in and out of gullies and over hillsides.  Bill charged out far ahead, and I did not see him again for some time as I picked my way carefully along.  I was very glad it was a COLD windy day–hopefully that meant all the rattlesnakes had stayed in their holes.  I would hate to have tackled that detour on a warm afternoon with all the snakes out running around!

Finally it was nearing noon when I reached the proper PCT again.  What a relief!  I was so tired from the long climb this morning on sandy trail tread (Bill got way ahead of me there, too–I have a hard time going uphill in sand.  I can go up a rocky trail just fine!) plus battling the wind.  I limped along the PCT to the “picnic area” near the road, and signed the trail register before I went looking for Bill.  No Bill.  Now I was worried.  Where could he be?  Finally he arrived, and it turned out that when he got down to the PCT again, he decided to lie down off the trail to wait for me, and must have half fallen asleep, because I walked right by him and he didn’t know it.  I didn’t see him either, because he was hidden off the trail.  When I didn’t show up, he got worried and went part way back up the trail looking for ME!   Oh dear!  I guess we need walkietalkies or something! 

By this time, it was past noon, and even though I was very hungry, I was also very tired, and the wind was just awful.  I finally figured out what to do about it.  I leaned my pack against the lee side of a picnic bench, then sat down with my back against the pack.  That way, I was protected from the wind a bit, and could eat some lunch.  I scarfted up a bagel and peanut butter, but Bill ate only one bite and said he was too nauseous for any more.   Now I was really worried about him.

At 1:00, we headed out into what turned out to be a more than 3 hour battle with unbelievable winds.  Every single step I took, I had to brace myself to avoid being knocked over, and even then many times I was blown right off the trail.  When it got really bad,  all I could do was stop, brace both legs and trek poles and try to stay upright.   It was as if the wind were an invisible, cold, roaring river that was literally trying to knock us down and snatch our trek poles right out of our hands.

At around 3 pm, we found a large juniper bush/tree and got on its lee side for a badly needed rest. Leaning comfortably against our packs, and out of the wind, we discovered that it actually was a very nice, warm day!  Wow!  Stepping out from behind the bush into the gale again was quite a shock, but it’s one of those things where you can either choose to be miserable, or choose to laugh.  We chose to laugh.  As the unbelievable gusts pushed and pulled at us, we were yelling, “Wheeee!  That was a good one!”  and sort of pretending we were on a carnival ride.  So we pushed on and finally found ourselves at the top of the many switchbacks that lead down to the railroad tracks and Hwy. 58.  The switchbacks were such that we were alternately either walking right straight into the wind, or with the wind at our backs.  I was glad, because with a wind like that behind you (at least some of the time), it helps you hike!

Before  5 pm, we’d made it to the bottom of the canyon, and the wind was absolutely horrendous.  We walked along the road to the railroad crossing, and had to wait while TWO trains went by.  I steadied myself by leaning against a signpost near the crossing, and had fun watching all the different kinds of RR cars as they went squeaking and rumbling past.   Very cool!   Some more roadwalking took us to the Highway 58 overpass,where we planned to connect with trail angel Christy Rosander.   We were early, and Bill wanted to leave an “unbroken footprint trail”, so we walked across the overpass to where the PCT tread resumed on the other side, before walking back over to where we were meeting Christy.  On the overpass, the wind was so awful that several times I could not walk against it at all, but could only brace both trek poles, lean into it and try not to fall over.

There was a signpost on the shoulder of the offramp.  I was worried about Bill, so I told him to sit down with his back to the wind, leaning on the post, while I sat down directly to windward of him, with my pack in front of me like a shield.  I hunkered down behind it, with just my eyes sticking over the top, because the wind was actually painful.  The whole signpost was vibrating and shaking.

Finally Christy arrived–actually a bit earlier than planned, because she was worried about us. Even getting our packs into her car was a battle with the wind.   And bless her foresight–she had a thermos of hot chocolate for us–what a treat after fighting cold wind for hours!  But Bill turned down the hot chocolate, which surprised her.  I drank lots, though, as we drove along, and told her Bill was not feeling well.  Once we got to her house, we both took VERY welcome showers, then Bill ate a cracker, drank some Emergen-C and went straight to bed.

Meanwhile, Christy and I tried to figure out what was wrong.  Bill has no fever, no diarrhea, no sore throat.  He just feels nauseous and tired.  Could it be just plain exhaustion?  We were not sure.  But I felt fine, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner with the Rosander family before calling it a day myself.  The Rosander’s house is up on a hill with a beautiful view, and it was nice to be clean, out of the wind, and very comfortable.  If only we can figure out what is wrong with Bill!  I prayed for wisdom before falling asleep.

Walk to Lórien: Yuledays camping near stream

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Thursday, May 27 Miles today: 26.5 Total: 544.9

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

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Hikertown is home to a whole flock of banty chickens, including several roosters, who started crowing enthusiastically around 4 am!  By 5:30, most of the hikers (including us) were in the hiker lounge eating breakfast that included “coffee from New York City” sent by one hiker’s girlfriend.  (“What was she thinking?” he puzzled.  “What am I supposed to do with a POUND of coffee on the trail?”  We all told him, “Don’t worry–we’ll take care of it!”)  But unknown to me,  Bill was not feeling well.  He did not feel like eating, and  had to just choke down his breakfast.

