Day 42 Tyler Horse Canyon to Tehachapi – 27 km

I read in a book recently that Pacific Islanders who navigated the oceans for millennia prior to technology used a combination of indications from their environment to tell them exactly where they were in that exact moment. One skill was the use of constellations in the night sky. 12 pass over as the earth moves from light to dark, and by keeping these constellations overhead the navigators could stay headed toward their desired location. 

Last night as we slept out under the sky, the beeeze blowing down Tyler Horse Canyon and onto our exposed heads I wondered about those constellations passing over us too, in our modern world. So much has changed for humans, yet so much of the natural world remains the same. The alarm sounded at 3 am and we rose, packed away our things, had some of Perks freshly brewed areopress coffee and began our day. 

There is something beautifully calming about walking in the dark of the early morning. We hadn’t seen the moon yet but as we walked up the trail and rounded a corner there she was. Bright and glowing a sweet yellow. I kept looking up to her, and in doing so would not only shine my light up to the night sky dimming its potency, and also lose my footing. We walking closely and intermittently chatted. The moon ducked in and out of the ranges and we rounded them. We had 5 kms of undulating trail, it wove down into small canyons and headed up along sandy slopes. 

In the dark we came upon the trail register, we sighed it, and straight away the trail headed steeply down along a very sandy and at times vanishing track. As light began to allow us to make out the shapes of the ranges beside us and the trail before us we began our climb. This climb had been looming over our heads for the last few days. On the elevation map it looked like the biggest we had in a while, but it wasn’t too bad. Something in the atmosphere shifts with the sunrise and the earth cools. By luck we had begun to climb around 5 am and by 5.30 am when we stopped for breakfast it was cool and made climbing easy. 

Our breakfast spot was perfection. We could see the trail cresting a range and behind it the orange sky cast silloutess across the landscape. We nestled down looking out over a vista of the wind farm, desert floor, ancient foot hills and in the far distance the ranges we had walked over a few days previously and snow capped mountains from many miles ago. The sky was pink and mouve to our right in and a deep orange to the left. We felt very lucky and also proud of ourselves to be here. We were tired and ready to get into Tehachapi. 

After breakfast we climbed and climbed. It was steady and not too hard. By 7.30 the sun was out and shining. As I (meg) came over the last push of the climb and rounded the corner trail magic appeared like a mirage uphead. I walked into the setting, behind a fallen trunk of an old burnt pine were a cluster of some chairs, a couple of familiar hikers and two trail angels. A small bar had been built into amongst some fallen trees and shrub. It was decorated with old teapots, and adornered in water, fresh baked brownies, juice and a lovely trail register. I walked in and say “hey mate” to a fellow hiker, and the trail angel looked at me for a second and asked “mental snakes?”. “Yes”, says I “how did you know?” 

“I’ve been following your blog and recognised you from the photos”. It was a lovely moment and Robert, the trail angel soon after asked where the other two were. I told him they weren’t far behind. He introduced me to his wife Patty and soon after Harriet rounded the hills, triumphantly raising her poles in the air to celebrate the end of the climb and the unexpected trail magic.

 Eventually we all were sitting round chatting and learning about Robert and Patty’s experience with the trail and their lives up here in the desert hills. They bought their place in the 70s, it sadly burnt years back in a fire and they have since rebuilt their house and also planted a garden full of veggies and fruits. They begun giving thirsty hikers a lift into the town and more recently begun helping Roberts brother with the mile 549 trail magic station. Every morning they drop off a fresh pot of coffee, sometimes they bring hot food, and there is always a supply of drinks and snacks. They had lots of local knowledge and a very strong connection to their region and its history. Robert told us that in the winter the indigenous peoples of this area would shelter on the desert floor and foot hills, away from the snow and winds. In the spring they would climb up and over these ranges to summer Meadows and running creeks. He said that Tehachapi meant hard climb in the native dialect. By 8.15 we had packs on and waved goodbye. 

As I walked out of the resting spot a wave of exhaustion hit me, I carried it till the road 15 kms away. As a result this part of the trail is a bit blurry and tainted. We moved out of the burnt hills and into another wind farm. The track kept high instead of heading to the flats below, and we zig zagged out way slowly down the valley. I kept having moments of frustration that the road wasn’t coming quickly enough. I was done with wind turbines and creeping heat. At last I spotted Perk signing the trail register and knew we had come to our final destination. I signed the book and fell into some shade under an old oak and waited for the girls to arrive. During this time I ate all my snacks and called the Best Western, our sleeping place for tonight. 

