2007-05-31 Desert Interlude

As I lay here in the shade of a Joshua Tree I wonder what was going through the mind of the car that passed by a little while ago. It was a red mini-van/people mover. The driver wore a flowery dress and dark sunglasses. I saw it roll up to the crest of the saddle the fall back out of view only to come up again but this time pull over to the sand and stop. With the engine off the driver spoke to her passenger, looked around and spotted me, I waved and immediately she started the car, spoke to her passenger again and left. Just as they disappeared from view she looked up to my shady spot and I waved goodbye. I wonder if they wanted some “alone time”, though it feels far too hot for that sort of carry on. They could have just been looking for a spot for nude sunbathing in which case the sight of me in my tight sporty boxer shorts wouldn’t really have worried them. Did I mention this was around noon, in the desert, on a hot day?

PCT sign
A water cache provided by PCT supporters

A few minutes before the shy couple drove by an airforce cargo plane nearly crashed on me. It came in over the ridge less than its own wing span above the ground and wavered its way east, then swung north down Kelso Valley at a frightening low altitude before disappearing out of view 10 miles away. I saw its shadow below it and the pilot was still having fun, or about to wet himself.
PCT sign
How low can you go?
*continued 12 miles later at my camp site*

After leaving my siesta I crossed Butterbredt Road just in time to catch a truck (a ute to us Kiwis) coming by. They stopped to say hi and offer help. With full bottles from the cache and enough food to get me through there was just one thing I was low on, toilet paper. Thankfully now I can poop with abandon and I won’t need to gather sticks, leaves or horned toads before hand.

The dry and dusty trail
The dry and dusty trail (used horned toads not shown)

Though still in the Sierra Nevada range the trail has dropped down to the desert for 20 miles. I’m most of the way across and by lunch time tomorrow I should be in Sequoia National Forest.

P.S. I’ve just passed 1000km, woot!
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows


2007-05-30 I think I'm alone now

Another listless night on the hill. I kept waking up, one time I saw Blue Sky and Vortex packing, the next time they were gone. I didn’t leave until 6, taking a moment to fashion a spout out of a discarded bottle so that the next bunch of hikers can get clean running water quicker than we did.

A couple of hours later I came across some good sized bear tracks on the trail. As large as my hand they showed it was heading towards Mexico and had been there before the other two passed by. I saw two more bear sets today and one from a bobcat (or maybe a small mountain lion). Though I am officially in the Sierra Nevada mountain range now, and have been since starting yesterday, it wasn’t until nearly lunchtime that the changes starting appearing. First some wild flowers of unknown types, then lupins in blue and white, then came the pines and the oaks. Lunch was in the shade of these trees where the only sounds are wind and flying insects, except for the voices in my head and the occasional whisper of a song that is playing on internal sound track. Apart from two people in a jeep on Jawbone Canyon Road just after I crossed it I haven’t seen or heard another person all day.

PCT sign

Tonight I’m camping alone in the sierras. This really excites me. I’ve got a cool spot on a small saddle. The pines are tall and have left a wide clearing (thus no chance of sap dripping on me or killer 1 kilo pine cones dropping on me) through which I will have an excellent view of the night sky and I intend to watch it.

I’m just south of another Cottonwood Creek the third or fourth I’ve passed so far. They really need more original names. I’d have called it Chezzwozzer 🙂
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows

2007-05-29 Welcome to the Sierra Nevada

We started with breakfast at the Rush’s house and then to the post office (another letter and crossword from Bex) before reaching the trail at 10am. Many, many thanks to our wonderful trail angels Chris and Carol, they really made Tehachapi a great town stop for us.

Starting at 10 is not generally a good idea and as I staggered up the hill carrying 7 days of food I knew I’d never make an uninterrupted crossing of the high Sierras that I’ll be reaching next week. Vortex and Blue Sky were there too and Blue Sky wasn’t doing so well. She actually got to the throwing-up stage later on and felt much better after that. Something she ate?

PCT sign
Vortex, Blue Sky and SunWalker

During our late siesta we heard what sounded like a large explosion and a rumble after it. A second one followed 15 mins later. This is unusual up in the hills but when I went to look I saw we were not to far from Mojave Airport. Chris had told us that Burt Rutan had flown his Spaceship 1 from around here so maybe there were other experimental craft flying around making sonic booms.

