The planned early start fell by the wayside quickly; the prospect of a hotel breakfast and the failure to arrange a ride to the trail yesterday combined to delay our departure from Tehachapi until around 8.30am, which meant hiking after 9am. It’s definitely warmer by then, and the temperatures have been rising as predicted. The stretch from mile 566 where we rejoined the trail is dry for 17 miles, meaning that along with the full resupply of food for 6 days we were each carrying a heavy load of water. The short but steep hill in the blazing sunshine resulted in a bit of overexertion, and by mid-morning I was feeling quite ill. I rigged up the umbrella to provide a bit of shade, but the trail wound up the hill in switchbacks and caught the wind in one direction making the umbrella unwieldy. I’d picked up a new hat from the hiker box in Tehachapi which I’d hoped would be more successful than my Magdalen baseball cap which is far too hot to wear whilst hiking. It is pink and floppy and used to belong to Wendybird, and the material is much thinner over the head than my cap. I switched to the hat when it became clear that the umbrella was going to be tricky, but unfortunately found it still too hot for hiking. I think I’m going to have to stick to suncream and sunglasses and hope the breeze does a job in cooling me down. I’m very glad we haven’t had the usual temperatures in this early section of the trail.
My new shoes are holding up well, although they have only minimal cushioning. This means that my feet tire after fewer miles, and I will be very glad to get to Kennedy Meadows to pick up the replacements for the ones that fell apart. My lower legs are getting a tougher workout too, owing to the flatter shoe sole. Hopefully it won’t be a problem; the terrain looks to be relatively easy with gradual climbs and descents and a fair amount of gentle “rollercoaster” flat.
The single water source we were expecting today was Golden Oak Spring. It’s been dubious for part of the year, with leaks significantly reducing the number of hikers it’s been able to supply. The PCTA has been out and done a lot of work on it, so we were hopeful that there would be water, but we had all carried a bit extra just in case we had to manage without it. It’s a further 19 miles to Robin Bird Spring, and we would probably have had to hike at night to make it on the amount of water that we were carrying, given the heat of the day. We arrived at the spring to find a gaggle of hikers filtering water and taking advantage of the shade of the trees. The spring feeds a trough which is used by cows and though it has floaties the water is clear and good once it’s filtered.
I’d hiked the last mile into the spring with Kale, who is having issues with the tendons on the inside of his foot. Almost the opposite problem to mine, which are sore on the outside of my foot. I think the camber of the trail is playing havoc with balance and proprioception. He swears by the zero drop shoes, and had tried Merrells after getting an injury on a previous hike. I’ve been using those, but the same wide toe box and narrow arches are found in the Altras too, so I might look into those. What works for one hiker won’t necessarily work for another, but it’s useful to get others’ opinions. He reached Golden Oaks Spring saying he wanted to do over 30 miles in the day and get to Robin Bird Spring. If he does that, he’ll be so far ahead that I won’t catch him until the next zero day.
After the spring, the trail descended gently through yet another wind farm. It wasn’t nearly as windy as the one before Tehachapi, and the turbines were smaller and more mechanial in appearance. The miles got harder as the day wore on and I was feeling the effects of the heavy pack and the minimalist shoes. The pack is hopefully the heaviest it will be right now. I have one of the biggest food and water carries of the entire trip. The Sierra Nevada will see a 2lb bear canister and a pair of microspikes added, and the food carry will be just as large, but the amount of water I have to carry will be significantly smaller as there is water everywhere in the mountains. I think about the Sierra a lot at the moment. The gateway of Kennedy Meadows is only 100 miles away, and people are reportedly backing up there waiting for the snow to melt. The desert has been wonderful and surprising, particularly the flowers, but as it gets hotter out here I start to find myself tiring of sandy trails and spiny plants. The wind is my saviour at the moment, although it causes problems at night. Most of the time it seems that the strong winds at twilight die down with the sun, but there have been the odd nights when it tears constantly through our campsite. Chug had mentioned this earlier in the day, saying he hoped we could make it out of the wind farm before we camped, but it was not to be. We’re just too tired. We had talked about making it 26 miles today, but we are camping below the wind farm, just the three of us, just a few miles after the water source. It’s not too cold outside, so we could take time over dinner and relax a bit before sleep.
Camping: mile 589