Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Solid Miles to Lake Isabella

May 28th & 29th
Days 58 & 59
Miles These Days: 25.4, 24.5

We got up early Monday morning and were the first ones out of camp at 6am. It was chilly, but as soon as we started hiking we were incredibly comfortable. The first 6 miles was a breeze as it was all pretty much a gradual downhill and we were still in the pines.

Some shots Tailgate liked of PCT markers along the early morning's hike:

We hit Piute Mountain Road where there was a bench so we took our morning break and saw this large guy wander by:

After watching a couple deer walk by we packed up and prepared to drop back down into the desert. A few of the hikers we camped with the night before had told us to enjoy the forest because it would soon end...they weren't lying.

We got a good idea of what we would be hiking through to highway 178 once we hit Kelso Valley Road. Luckily though, there was a great water cache at Kelso Valley that allowed us to take a break and make sure we were good and hydrated before heading off into the next stretch of desert. We drank as much as we could and topped off with a little more water because we knew we would more than likely be dry camping (which we did).

The rest of the day was pretty mellow, with a pretty easy grade of trail, but we are definitely ready to be in the Sierras and out of the desert.

We had a good day and camped at PCT mile 627.5 along the top of a ridge. With the view of the stars we had this night we can definitely understand why the nearby canyon on the maps is named Bright Star Canyon.


We woke up VERY early this morning knowing that we had to be in Lake Isabella by 4pm when the post office closed. We were hiking by 5am and knew we would be lucky to make it the 24.5 miles in time. Luckily we had met a section hiker who offered us a ride into town so we knew we had a chance to make it.

We made it the 4 miles to a water cache at Bird Spring Pass and filled up for the 13 miles to the next water. It was early though and not wanting to take too much water from the cache, we both only left with 2 liters each. From there we started our biggest climb of the last few days, (roughly 1500ft in about 3.5 miles) but Twist led the way and we charged right up.

From just shy of 7,000ft, the trail hung pretty high the rest of the day and wove in and out of the hills. We stopped off for the last water until the highway at McIvers Spring. We double treated the water from this source because of all the reports in Yogi's book of mistreatment of this water source (fingers crossed neither of us get sick in this section).

A couple miles after our lunch break at the Spring we got a visit from our 12th Rattler of the trip. Just before beginning our descent down to the highway, Twist got the warning from a trail side shrub. I skirted around the other side of the trail. It hadn't really occurred to us, but until this one, we hadn't seen a single snake since entering the Mojave until now.

We hiked hard to get to the highway and were in our section hiking friend, Dave's, car by 3:30pm. Unfortunately, we didn't make the post office before closing....SO we are now at the Lake Isabella Motel where we will be staying the night. We will get our package in the morning and hitch back to the trail where we will head into section G and on to Kennedy Meadows.

Having the best milkshake of my life at Nelda's in Lake Isabella.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Unexpected Trail Magic at 600

May 27th, 2012
Day 57
Today's Miles: 18.8

Sunday morning we woke up and got going about 7am. We had a decent mileage day in mind, just looking to get to the next water (Robin Bird Spring) 18.8 miles away so as not to push my shin injury too hard. We got off to a quick start and had 7 miles done before we knew it while hiking under more windmills.

We spent the whole day leapfrogging hikers as we took many breaks to stop and enjoy the forest we were hiking in.

We briefly interrupted the lunch of these cows.

We were poking along at a relaxed pace when we came upon Cosmo who looked a little flustered at Hamp Williams Pass. Apparently Cosmo had been taking a nap near a log just to the side of the trail when he woke up to find a Black Bear just inches away. He said the bear spooked as soon as he woke up and took off up the trail, but this having happened maybe 5 minutes before we showed up; his adrenaline was still pumping.

After hearing Cosmo's story we headed up the trail in the direction the bear taken off with a trekking pole in one hand and a camera in the other. But with no sighting in the next mile or so, we settled back into a good pace with mile 600 just minutes away. would have to wait a bit longer.

We were just a half mile short of the 600 mark and walking on a dirt road when suddenly a truck pulling a trailer came around the corner. The two guys inside said if we were interested they and their families had a cabin just a quarter mile down from where the trail joined the dirt road we were on, and we were more than welcome to come have a bite to eat. Not wanting to turn down free calories, we jumped right in the trailer and they gave us a bumpy ride to their cabin.

YouTube Video

After a couple roast beef and turkey sandwiches and some watermelon, we started back up the road and soon hit the 600 mile mark.

Unfortunately, there was no marker so Twist and I quickly made this one.

We hit Robin Bird Spring and set up camp along with 7 other hikers...who were all slightly jealous of the sandwiches we had packed along for dinner.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Return of The Wind

May 26th, 2012
Day 56
Today's Miles: 16.8

After watching the bad weather pretty much pass by the night before, we woke up Saturday morning ready to finally hit the trail again. We had a bit of a climb to start the day but the clouds were broken up and all that remained of the weather was the wind.... a lot of wind.

YouTube Video

The wind hit pretty hard until we got up and off the exposed mountainside. Luckily though, once we neared the top of the mountain we were basically sheltered from the wind the rest of the day by either trees or walking along the calm side of the mountains.