It was after this break that the path leveled out and I got back into my stride reaching Golden Oaks Spring just before sunset. Contrary to what the water report said it was not flowing well so I placed a bottle under the pipe to catch a few drips and went in search of the spring box. Vortex and Blue Sky joined me shortly and we discussed options. Since walking the next 18 miles with less than a litre each was not going to work I dug a hole to gather some of the water leaking down the side of the path. It became apparent that this was not practical as scooping out of there disturbed the sediment and made for gross water so I had a better idea. I stuck my trowel into the steep side of the trail where water was running down and made a decent waterfall out of it. Filling a litre in less than a minute we soon had a process going of me collecting water, Blue Sky filtering it and Vortex treating it. And thus we drank well tonight.

They’ll be off early tomorrow (3:30am alarm!) and I may not see them for a month. Since they arrived at the Mann household six weeks ago I’ve seen them nearly every day and they’re great to have around. I know I’m only 20% through the hike and I’ll meet plenty more friendly folk, but these two are cool and I’d be happy to reach the end with them.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows

2007-05-28 Around Tehachapi

I have been full all day. Several big waffles with butter, syrup and ham for breakfast. Lunch was only half a Subway then a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Neapolitan Dynamite (1000 calories right there). For dinner we barbequed with Chris and Carol, our local angels. It was truly a feast and I couldn’t even start on the chocolate cake Blue Sky had baked.

PCT sign

Somewhere in there I managed to buy and pack 7 days of food and slack pack from Tehachapi-Willow Springs road to Highway 58 thereby finishing section E and entering the Sierra Nevada. Slack packing usually implies an easy time but with Vortex’s enthusiasm and energy we took it to another level and ran most of the 9.5 miles to get to our pick-up point exactly 2 hours later. The path was easy to follow over open fields of dry grass under the constant whirring of wind turbines. Vortex must have been a ‘track’ star at school because he vaulted over most of the pipe gates that were almost chest height using only his hands and I even saw him jump 4ft straight up to land both feet on one (a metal pipe 3 inches in diameter) then jump off the other side and keep running. I wish I had that on camera.

Having had so many zeros near Agua Dulce and then busting out 26, 30, 24 to get here I am glad I did some mileage today. Zero days can be relaxing but getting to Canada is always on my mind and I feel guilty when I’m not working on that goal. Doing that section means we only have 15 miles to the water source tomorrow and considering how much my pack weighs I am very happy about that.

I can’t finish this entry without sending out thanks to our incredible hosts Chris and Carol Rush. They have been so kind and helpful every step of the way. They’re certainly not a big outfit like the Saufleys. Just a great couple in a regular house that looked after the three of us since we met them on the hill. We really fell on our feet here and I just noticed my current mileage according to the data book is 567.8, cool.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Aqua Dulce to Tehachapi

2007-05-27 The Tehachapis

A couple left the water cache by torchlight at 4:31am. I know this because I heard them but didn’t recognise Vortex’s voice. Had I done so I would have said hello from my spot behind the bush, and probably shocked 1000 calories straight out of them. But I let them go and waited for more light.

With 5 litres of water the climb to Tylerhorse Canyon was really hard. I was out of breath and stopping every minute or two. It may have been yesterday’s excess that caused it, what ever the reason I was struggling but perked up when I saw Vortex and Blue Sky because it’s always nice to have friends around.

PCT sign

I ate a whole box of fig newtons for a snack, thats 770 calories and I was still hungry. Up and up the hill went, and so hot. There were lots of dirt bike tracks and according to the guide book it is the riders that are responsible for all the missing signs up there. At the first plateau after the snack I would have wandered off-trail if it hadn’t been for Yogi’s note on the ground. Looking carefully I could see the stump of a trail marker that had once told hikers to turn left. In a dry section on a hot day that sort of stuff could be really dangerous.

Once we reached the ridge the “undulating traverse” began. Mostly shaded it would have been an easy walk if it wasn’t for the dirt bikes that have shaped the trail into a series of humps and troughs 6ft across and a couple of feet deep. Blue Sky said it best: “I didn’t expect the undulations to be so small”.

