The next section out of Hiker Town is one of the most popular night hike sections of the trail since it is about 20 miles of flat, shadeless, dry, hardtop hiking along the LA aqueduct. But Patch, Hulk, & I decided to take the aqueduct on in the daytime. We set out from Hiker Town in the morning, though not too early, and began our trek across the Mojave Desert.
We started out spaced out as we each took care of our morning tasks at different speeds, but eventually caught back up with each other to traverse the concrete flat road that comprises the PCT in this section. We were able to walk side-by-side, almost like the desert version of the yellow brick road, but less arm linking & more sweating.
To combat the blazing sun, I donned my 50 cent garage sale sunhat/lampshade, Patch put up his silver sun umbrella, and Steve tested out his newest purchase of a long sleeved, hooded, lightweight base layer top, which ended up working perfectly as a sun shirt.
Everyone was in good spirits throughout the day, excited to be taking on the Mojave. A light breeze kept us in a decent temperature range, despite the relentless sun. A few times we managed to hunker down in the shade of the very un-welcoming Joshua Tree bushes to rest, snack, and lunch.
This section of desert was living up to the engrained image of what a desert is supposed to be: dry, sunny, hot, barren, few snakes & lizards. So far on trail, the desert has been very green and lot less sandy than what Aladdin led me to believe. But those Joshua trees are not as soft as they first appear, as Steve quickly found out. Pretty much everything in the desert is out to kill you, including the plants.
Fortunately, of the two snakes we encountered, neither one was a Mojave Green rattlesnake, which evidently carries both types of venom: neuro toxin and hematoxin — aka ya dead if it bites you out here. We also managed to steer clear of scorpions and other hikers, passing only two people at the very beginning and not a single soul again till the next morning.
Our desert pilgrimage ended as we entered into yet another wind farm, which as the name suggests, gave us quite the breezy finale to the sun blasted day. The last 4 miles were fairly difficult for both me & Steve, aggravating various weak spots on our bodies, causing us to hobble our way into camp. We ended our day at Tylerhorse Valley, where we were lulled to sleep by the bubbling creek, hooting owls, chirping bird, restless crickets, and love-song singing frogs.
The next morning was a bit of a lazy morning for me as I slept in a bit more than normal, allowing the boys a head start on the day as I slowly packed up and got on my way. I enjoyed the peaceful morning of listening to podcasts as I climbed the rest of the hill. At the top of the hill awaited a beautiful oasis set up by a local trail angel group where we could sit in actual chairs and enjoy lunch & water with a few other hikers. Our downhill for the afternoon was once again through a wind farm providing a breezy, casual walk as we arrive to the highway crossing to go to Tehachapi.
We were quickly picked up by a local who took that route that morning just to see if any hikers needed a ride, and as destiny would have it, there we were! Monica gave us a ride to town, a tour of town, then after we checked into our hotel, she treated us to Sonic! She even took us to the grocery store to get resupply done since it was several miles from our hotel. The trail provides just what you need when you need it. We were grateful to cross paths with Monica, and though we stink, I think she enjoyed meeting us as well.
The next day was a strategically placed zero day, as the new Avengers movie had just released that week and we were finally in a town with a movie theater. We chose the financially savvy option of going to the matinee on Saturday, along with apparently every 3 year old in town. Armed with giant sodas & candy, we watched the latest installment of the Marvel universe, as I listened to the 3 year olds around me spit out more information about the storyline than I knew. Tears were shed by the children and the adults alike, leaving us to ponder what awaits in the next Marvel movie. Afterwards, we went to investigate the rumor of a holiday barbecue at Wit’s End, which is a generous hiker hang out in Tehachapi. When we arrived, there were already about 20 hikers enjoying the feast provided by the hosts. We ate and socialized for a little while, but retired back to our hotel room to relax and enjoy the rest of our zero day.
After running a few errands in the morning, we caught the bus out of town back to the trailhead. Patch was waiting for a new pack to arrive, so we parted ways with him for the time being. Once back on trail, we met Bean Dip and Moonshine who had just arrived with a hitch from Darwin and Snuggles. The four of us set out on the trail and quickly ran into AAA and Low Key, who were resting in the shade of a bush, which is where we usually tend to find them. We conquered the uphill back out of town, but called it a day shortly after. The next morning was a breezy jaunt through yet another wind farm.
We quickly arrived to a spring for a shaded lunch break, meeting up with Moonshine & Bean Dip, AAA & Low Key, and Sporty Bastard & Star Man. It was nice to have others to chat & joke with, all sharing stories and tales of trail life thus far. We spent the afternoon hiking with Sporty and Star Man, chatting about gear, hiking, and life, while leap-frogging along with the other two duos throughout the afternoon. Our foursome ended up camping at a very nice grassy meadow, while the other two duos joined us for dinner, debated the merits of camping in a lovely grassy area, but ultimately continued up the hill to a further tent site.
After a restless night for Steve, our cozy meadow location easily convinced us to sleep in til the warm sun woke us up around 8am, a couple hours later than our normal start time. We figured it wasn’t too hard of climb ahead of us to the next water source, making it an easy 7 mile trek before lunch. But the previous day’s breezy wind farm environment was apparently long behind us as we began our hike. The stagnant, hot air slowed our progress so we wouldn’t sweat out what little water we had left. The couple of liters of water we had alloted for the morning went significantly faster than what they should have on a normal day. We were getting so thirsty, we could smell water as we crested one hill, but narry a source was found.
We were pushing our limits in this relentless heat, on the brink of heat exhaustion & dehydration, when Steve noticed a cabin with a water tank in the yard. We checked to see if anyone was home, but the place look very seasonal, having no signs of a habitation for many, many months. He checked the water tank to see if we would get any relief from our toils and the sweet sound of water flowing brought hope on the day. We had a few miles left until our intended water source, so we only took a liter each to get us through our first lunch and the climb up the hill. Had we not found this water source, we really aren’t sure what would have happened for us that day. The heat of the desert had increased significantly compared to the previous weeks and the stagnant air allowed no room for no cooling off our overheating bodies.
After a good break in the shade of the pine tree, we continued to our water source for second lunch, arriving at 3pm, having a much slower morning than hoped. There we washed our socks and underwear (finding a complementary tapeworm on my underwear as I hung them out, yuck!) and filtered 6 liters of water to help our bodies rehydrate. The number of miles hiked wasn’t high, the conditions of the morning wore on us tremendously. Though we were really tired at this point, we had to do a certain amount of miles to ensure our food supply lasted to the next resupply point.
After a very good restful break & second lunch, we continued down the trail, finding a side route option which took us passed some unique structures and places we wouldn’t have seen on the regular path. Our afternoon and evening progressed slowly and steadily, stopping again only for dinner, before knocking out the last 3 miles to our campsite.
Our post-dinner hike was complimented with a pink sunset & coyote leading us down trail for a stint. We arrived at our campsite after dark, working quickly to set up camp, though we were tired, sore, and a little shook up about our current water situation. Today was a close call, on the brink of potential disaster with our water rationing. We were currently on the longest stretch of trail with no natural water source: 42 miles. We quickly fell asleep to recover before seeing what the next few days would bring.