To get out of the desert you must climb. Leaving Tehachapi at highway 58, the trail climbs for 10 miles up and out of the desert. This is one of the longest, driest stretches of the PCT. Luckily a southbound hiker updated some information on a broken spring saying it had been repaired, making a 37 mile dry stretch only 17 miles. Hard work paid off with the first dense pine forest on the trail as I entered a sliver of the Sequoia National Forest.
Walking on a pine needle covered forest floor, the beautiful Ponderosa Pines butterscotch aroma filled the air. Camping in the woods cleansed the night and gave new excitement to the trail ahead. Water was still sparse but a well flowing spring supplied plenty of it for the next stretch.
Unknowingly the hardest desert section I’ve experienced yet lied just ahead. The first few hours of the morning the trail leads through yet another burn area and eventually spills out back into the arid landscape of exposure and chapparal.
A light cloud cover kept the intense heat at bay for most of this stretch, but the sun eventually prevailed. The highest heat of the trip thus far would test my endurance and will to keep moving. The trail softened into deep sand, increasing the difficulty of moving forward. This last look of Southern California would also give the first look of the high Sierras. Huge granite peaks lingered in the distance beckoning to be reached.
A few more reptilian friends and a rather gorgeous stretch of desert made me fall in love with the desert all over again despite the brutality of this day.
Arriving at Walker Pass, mile 652, I hitched a ride into Lake Isabella for a last resupply before hitting Kennedy Meadows, the gateway to the high Sierras. After a much needed zero I got a chance to resupply and even cool off in a pool.
Days like these make the trip start to feel like a vacation. On the way back out to the trail from a friendly barber, I began to admire the south Sierras more.
This is a beautful part of the country and as I continue north it will continue to grow in beauty. 3 miles an hour is a perfect speed to absorb the land and study the views. It offers time and solitude to really appreciate the world that still exists.
What a journey it has been thus far. Life on the trail is starting to feel like home and normal life now seems unusual. Reports from the trail are cause for extra traction and possibly the use of an ice ax. The storm that came through while I was crossing into green valley had dropped snow over the high Sierra passes. As I sit on the deck at the Kennedy Meadows General Store, beer in hand, I am waiting for an ice ax to arrive as more snow is expected over the next two days. Conditions I was not expecting yet welcoming with open arms. Snow in the Sierras will certainly add to the adventure and beauty of the trip. For now thunder clouds roll in and out over me and the sun shines it’s intense heat from time to time. Many hikers have taken time off the trail and waited for gear but most have moved on as we now wait for our supplies and the arrival of hikers just behind.