17 miles by lunch, a 4 hour nap and on with the day. I began to see logs laid across the trail, to stop the bikers using the PCT, which was a good idea but I thought that since logs/rocks have also been used to cut off side trails and keep hikers on track it was going to confuse someone. It confused me. At one particularly crucial junction I stepped over a log thinking that it really looked like a block for the hikers but since the trail was on the other side I’d continue. And continue I did as the path got sandy, steep and there was now only one set of footprints ahead. It was about 10 minutes before the tread disintegrated too much and I made the call to turn back. Vortex and Blue Sky were a few minutes behind me and came back up a way then stayed put while I made sure I could find the trail again. I did and they caught up quickly. We stuck together after that.

In the final mile we ran into Chris and Carol (Bucksnort and Lupin), two section hikers/trail angels, who had come to see if anyone needed a ride to Tehachapi. They even invited us to stay at their place so instead of sleeping at Oak Creek with bad smelling water we ate at a chinese buffet (and I mean reaaaalllly ate, mmmmmm) and got showers and beds to sleep on. Trail magic at its finest.
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Aqua Dulce to Tehachapi

2007-05-26 The Aqueduct

The first time I woke up today was in the wee small hours after the moon had set. The Milky Way was there but not clear. I’m looking forward to the sierra night sky.

I got up and moving, passing Wandering Jew and Totally Rachel as they broke camp. It was a hot day (as you’d expect) and as I got closer to the Mojave Desert it got hotter. I pulled into Hiker Town by 11am and spent 5 hours enjoying the amenities. It’s a strange place. Regular looking house but with some pioneer-era looking buildings along the driveway, and a caretaker called Bob. Though perhaps my favourite thing was the abandoned S.W.A.T. car out the back, still with sirens on top. The water from the pipe was warm, too warm to drink but good for cooking, the tap had high-pressured cold water.

The outdoor shower was awesome. I love showering outside, especially when there is a door and warm water. I ate, slept, washed and even emailed until I really had to move on. So out into the desert I went. The path follows the new aqueduct for less than a mile then the old one for 14. First it’s a buried black pipe big enough to walk on. Then it becomes a concrete tunnel next to a dirt road. And it was on that dirt road that I spent the afternoon, evening and then night.


I am now at the Cottonwood Creek Bridge a whopping 29.7 miles from where I woke up. There’s a water cache here and also a little jumpy rodent that wants something from my bag. I don’t have any food for him but I do have a small pile of rocks he might get if he comes within reach again.

Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Aqua Dulce to Tehachapi

2007-05-25 Californian 500

Well I have walked 500 miles
And I will walk a whole lot more
Just to be the man who walked across A-me-ri-ca to Can-a-da-aa-aa

Just before 6:30pm today I crossed the dirt road that is 500 trail miles from the Mexican border where I was 5 weeks ago. I’m pretty proud of that but the crazy thing is it’s not fast enough. I’m now pushing ~25 miles per day and if I can keep that up I’ll be fine. I just need to watch the zero days.

Joshua Tree

Davy kindly drove me and all the food bags from Agua Dulce to Green Valley. I was on the trail before 9am and that’s a very late start. It sure was hot already. I caught and passed Troll and Oblivious and since I’ll be upping my miles now I may not see them again for a while. We swapped contact info and if I’m needing help in Washington his wife might be able to arrange something.

I got it into my head that I could reach the 500 mark some time during my morning break. So I set off up the hill at noon and soon felt like my face was going to melt. It didn’t but the river of sweat down my back has left a white salt stain across the seat of my trousers to show the tide mark.

Some time later I passed Rest Stop sleeping under a tree. He didn’t hear me so I took a photo and moved on quietly. There were some really pretty sections in here, much more woodland than forest to me. Long green grasses under wide oak-like trees. So much dappled sunlight. It was gorgeous.

Passing the 500 mile mark means the wilderness permit I have is now valid since it is only for hikers of trips this length or more. I guess that means I have fulfilled the definition of long distance hiker as far as the U.S.F.S. is concerned. But just so I didn’t get too complacent the next two hours were mostly uphill, with one nice easy, flat, dusty section just after Red Rock Tank. This is the latest I have hiked but I think it’ll become normal soon to get around the heat of the desert.
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Aqua Dulce to Tehachapi

2007-05-24 Back to the Saufley's

I know it seems strange but I actually hitched south today. I’d called the Saufley household to see if my bounce box had arrived and found out that Davy (Old School) and Paul (Potential 178) where there. Add that to an ankle blister from running yesterday and the catered meal they were about to have (thanks to a 2004 hiker’s mum) and I had to go back.