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After that, we spent till almost 1 pm doing the notorious “Aqueduct Walk”.  It was not hot. It was not windy.  It was COLD, and even rained a bit!   There were rain clouds and “walls” of rain all around us, up in the Liebres to the right and the Tehachapis to the left.   I hiked along the aqueduct, eyeing the clouds and rain, thinking “Oh fun–we’ll be up IN there tonight!”   As far as the aqueduct walk itself, I know a lot of people enjoy grumping about it, but why waste your time being a grouch?   I love the sweeping views, the weird little houses, the quirky people, and the wildflowers along the way.   And today, when the clouds broke up a bit, there were beautiful sunbeams set off by the dark clouds behind them.

By lunchtime, we’d reached Cottonwood Creek trail camp, and I got out the stove to cook a hot meal.  But Bill would not eat.   He said he felt nauseous.   My heart just sank.   Could this be a rerun of what we went through in 2005, starting already?   I was worried.  Other hikers that we’d passed along the way caught up with us as we were resting, and they also stopped to eat.

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And then as we turned north, into the Tehachapi Mtns. a wonderful thing happened.  The clouds began to lift,  break up, and float away.  And so we wound our way up and up into those amazing mountains.  Along the way we met a ranch hand in a pickup truck and talked to him a bit.  He was impressed by all the hikers and said he’d like to do the PCT himself! 

In 2005, it was tricky trying to follow the PCT in the Tehachapis, and we actually were sort of lost for a little while, because there were so many motocross trails everywhere.  Not this time!  The PCT is well-marked with sturdy posts.  It was a very cold afternoon, and Bill was not able to hike as fast as he usually does, but by suppertime we’d reached Tylerhorse Canyon.  Again, Bill felt too nauseous to eat, so I sat there munching away, when suddenly he leaped up and said, “I’m getting too cold just sitting here.  I’ve got to keep on hiking.”  I was afraid to let him go ahead by himself, because many times he doesn’t notice when the PCT goes off one way and some side trail goes another way, and he ends up heading down the side trail till I call to him.  So I also leaped up, left my unfinished crackers and cheese to the ground squirrels, and off we went again. 

Shortly after that, we came to a wonderful section of trail where it was obvious that the trail gorillas just outdid themselves!  Wow!  In 2005, this stretch was basically a falling-down scratch across a steep, crumbling hillside.  Now it’s practically a fire road!  Views of the Antelope Valley were awesome, but the higher we went, the stronger the wind.  Brrrrr!  We usually start looking for a place to camp after 7 pm, but at 6:30, I found a really nice sheltered dell, out of the wind, and suggested we might camp there.  Bill was obviously very tired.

But Bill said no, because we were still up very high, and he wanted to camp down lower, in Gamble Canyon.  So we followed the many long switchbacks down and found that the canyon was basically a big wind tunnel for a howling, bitterly cold wind.  The thought of turning around and climbing back up all those switchbacks to the sheltered spot was just too much.  So all we could do was hunker down as best we could in a dry hollow.  Bill was obviously feeling very ill, but we still rigged the tarp because the clouds were reassembling and looked ominous.   We could not use our stakes to set it up, since the ground was all loose sand.  Instead, we tied the tarp guy lines to rocks we’d found, then Bill collapsed into his sleeping bag, very miserable.   Needless to say, I prayed like crazy that he will feel better tomorrow.

Walk to Lórien: Walking Southwest in low mountains

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Tuesday, May 25 Miles today: 20.2 Total: 498.8 miles

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

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Brrrr!  It was a 31 degree morning, with frost!  I stayed in my nice warm sleeping bag, but Bill got up and went for a walk.  I was just about dressed when he came back at around 6:30, carrying two cups of coffee and bringing news that Terri was making pancakes.  No kidding!  By 7:00 she was dishing up STACKS of great pancakes, using two electric griddles to keep up with all the hungry hikers!  Since it was so cold outside, hikers were squeezed into every available corner of the Anderson’s living room. 

Both Terri and Joe Anderson were having a blast, teasing people–and loving them!  It turned out that in 2005, the rumor we’d heard that Casa de Luna was a place where hikers went to get drunk and be crazy was a MYTH perpetrated by Joe Anderson himself.  and we believed it!  So in 2005, we avoided coming here, and would have this time, too, only the lure of pancakes and taco salad overcame our doubts.   Then it was more hang out and talk till around 10 am, Joe took us back to the trail.  When we got there and all piled out of his car, Joe pointed up the hill and said, “Look!  Here come more hikers!  We get to scare them–man, will this be fun!”  We’d heard about how Joe enjoys hiding out in the bushes, then leaping out roaring, just to see the freaked out reactions of innocent hungry hikers!  Well, several of the folks decided to join the fun and went to hide in the bushes with Joe, but Bill and I opted to head off on the PCT, which quickly took us up to great views of Green Valley, where Casa de Luna is located.   What a great place!  We will be walking in the “glow” of it for awhile!