We headed to the road and quickly hitched rides into town. The couple who gave Perk and i a lift told me that Tehachapi actually means four seasons, as you can never predict the weather. They said that only last week the town had been covered in low cloud and that snow had fallen earlier in the year. As I looked out into the blue, cloudness sky I found this hard to imagine. I’m unsure of the ethology of Tehachapi, but from what I have experienced so far it is a low lying town surrounded by Mountains. There doesn’t seem to be a town centre so much as a number of main road leading to areas where there is development. As we walked the pavement to Big Papas for lunch the heat radiated off the ground below. We ate lunch in a booth cooled by the air conditioning and headed back to the hotel for showers, the hot tub and pool and some r n r. I think tonight will be very relaxed as we are all slightly delirious.

Day 41 – Hiker Town to Tyler Horse Canyon – 39kms

We always knew this day would be intense. We had all, especially Layers (now Princess Layer) has been worried about it. We got up at 3am at Hiker Town. None of us had slept very well. We packed up silently, surrounded by cowboy campers and snuck away within 30 minutes. I am feeling very excited about the adventure of walking at night, however this quickly wears off when I realise the length of the day ahead. 

Joshua Trees at Sunrise. 

The first 8km were walked in darkness. We head up a bitumen road that lead us across the desert floor until we reached the open LA aqueduct with the sounds of rushing water. We turned east and head along the aqueduct for a couple of km. The road walking is easy at night and there are large signs painted on the pavement for PCT hikers. The temperature is perfect and there is a slight breeze. We turn off our head torches and gaze at the stars. After a while, (distance and time is difficult to tell at night) we reach an intersection in the water channel. We turn north and walk on top of the aqueduct now covered in a large rust coloured mental pipe and partially submerged.

Enclosed metal pipe aqueduct. 

Bizarre structure in the middle of the Mojave. 

As we walk north the light begins in change. Joshua trees emerge on the horizon and we realise we are surrounded by them. We decide to stop and have breakfast where the pipe ends and our path turns east again. 

The sun rises and we follow the aqueduct which now appears to be fully submerged under a paved road. There are openings every so often where you can hear the sounds of rushing water, which is very bizarre in the dry hot desert. This is the most monotonous part of the day, we break for 40 mins in some shade at 8:30 and keep trekking.

Enclosed aqueduct.

At 9:30 the path diverts from the aqueduct down a dirt road and starts to climb. The weather is heating up and we find ourselves walking in the Manzana Wind Farm Project. At 11am the warmth is nearly excruciating and we reach Cottonwood Creek 27kms, where there is a bridge we can sit under for the heat of the midday sun. 

Manzana Wild Project.

Cottonwood Creek Bridge.

We hang out and doze under the bridge for 6 hours. There is a small Creek running to our surprise, which, according to a Canadian couple, was dry 30 minutes earlier. We think that maybe there is a dam upstream, however later on we are told that when the temperature changes in the mountains, they let out water which would otherwise be subterranean. At 1pm the stream stops flowing and at 5pm we decide it’s ok to walk again and head off for the last 7 miles. 

Manzana Wind Project in all its glory.

About a mile in I realise how exhausted I am. I feel a strange sensation where I can’t feel my body, and it feels slow and weak, but it keeps walking and I take it very slowly. The slow climb out of the desert floor slowly increases to a steep trudge. We climb 600m and look down over the first ridge and I see tents pitched around a small creek. I have never been this happy to reach camp!! It’s 8pm and we set up for our first cowboy camp. We are all emotionally exhausted and mechanically make our way into bed.  

Day 40 – Sawmill Camp to Hikertown, 32kms

Another excellent sleep meant that I (Quiz) was in a wayyyy better mood today! Phew as the trail gives you plenty of time to think and yesterday I could not get over being last, all the time. I was taking every reference to my slowness personally and it was mentally really challenging. But today I have been a happy camper and as such had a happy happy day (thankfully I didn’t have the write the blog yesterday)!

We got up early, as usual, and walked for what felt like forever. We climbed a surprise hill and half way up hit the 500 MILE MARKER!!! Holy fuck, we are monsters! And we only have a monsterous 2160 miles to go! In Australia talk we have walked over 800kms, it’s a long way. We sat and had breakfast and coffee to celebrate/survive and our new friend Perk (short for percolater) gave us real aeropress coffee and now we can’t drink our instant.

Our climb ended in a magical forest, high above the desert, full of filtered green light, leafy trees, grassy meadows and constant bird songs. So beautiful! Especially in contrast to the d-floor below, the badlands, the flat hot planes, hot as hell. We made it 12 miles to the edge of the trees by 10.30, and had our longest break of the day, not wanting to leave. We have been walking with Mikalea for the last 2 days and she is a cool lady but sadly about to skip north, so we said our goodbyes.