First I played frisbee golf with Joe Anderson and 4 others. Those official frisbees are a lot harder to throw than I thought, never seeming to go as far as you think that throw would take them.

I got back here and have been catching up on trail stories. I heard about Moonshadow’s brush with heat-stroke on the drop down from North Fork Ranger Station and more karaoke high-jinks in Wrightwood. The meal was pretty good, real chicken, real lettuce and my favourite, real strawberry.

Tomorrow morning I am going to try to get Davy to drive me and a bunch of packs to the Anderson’s house. Slack packing for some others to payforward what Squatch did for me. I’ll then get hiking and pull a few 25s to catch up with Vortex and Blue Sky. I say I’ll try Davy because though he has agreed to it Monty also agreed to do it, and was even starting to collect gas money from the people the I was trying to help by taking their packs forward. Hmmm :-/
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Aqua Dulce to Tehachapi

2007-05-23 Slacking it to The Anderson's

Disaster at Hiker Heaven: Water Shortage! During some late night revelry one poor hiker stumbled over a vital part of the sprinkler system, snapped off a valve and created an 8ft geyser in the back yard. The wash of which was very visible in the morning as was the lack of water for the property because they’re on a tank rather than mains, and it was now empty.

Just as I was leaving Squatch and Neighbour-J said goodbye and mentioned they’d see me at the Anderson’s house tonight. Then I had the bright idea that they could take my pack and I’d get a very easy walk with just water and snacks. They agreed and I set off much lighter than all those early birds also hoping to make it 24 miles to Green Valley.

I soon reached Scatman and Wounded Knee’s water cache where they’d left some for me, then caught up with Troll and Oblivious. Troll was having foot trouble so I offered to carry something to lighten his load and I was given 10+ lbs of food. I regretted that pretty quickly but still managed to get it the whole way. I ran into a bunch at lunch time and a few more at the Anderson’s Oasis cache about 7 miles from the end.

From there I walked with Riddle for a while and she set me such puzzles as
     “The maker didn’t want it, the buyer didn’t use it, the user didn’t see it.
     What was it

     “A man lies dead in a field, he’s wearing tights and a rock is nearby.
      What happened?

Answers on a postcard please.

If you’ve got ones along those lines send them in now so I can pass them on.

Vortex caught up surprisingly quickly, he’d been running. Once I finished my apple I joined in too and we took off at quite a pace. By the time we hit the road I’d done 24.2 miles in 9.5 hours including meal breaks. Not marathon speeds but I was in long sleeves, trousers and carrying a heavy sack of food.

I’m at the Anderson’s house now. Casa de Luna they call it and it’s a very casual atmosphere. Big taco salad dinner and then the story of how and why they started trail angeling. I preferred the stories about messing with hikers, like picking up hitchhikers and warning them about “those crazy Andersons” only to park in the driveway and reveal they are the loonies themselves.
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Aqua Dulce to Tehachapi

2007-05-22 The Saufley's

A true Zero Day here at the Saufley’s house. I’m very much settled into the early wake ups now so by 6 am I was in the mobile home thing and frying bacon and eggs. As skinny as I was before starting this adventure I’ve lost weight in the last 33 days and today I found a lot of it again. I planned out how and where to meet Dad in June, posted a bunch of stuff to myself along the trail and bought food for the next week. A very good use of a town day for sure.

Vortex and Blue Sky didn’t have so much luck. They did all that but were also organising a new cellphone to replace the one that was in their bounce box* when they sent it but not when it arrived here, and when they went to get their new hardware the car broke down and Jeff & Donna had to go rescue them. But then some thing great happened. Fester organised a quick whip-round and most of us put in a few bucks to help them out with replacement costs.

The fire is now down to embers and I’m in my sleeping bag really looking forward to getting somewhere tomorrow. I know the herd is right behind me so I want to get moving and across the desert.

*bounce box = a box/bucket/container that you send from one town to the next, adding or removing things you need for each section.
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Wrightwood to Agua Dulce