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It was a chilly day, great for hiking, but not so great for a poor little gopher snake that was lying across the trail, so cold it could hardly move.  The trail goes contouring through a lot of chaparral, and has several BIG dirt road crossings, where the intersections are so large that sometimes it was hard to figure out where the PCT went.   

 About 2 miles from Elizabeth Canyon Road, we met two hikers doing what’s called “The 8-Mile Challenge”…the goal is to drink one beer per mile, during the 8 miles between Elizabeth Canyon and the road to Casa de Luna.  Hmmm, that meant they’d “done” two beers already, and yes, they were quite jolly.  By lunchtime we’d reached the cache at Elizabeth Canyon Rd, where there was a red rug on the ground for the hikers to sit on. We cooked a nice dinner while the other hikers were all eating tortillas and peanut butter.   We kind of rubbed it in about how great it was to be eating DINNER, and how we never had problems with “critters” at night because we never ever cook where we camp (which is what most hikers do.  Not a good idea!)

Then came a 3 hour climb up into the Liebre Mountains–all sorts of plant communities to walk through, from manzanita & sagebrush to oak trees & miner’s lettuce to pine trees & soft duff.  Climbing hour after hour is not “fun” but I did enjoy the plant variety.  Around 4:30 we reached the Maxwell Trail Camp  “guzzler”–a water-collecting device–but the water was gross (full of mosquito larvae squiggling and wriggling), so we decided to just ration what we had.  Other hikers were there, filtering, boiling and cooking dinner. 

We mushed on, and awhile later came to a water cache!   Yahoo!  No more rationing!   And the trail was increasingly beautiful.  We felt as if we were walking through springtime, especially with the oak tres just leafing out.  We finally camped on soft oak duff on a chilly, very windy evening, and put up the tarp because rain is in the forecast for tomorrow.  What a lovely day–so much beauty along the trail, and the continuing afterglow of staying at Casa de Luna.   The Andersons are a blessing to us hikers, not just because of their food, but because they really love us. 

Walk to Lórien: Empty country near Bruinen

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Monday, May 24 Casa de Luna– Miles today: 7.6 Total: 478.6

Monday, May 24th, 2010

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Boy, are we glad we camped DOWN in a gully–all the hilltops were in cloud this morning!  And sure enough, 5 minutes of walking had us at “The Oasis”, complete with all its usual accoutrements of skeletons, pink flamingo, “Class of 2010” banner, and coolers with cold sodas.  Too cold for a soda today!  Brrrr!   One guy was actually camped IN the cache, and several others nearby. 

There was no sun to provide a warm place for breakfast, so we walked fast till we were well warmed up, then stopped to gobble down granola before hurrying on, enjoying the wildflowers by the trail and the valley views as we hiked along.  When we reached the road, we ALMOST decided to just hike on, but the Andersons (who provide “The Oasis”) had put up a sign about “Come on down to our place 24/7–all the pancakes and taco salad you can eat.”  That did it.  “Hmmm, we need to let the Sierras melt some more!” we said.

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And so we ended up in a fantastic time warp zone called Casa de Luna.  The Andersons (Terri & Joe) call it “Hippy Daycare”.  We felt like we were back in the 1960’s in a “hippie house” (we really did live in a Christian “hippie house” for awhile) and we found a perfect campsite in the “Magical Manzanita Forest” out back.  We spent the whole rest of the day lounging around wherever we could find a sunpatch, eating, and talking to other hikers.  Lunch was provided by “Visa”, whose wife died while on a PCT training hike last year.  Now Visa does everything he can to help hikers, and he BBQ’ed us all a great meal.  Meanwhile, there is a bedsheet hanging on the garage door, which all the hikers “sign” with drawings, etc.  I drew a picture of us two “Petaluma Chickens” hiking the PCT.  (Our hometown of Petaluma, CA, was once called “The Egg Capital of the World”).

News from the Sierras is still not good. MORE snow is falling up there, and it is cold even here at Casa de Luna.  After lunch, Bill and I were sitting together trying to get warm, when Terri Anderson came along and put a blanket over us!  She likes to mother all the hikers!  All of us agreed that snow or no snow, we are determined to push on through the Sierras. 

Tonight, sure enough, we had the famous taco salad for dinner, followed by hilarious “trail tales” from Joe & Terri, especially the one about how they started hosting hikers.  It all began with the Joy of Cooking recipe for vegetable soup……and I won’t tell you any of the rest of it, because you HAVE to come to Casa de Luna and hear Joe and Terri’s version.  We all laughed till our sides hurt!   I have not laughed so much in a long time!

We had not planned to even stop here at Casa de Luna, and now, we are SO GLAD we did!  There is no time limit on how long you can stay, and it is much more relaxing than Hiker Heaven.  And we were glad to hear Joe Anderson reminding the hikers that there really is a “Higher Power” and things don’t just happen by accident/luck.  No kidding, Joe!  We finally wandered off to our spot in the Magical Manzanita Forest and went to bed.  What a fun day!

Walk to Lórien: West of River Bruinen

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