The rest of the day was hot and blury and we walked 8 miles with one very short break and no lunch as shade was in very short supply. We weaved along the side of the hills on the edge of the desert floor, they reminded us of big sand dunes. The chaparral is back! Harry tripped on a stump and was unscathed but walked for ages with a charcoal mustachios. 

We were very glad to reach hiker town on the desert floor. It’s a weird place full of portables dresses up like houses from a western. It’s super friendly, has bucket clothes washes and a very scenic outdoor shower, cold water feels great in the hot sun. Plus we were filthy! The local shop owner gave us all a lift to his shop and we ate burgers and deep fried mac n cheese lumps (only in America right!). Layers is worried about the heat tomorrow as we are heading into the Mojave desert, but we have a plan and are leaving at 3am. I’m excited to see Joshua trees on mass. Xxxxxxxxxx Quiz

Day 39 – Casa De Luna to Sawmill Camp – 32 kms

This morning there were two treats: a sleep in till 6 am, and pancakes and coffee for breakfast. I (meg) indulged in one, the sleep in but not the other. I am very much enjoying my morning oats with flaxmeal and raisins. I’m actually a little worried I may run out this leg. 

We were driven to the trail head by Little Steps and unceremoniously left off were we had begun the day before. Perk, a hiker we have met previously is walking with us and it’s nice to have some fresh blood…..

The trail gained elevation steadily away from Green Valley, and it is easy to understand why it has been given this name. Hikers marched like ants up the trail beaconing the uphill grind that was to come. Eventually the trail reached the crest of the hill and meandered down into a new valley. We had decided to meet up at 5 miles in, which we did. We sunscreened and decided to walk another 5 to a small cave for our morning break. Everyone was feeling good and the track was nice going. Unfortunatly as we headed deeper into the valley we entered a burn area. It exposed the trail as it again wove its way up another set of hills. Exposed and hot in the morning sun we passed two small caves and finally arrived at the cave marked on our Guthooks App. It was very small and there was no shade. We pushed our bodies into some shrub and ate our snacks. Perk is carrying hard boiled eggs and he have one to Harriet. Phoebe didn’t stop and continued on ahead to another shadier spot. 

After our break the trail continued to climb and again it crested the hills. Thankfully the burn disappeared and we were returned to lovely old oaks and birch with green lush grass lining the sides of the trail. We now also had a clear view of the Mojave desert floor below. 

Views of Mojave Desert and Solar Farms

Yet, as we have learnt nothing stays the same on this trail and we were once again exposed to the hot sun during the midday. This time however it was due to natural causes. Sandy soil and low chapparrell replaced the wooded hillsides. Sometimes the switchbacks would lead us into a small oasis of trees and shade. Around 1.30 we stopped on the trail in one of these shady havens for some lunch. It was quite comfortable and we lounged until 3 when I got itchy feet and we set off for tonight’s camp. I set out with Perk and Dave at a cracking pace, and then had to stop for the toilet so found myself in the middle of the two walking parties. I put in my headphones and enjoyed the time heading toward camp. The trail headed back into lovely wooded hillsides. This time more green and romantic than before. The trail was lined with a native lettuce you can eat. Along the way I passed Perk who had stopped to take a call. We could still see all the way down into the desert and beyond. Eventually the trail heads off down toward the desert but we doglegged and heard steeply up to our camp. I found Dave wandering around looking for a spot at Sawmill Camp. We choose one with a view and then went. We sat on a huge tree stump   And waited for the others to arrive. Once tents had been erected we walked the gruelling 1 km up to the water source. I strange underground bath covered with a tin shed. There was a Gatorade bottle on a stick which allowed you to fish water out from it. We filtered water and headed back to camp. A fire has been lit, dinner has been eaten. Tonight was cous cous and it was yummy. The sun is setting beautifully in the distance and we have a new bunch of hikers camping with us who we will spend tomorrow hiking to Hiker Town with. The Mojave awaits. 

Day 38 – Non descript dirt road to Casa De Luna – 7km

So many near ‘Zero Days’! Ahhh well, we are literally waiting for snow to melt!

Last night we camped on an old dirt road. Luckily no one drove down it all night. It had been the only free spot amongst the shrubs. In the morning there was a thick mist over everything. I couldn’t even really remember where we had camped. The inside of our tent flys were saturated and even our sleeping bags were moist with condensation.

