I wouldn’t want to be a trail maintainer in this part of the PCT. It has to be a tough job keeping the trail in a safe, walkable condition.
Around here, maintainers aren't just combatting extreme weather and wear-and-tear. They’re also in a constant fight against encroachment by off-road vehicles.
Many dirt roads criss-cross this part of the desert. Some of the roads may be relics of gold mining days. Others might have been constructed to aid in firefighting. It’s obvious, though, that owners of Jeeps, dune buggies, ATVs, dirt bikes, and such have been using them for joy-riding.
|Date||Sunday, May 12, 2019|
|Weather||Clear skies in the morning before becoming partly cloudy; high temperature near 80|
|Trail Conditions||Long descent, followed by a longer climb, then minor ups and downs |
That activity is not something I’m interested in doing and I have a quarrel with how it can be abusive to the environment. Nevertheless, it is legal here.
That is, it’s legal when it’s done within the boundaries of designated off-road vehicle areas and limited to existing roads. Unfortunately, there have been many drivers who have abused their privilege and have driven on the PCT.
Signs posted to warn the trail is intended only for foot travel and horses have not been sufficient to keep vehicles off the trail. At many road crossings, maintainers have had to erect elaborate barriers capable of withstanding attempts to enter the trail in a vehicle.
I’ve already passed through dozens of these, and there were many more today. Regretfully, more barriers are needed, such as in the section of trail approaching Tehachapi.
The day started out clear and bright. It was warming quickly as we prepared to leave.
Just Awesome walked past us before we were ready to go. He didn’t see us because we were camped in a spot tucked a couple hundred yards off the trail.
Falls and Spamala left about the same time I did, but they soon left me behind when I stopped to text a “Happy Mother’s Day” message to Kim.
The trail was easy, with a long flat stretch before beginning a gradual descent.
The trail was heading into a valley. Despite a slight haze, I could see this was going to be a wide-open section of trail.
Beyond the broad valley that was dotted in Joshua trees and sagebrush lay the Scodie Mountains.
Walker Pass was on the north side of this mountain range. Some people consider this the start of the trail into the Sierra.
We planned to get off trail there tomorrow and hitchhike into the town of Ridgecrest.
At the bottom of the valley was Bird Spring Pass, where I found another well-stocked water cache. I was grateful to be able to refill my water bottles here because I knew there wouldn’t be another reliable water source near the trail until I reached camp tonight.
Leaving the pass, the trail began a climb of about 1,500 feet in a little more than three miles. This section was exposed the entire way and by now, 11:30 a.m., the day was becoming much warmer.
After reaching the top I stopped for lunch. Captain and Gilligan arrived just after I finished.
The trail dropped about 500 feet of what had been gained in the last climb, then began a long section of ups and downs. Along the way, I was able to again see the southern end of the Sierra, with snow-capped mountains clearly in view.
A few clouds began to form during the afternoon. At one point I heard a rumble of thunder, but no rain fell.
A western fence lizard appeared to be enjoying the warm sun. This species is easy to identify because of its distinctly blue abdomen. In fact, it’s sometimes called a blue-belly.
A study published in 2006 has shown that Lyme disease is uncommon where western fence lizards live. That’s because the ticks that live in the same area feed on the lizards’ blood. A protein in the blood kills bacteria a tick would normally carry, which causes Lyme disease.
After about 16 miles of long and short ups and downs, the trail began to level out. Except now it followed a bumpy dirt road with many large puddles of muddy water. It was well worn by a lot of 4x4 vehicle use.
Some puddles were so large they stretched the full width of the trail and were difficult to walk around. Fortunately, they weren't our water source for the evening.
Two miles farther was a stream, where I was able to easily collect water for tonight and what I would need to reach Walker Pass.
Our campsite was a spot called McIver’s Cabin. The cabin was mostly boarded up. Though it would be possible to sleep inside, it was uninviting and no one did.
Off-road enthusiasts also camp here, though I only saw thru-hikers when I arrived. There were several scattered around the cabin.
The cabin was originally erected during the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and was move here in 1938 by a miner name Murdo George McIver.
Captain, Gilligan, Falls, Just Awesome, Ringmaster and Spamala were already here when I arrived. MJ arrived a short time later, but there was no sign of Rainbow Sherbet.
Later we learned from another hiker that Sherbet had stopped about five miles back. We were a little worried about her, but we also knew tomorrow would be just what she and all of us needed.
It would be a short day of hiking, with time for resupply and relaxing in Ridgecrest.