PCT Southern California-Tehachapi

Tehachapi 1st June  We had about an hour’s wait hitching a lift into Tehachapi and managed to get dropped off at an ‘all you can eat’ Mexican near the centre of town. We have arranged to stay with Jim and Sandy, friends of fellow hikers Chris and Janelle, who have an ‘A frame’ house out of town. We met them all at the house and crashed out, very grateful for their hospitality.

Next day we headed back into town to sort out our mail packages at the post office. Whilst rummaging through our box on the floor of the PO, a guy started chatting to us who, it turned out, had llamas on his farm. He and Martina struck a chord and he left us his address and an invite to visit the farm. We had just about decided to do the flip flop and head for Canada next, and so sent our box to a friend, John Hossack, in San Francisco in anticipation of this journey. We bought pizzas for everyone and returned back to the A frame for the rest of the day.

Up at 5am the next day and we were off north on the PCT at 7am with some low cloud, drizzle and wind to accompany us. Perhaps this Scottish-like cool weather – or the good rest- helped us on to hike a good 23 miles to Golden Oak springs where we met up with Chris, Janelle and another hiker Tim.

It was my birthday and Martina produced a card, candles and a sumptuous can of diet coke! As another special present I saw a bobcat nearby in the bushes and it rapidly disappeared as it spotted me.

That day, we also spotted a black bear – it’s easy to take hiking for granted at times, but we realise how special it is to be out here with the wildlife and the scenery changing subtly to greener shades as we head northwards to the bigger mountains. That night we camped in a lovely spot sheltered by pines and next to a river and have a great  meal consisting of:

  • Cream of herb soup and bread
  • Curry flavour couscous + sun dried tomatoes
  • White chocolate Jell-O + orange pieces
  • A large toblerone chocolate bar
  • Tea
  • 2 raisin cookies each

A diet for kings and hungry hikers indeed!

We hit a contrast the next day as we headed back from the cool forest into hot, hot chaparral country and a 18 mile waterless stretch which meant that we had to carry all our water with us. After some forest of oak and Jeffrey pine, then some lovely flower meadows we dropped again to drier ground and Joshua trees.

A camp spot was found on dirty ‘cow pat’ ground next to a water spigot and I had an uncomfortable night as my ‘thermarest’ sleeping mat has a puncture- but I couldn’t find the hole! We continued with the early starts and were hiking at 6.45am to beat the midday heat on sandy paths which made for hard going – but the lovely morning light on the Joshua trees made up for it. As we ascended up Skinner peak to 6,900 feet through steep slopes of yellow and purple chia flowers, we glimpsed the ranks of snowy Sierra Nevada peaks faintly to the north for the first time. Before this though, the foreground was dominated by a pinyon pine covered plateau which we would need to cross first.

Our trail soon entered a burnt forest zone and it lent a slightly melancholy feel to the day- not helped by two ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles) noisily squealing past us on the trail. Damp, windy weather accompanied us on the final stretch down to Walker Pass and our stop off point. Martina managed to get us a lift from the first car that passed and we were soon ensconced in the ‘Subway’ sandwich shop in the town of Isabella to the west down the highway.

Our minds were now resolved to stop hiking north here and to travel up to Canada to resume the hike southwards from the border. We had completed 650 miles in California – a bit under a quarter of the journey- it was 7th June and now we just had a mere 2,000 miles to go- gulp!

Looking back, the scenery and variety in Southern California had been a revelation –  in particular, the displays of flowers will live with us for a long time. We had been fortunate that the wet winter had meant flower displays and, more practically, lots of flowing rivers and streams for our water supplies. We would both like to return again to visit the US desert some time……..

A couple (Chuck and Jean) heard us talking in the Subway shop and again give us a kind offer to drive us to the train station in Bakersfield the next day. We were both tired, sweaty, dusty and a bit bedraggled but looked forward to a rest whilst travelling and a new cooler start in the Washington mountains. Who knows what conditions would be like for us or how we would fare……………………..

Next Canada ! Manning Park southwards through Washington

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