Many of the photos posted in this website were also shared on social media. Through those posts I received many thoughtful, complimentary comments about my photography. I enjoy taking photos and I feel they do a better job of telling the stories of my hikes, but I don’t consider myself a good photographer. And while I appreciate the flattery, I must point out that it is nearly impossible to take bad photos on the PCT. I only need to point my camera in any direction and I'm likely to capture an image of something interesting or beautiful or both.
Starting where we began hiking the day before yesterday, the PCT is 29.4 miles to the northern terminus. In order to hike all of the PCT, which I intend to do, I have to hike those miles twice. I’m not going to complain about repeating those miles, though. This section of the trail has been wonderful. Retracing my steps today and tomorrow only means I get to see the same views from a different perspective.
Rain fell overnight and what must have been a gallon of water seeped into my tent. The water didn’t come from one leak, it came from several. I knew the tent ceiling had a few pinholes, but I didn’t realize until now that the floor had become a sieve. My tent is a Zpacks Duplex, which is made with an ultralight fabric called Dyneema Composite Fabric (formerly called Cuben Fiber). It’s strong but doesn’t hold up well to abrasion and long-term use. It would seem after more than 3,000 miles, I’ve reached the end of my long-term use of this tent. That’s not a good spot to be in when I still have about 1,900 miles to go on this hike.
After sitting and waiting and viewing the online snow gauge at Hart’s Pass countless numbers of times, the day finally came for me to return to the Pacific Crest Trail. My wife Kim and I had flown to Washington, and after visiting family, a few tourist spots in the Seattle area, several breweries and a winery, we spent last night in Winthrop. We met my friend Ralph there, and today he was joining me for much of my hiking over the next 25 days.
Hiking with the Woohoo Crew was a great joy. I wish we could have kept hiking as a group. It’s hard to hold together a group like that, though. By the time we reached Kennedy Meadows, only three of us had hiked every mile. Most of the rest had hiked most of the miles but needed to skip some for a variety of reasons.
A light rain fell through much of the night. The overnight temperature had been chilly, but when the sun came up the temperature continued to drop. There was no need to rush today. We had less than nine miles of trail to hike, plus a couple more miles of road walking. I stayed in my tent and listened to the rain. When it seemed to stop at 7 a.m., I began packing and preparing for my last day in the desert.
When I mapped out a hiking plan from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows, there were a couple of question marks for today’s part of the plan. I was unsure how far we would want to walk because I knew Gilligan was having trouble with her feet. I also knew camping opportunities were limited. According to the information I found in trail guides, the terrain ahead was exposed and there were only a small number of tent sites with sufficient room to pitch all of our tents. “Might be possible to go farther, though, due to lighter food load,” I added to my notes for today’s leg of the plan. Now that Gilligan and Captain were not hiking with us, it seemed more likely we’d want to take the farther option.
I was anxious this morning to get back on the trail. Today was the start of the last section I would hike in the desert. It's often difficult to leave town after a resupply stop and this day was no exception.
Today was the last nero day of the desert. We were going into the town of Ridgecrest, where we could resupply for our last section to Kennedy Meadows. How we would get there was still up in the air before we began hiking, but we had options. We could hitchhike, call a shuttle driver, or catch a bus.
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.
Day 49, Tentsite at Mile 604.4 to Abandoned Mine Site
Nothin' to worry ‘bout but the worries that you make up yourself
Once again I was the first to leave camp, which has been out of character for me. I normally take my time in the morning and don’t worry about leaving by a specific time. Ever since we left Tehachapi, though, I’ve been intentional about the time I get up and get out of camp. I’m sure my self-imposed deadline for getting to Kennedy Meadows has something to do with this. I won’t say I worry about getting there on time, but I definitely focus on it. I’ve been counting down the miles and the days.
Day 48, Tentsite at Mile 587.3 to Tentsite at Mile 604.4
We shall walk and talk in gardens all misty and wet with rain
The rain that began to fall last night before midnight ended around 3 a.m. I know this because I kept waking up throughout the night. When you’re sleeping in a tent with paper-thin walls, you know immediately when the weather changes. Rain began to fall again at 5:45 a.m.
Once I finally made my decision to go home after reaching Kennedy Meadows, I felt some relief from the uncertainty I had been feeling. Still, I wasn’t feeling entirely resolved. My decision meant I was choosing to separate from the Woohoo Crew. That is, I would be leaving my tramily unless I could convince them to join me again when I began hiking south from the Canadian border.
Day 46, Tehachapi to Tentsite at Mile 572.9
And I been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonapah
I shared my hiking plan with the rest of the tramily and they were on board to follow it. The plan I put together was needed to help me figure out how to go home, but it gave all of us some helpful information. Because of the plan, we knew we needed five days of meals before our next resupply opportunity. More critically, we now knew that once we left Tehachapi we’d have 24.8 waterless miles ahead of us.
My two days in Tehachapi felt as if I were moving backward. It shouldn’t have felt that way. I was moving fast and I was getting chores done. There was a lot to do during this double zero. Maybe it only felt as though I was moving backward because I wasn’t on the trail. Then again, what I did were things I didn’t want to do. I saw a doctor and I made plans for going home.