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PCT 2015 Day 33: A Preparatory Nearo

  • Start: 558.5
  • End: 566.5
  • Miles: 8.0
  • Camp: Tehachapi Best Western

We had been intending to zero in Tehachapi originally, but it occurred to us that there are two roads which cross the trail, both of which lead to Tehachapi. We had left the trail at mile 558, Willow Springs Road, whilst Highway 58 crosses at 566. We decided to slackpack those 8 miles today. Slackpacking is a rare luxury: hiking without a full pack because you can leave things with people or in town. I hiked with no trekking poles and no pack, just a single strap bag with some water and snacks and the wallet/cellphone I’d need at the market afterwards. 

We met Kale coming down the hill as we were climbing up. He had had the same idea, but had gone northbound whilst we had chosen southbound due to the ease of getting a ride at mile 558 vs 566. He was running down the hill when we saw him, and we stopped to get the info on the section we were about to enter. We left looking forward to easy terrain and a lot less wind than yesterday. 

I couldn’t help running for the middle miles either. The trail was easy, I felt wonderfully light, and my shoes were a big improvement on the old ones that had fallen apart. It was gloriously sunny but not too hot, the breeze was light and the wind farm kept away the bugs. We only saw a single rattlesnake first thing, and nothing bothered us for the rest of the hike. We saw so many northbounders hiking out with full packs and felt our decision to get some miles in on a planned zero was wise. There is a very tough carry out of Tehachapi: 6-7 days of food and 44 miles of water, so cutting down the dry section is helpful. However the people that left today might avoid the rising temperatures which are forecast for this week. We should be ok, but it will be warmer than it has been so far on trail, I think.

We arrived at Willow Springs Road just as a group of runners was about to head into the hills. We asked about the possibility of a ride, and then stopped to shoot the breeze for a while. The most chatty of them signs the trail registers as Running Deer so we shall look out for him as we head down the trail. He coaches high school kids in track and cross country and covers a fairly extensive section of the trail. I think it must be pretty nice to have all this on your doorstep and be able to take off into the hills at a moment’s notice. He had lots of advice on taking care of our minds as well as bodies; exercise all you like but stop and listen to the music of the mountains occasionally. He’s right, of course. There is so much more to hiking than just the physicality. We’re all out here for different reasons, but we can all appreciate the open skies or the birdsong or the wind on our faces. We said goodbye as our ride appeared, eager to get into town to resupply but happy that we’d been out in the sunshine for a leisurely morning.

Resupplying is getting easier now. There are certain things we know we like eating, and we re-up on those straight away. We also know what we can no longer stand the sight of (salami for me) and seek out alternatives (tuna packets and summer sausage). We know roughly what a day’s food looks like, although we often make it into town with food left when we get unexpected trail magic, which we need to think about in future. We can’t look at food thinking “this is too much food” because it clearly isn’t enough food. But that is the mindset. I guess it’s because we have to carry it and it is heavy. The thought needs to be “I’m going to try to eat all this food”. I’ll have a go, this next section.

We’d waited until after the hike to do laundry, but found that the single washer and dryer in the Best Western were overwhelmed by the volume of hikers and families visiting. It made me more sociable than I had planned, each trip to the laundry to check the status of the machines brought me into contact with new groups arriving. Tater and Darko arrived having picked up 6-2 and Iron Husk on their travels. Purple Princess and Dunzo had also arrived during the afternoon. It’s the same faces for the most part, the ones that I think of as in our “bubble” of hikers. This impression was further strengthened in the evening when the only place in town serving food after 7:30pm (the pizza place) was filled with the same faces once again, along with Sinatra, Innuendo and Steady Eddie, and Kale. It’s kind of strange given how remote a lot of the trail is.

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