It was an easy 7km walk down to the road today. We didn’t even eat breakfast because we heard there was a cafe we could hitch to on the road. We are getting in a habit of eating breakfasts in civilisation all of a sudden and I’m not complaining! We hitched a ride with a trail angels called Little Steps. She had done the PCT two years ago and now was helping out at the infamous Casa De Luna in Greenway CA. She dropped us off st the heart and soul cafe for breakfast where we drank lots of filter coffee and chatted to some new hiker pals.

After having a couple of days off we are hiking with a completely new set of faces, lots of Americans and Germans, all lovely folks. We thought we better go check out Casa De Luna because we had heard so many amazing things about it. When we rocked up from the cafe we read a sign above their door saying, ‘hippie daycare’ and thats exactly what I felt like right now!

It was early in the day still so we hung out all the wet stuff in the sun, washed our clothes in buckets, showered in the outside shower and basked with some beers in the heat of the day. Out the back of the house was an intricate grove/maze of manzanita trees. We have been hiking with these trees the whole was and love their red winding branches and pink droplet flowers. We decide that this place is too chill and lovely to leave so we pitch our tents in the Maze and go to the shop for some beers.

There is a large sheet hanging on a wall where we all sign as our trail names and a pile of blank shale rock for us to paint and then place out the back at a location of our choice. I get right in the zone with the painting, finding it relaxing and chatting away to fellow hikers. It has been such a lovely day staying at Terry and Bob Andersons. They are definitely some one of a kind trail angels.

At night we ate taco salad and danced to the boom box on the portch! They also gave us all 2017 PCT trail bandanas which are very special!

Day 36 Acton trail head to Vasquez Rocks picnic ground – 12 kms

We slept on clouds last night. Big soft mattress, the perfect balance of DOF and hard. Pillows of down nurses our heads and  we were encompassed in the dark silence and warmth of any reasonable hotel room. The alarm sounded at 7, we packed our bags, ate some breakfast and went down to meet Dave. He drove us to the post office where we sent a box forward to Kennedy Meadows, including a new pair of walking shoes I (meg) bought for a bargain at REI yesterday. A box has also been sent back to Australia with the old billy and some other replaced items. After being true hikertrash out the front of the post office Dave collected us and we went to the house he grew up in. His aunt, Bonnie lives there. She is a performer and runs plays at her local library. She asked us lots of questions until Danny arrived and we squeezed, packs and all into his car for the ride back to the trail. 

The car ride back was much more enjoyable and quick. We didn’t go through downtown and it wasn’t as hot. In fact it was drizzling and low, grey clouds hung over la. We pulled off onto Mulholland Drive and cruised up it briefly looking for a toilet, and checking out what all the fuss is about. You can see in the Angeles mountains, it’s pretty nice. We got back onto the highway, still no toilet and found a gas station and to my delight a Wholefoods. We went to the toilet, grabbed and snack and piled back into the car. Only it wouldn’t start. After trying to it going Danny gave up and we headed to a food place for lunch in hope that a little break would allow the car to cool off and start again. Luckily, it began and off we went. The trail was only about 40 minutes from here and it’s amazing how quickly it turns from dense suburbia to barren, empty space. 

At 3 pm we finally pulled our heavy packs onto our backs, and laden with 6 days food headed back to our familiar trail. It was raining a little so we put our rain jackets close by. Dave decided to pull on his poncho and when it covered his pack and the guitar he is now carrying it looked as if he had turned into some hunched back trail gnome.

The trail headed up almost straight away. We climbed away from the highway, and where kept cool by the overcast afternoon. My pack was so heavy and I walked slowly burdened by its weight. The trail weaves its way through some hills and toward highway 14. Just before we got the drain that would lead us under Phoebe slipped and rolled her ankle. She was shocked and a bit upset. Luckily though it isn’t too painful and she has a few shallow grazes on her knee.

We walked on to the drain and met Dave who had got well ahead of us. 

We walked through the tunnel enjoying the acoustics and avoiding the slimy green algae in the middle. 

On the other side we decided to walk onto the picnic ground another 2.5 kms as it was getting into the late afternoon and the sky was still threatening rain. 

The trail rounded the corner and our minds were blown. 

Vasquez Rocks are an amazing mass of rocks. Look on Wikipedia they have  a reasonable interesting formation story. Anyway, it’s like walking among a strange valley of rocks from outer space. 

We loved it and also loved the quirky wooden interpretive sign posts which labeled the endemic to the area. A few favs were bladderpoo, our lords candle (yukka), and wild cucumber. We wandered through taking many, many photos.

 As we climbed up out the main section of rocks the sun began to set. The light coming through grey clouds, hitting the pink rocks was a beautiful site. 

We arrived at camp, pitched tents and had Dave serranade us with his voice and guitar while we cooked dinner.

It was a lovely evening and we are now in bed as it’s quite chilly.