Archive for May, 2010

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.

Sunday, May 30 A trip to the doctor

Sunday, May 30th, 2010


By this morning, I knew there was something seriously wrong with me.  I was too nauseous to eat, and for me, that’s amazing!  I also felt very faint and weak.   I managed to eat a banana for breakfast by just nibbling on it little by little.   Bill and I had planned to go to church, but that was now out of the question.   We figured we must have giardia or something similar,  and were trying to plan how we could organize getting to a doctor for a prescription,  when Christy volunteered to take us to the place she goes, an urgent care center in Bakersfield.


This was WAY over and above for her to do this–not only is it a long way to Bakersfield, but she was in the middle of getting her college age son off to his summer job as program director at a Christian camp in Big Bear.  We were enormously grateful.   Bill was a bit “brighter” because he’d been taking Christy’s leftover medicine already, but I was pretty wasted.   So the Bakersfield expedition was very hard.   I had trouble even with standing up for very long at a time!   But we finally had our turn with the doctor and after some frustration in trying to find a pharmacy that had enough Flagl for TWO full does, we were back in Tehachapi.

On the way back to Christy’s house, she stopped by Valley Oaks, the Christian school where she works. It involves a unique mixture of homeschooling and classroom schooling.  We were able to meet the principal and admire the really nice building (the story of how God provided a place for the school to meet is an adventure in itself!).  But I was very tired, so as soon as we were “home”,  I went straight to bed.   It seemed like only 5 minutes had gone by when Bill woke me up at 10 pm to take more medicine.    Hope it works.   I want to get back to the PCT!     Our original plan was for Tuesday, but it’s looking iffy.

may30_3people But one nice thing about all this driving around with Christy Rosander is that we’ve been able to get to know her better.  And I don’t mind saying again that she is one amazing lady!  She told us that originally she and her husband were not interested in backpacking.  They climbed pretty much every mountain of note around here and in the southern Sierras before Christy got “into” backpacking.  She often goes alone, since the rest of her family mostly would rather get up early from a “base camp” with lots of comfortable stuff, go climb a mountain and come back to base camp.  Backpacking is much more spartan.

I am very hopeful about feeling better tomorrow, but I don’t know what we will do about returning to the trail on Tuesday.  I don’t think we can do it in our present condition.

May 29 Zero day in Tehachapi

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

It was a beautiful warm morning, and the weather report was VERY encouraging–at least a week of steadlily growing warmer, plus plenty of sun.   I had a delicious big breakfast–the Rosander’s hospitality is awesome!   But Bill is still sick.  He did not get up for a long time, and we had a very worried discussion about what might be wrong.   It’s the same as 2005–no fever, no sore throat, no “runny tummy”–just total loss of appetite,  nausea and tiredness.    The conclusion was that maybe he is just very, very tired, and needs to rest?

I spent the morning doing the usual “town chores” of airing and cleaning gear, doing laundry, writing, etc.    I also got to admire Christy Rosander’s Granite Gear backpack as she got ready to head out on a training hike.   Every other day, with full packweight, she climbs Tehachapi Mtn.   She’s planning to leave in a couple of weeks to hike the PCT from here to Donner Lake.   She is one amazing backpacker lady!  Meanwhile, I tried to be diligent about snacking at every opportunity, trying to fix my calorie deficit.  That’s one thing I love about doing the PCT–I get to eat and eat, as much as I want!

Dinner was provided by Dan Rosander–homemade pizza.   Bill managed to nibble a tiny bit,  but that was all.   We are all beginning to think maybe he’s got giardia or something similar.   Christy said she had giardia last year, and her symptoms were very much like Bill’s.   She showed us her prescription, and there were a few pills left.   Unknown to me,  Bill took one!   (A good plan, as it turned out).

I felt fine when I went to bed, but during the night, I woke up feeling very ill–nausea and weakness, yikes!   It was a miserable time.  Now I know how Bill must have been feeling.  I guess whatever Bill got, I got too. Bummer.

Walk to Lórien: Yuledays camped near stream

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

Friday, May 28th, 2010


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.


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”.


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


Thursday, May 27 Miles today: 26.5 Total: 544.9

Thursday, May 27th, 2010


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.


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.


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