After such a long time off the trail in Tehachapi we knew once we got back on we would meet a whole new group of hikers. This turned out to be the truth. In just our first day back on we met: Nightingale, Bird and Free Bird (who we had actually met before), Cool Ranch, Capitan, John Wayne, Stride, Camshaft, Cosmo, Day Man, Little Bear, Super Girl, Pea-trap, Opus and Jared. There may have been more, but it was more hikers in one day than we have met yet on the trail.

Upon meeting everyone we camped at Golden Oaks Spring along with several other hikers and went to sleep anticipating what it would be like hiking with so many others in the coming days.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

May 24th & 25th
Days 54 & 55
Miles These Days: 8, 0

Thursday the 24th we woke up, and after a quick visit to Lisa's second grade classroom we were back on the trail from Tehachapi Willow Springs Road. Immediately we were walking through another wind farm. The wind was strong but after the first few miles the trail tended to wind around the sheltered side of the hills so we were able to stroll right along and enjoy the views of the surrounding desert.

As we reached the end of the wind farm we could see highway 58 and started our descent down.

Joshua Trees

We hit the road below and walked the short distance to the highway.

There we stopped and enjoyed a break between the highway and the train tracks. During one of our off days in Tehachapi we stashed some water next to the highway in hopes it would help other hikers. After hiking through, it appears there are a few small caches in this area which is a huge help in such a dry section.

You can see the water we stashed down the hill from twist.

After doing the 8 miles through the windmills to highway 58 my shin was starting to give me quite a bit of pain. So, with my leg not feeling right and a storm on the way to the Southern Sierras and Tehachapi Mountains, we called in and decided to stay another day with family to rest and let the storm pass.

While we were waiting for our ride back into town to show up, we enjoyed a snack and watched the trains chug by.

YouTube Video

YouTube Video

Shortly after the flurry of military vehicles went by, Twist glanced up the hills from where we had hiked down and noticed three jets weaving in and out of the hills. Before we knew it, and before I could get the camera out, the jets were SCREAMING past us just over the train tracks and not but a few feet above the telephone poles! After our personal air show our ride showed up and we went back into town.

We spent the next day pretty much watching the rain (and some snow) pass by while I kept off my leg in hopes that a little more rest would do more good than bad. However, we knew that from here on out I would just have to manage the pain along with the injury because we couldn't afford anymore time.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rest In The Desert

May 20th - 23rd
Days 50 - 53
Miles These Days: 0

A big part of us leaving early for this trip was to be able to spend time with our friends and family along the way.  Tehachapi was one of those intended stops....and it came at what seemed to be a perfect time.  Not only did we need to take some time to replace some broken gear and/or switch out some items and cut wieght, but I (Tailgate) pretty much limped to Willow Springs Road on the 19th.  A couple days prior, we were hiking on the aqueduct and I felt a sharp pain in my lower left leg.  Luckily it was shortly before we stopped for the night and I didn't hike much more on it that day.  However, the pain only seemed to get worse in the following days and by the time my Step-Sister Lisa picked us up, I was in quite a bit of pain.  I think it's a case of shin splints, and by the time we were back at their house, my leg was pretty swollen.  SO, this stop came just at the right time for us!

Since we've been here, we have been able to do our laundry, rest and have done some SERIOUS thinking about what we have been carrying.  We've come to realize that starting out anyone could have told us we were carrying X, Y and Z that we didn't need it and we would have just smiled and kept on carrying it.  But 500+ miles has made us go over our packs time and time again while here; thinking about every ounce we are carrying and if we really need it or not.  Now, we know our packs will change even more in the near future, but we are pretty happy with the changes we have made while here.

Twist has sent home almost half of our medical kit, our camera (we are now exclusively using the iPhone), and we have decided that due to lack of use to send home our HAM radio.  The times we did use it we really enjoyed it.  Unfortunately though, it has just not justified the weight. We definently will be using out HAM radio on future trips.

I ended up making more changes as well.  I switched to a much more basic (and lighter) pocket knife, sent home our Katadyn Hiker Pro water filter in order to switch to Aquamira drops, and switched out our old GPS with a newer, very slightly, lighter version due to the fact our previous one's reciever went out.

Another change we both decided to make was in regard to our socks.  I myself in particular have had a heck of a time trying to get more than a couple days max out of a pair of socks withought putting a hole in them, and per a couple recommendations from other hikers we have decided to try out Vermont Darn Tough Socks.  They come with a lifetime guarantee and if I get a hole in a pair of them I can exchange them for a brand new pair no questions asked.  Sounded pretty good to us, so we will see how they work out.  We made many more changes than this but they were too many to list.  Along with our time spent on gear, Twist focused on backing up all of our pictures from the trip thus far and has uploaded them onto our Picasa site which you can view HERE.

We have been shown so much hospitality while here that we can't thank David, Lisa and their daughters Ashley and Cressa enough!  We've been given a place to sleep, been fed and have been able to take a car whenever we've needed to, they have truly been trail angels for us.  Thank you guys!

Of course, along with all the SERIOUS hiking business there is always time to play on a zero day.  One of the days here, we took a couple hours and rode quads over to a local winery where we tasted wine right next to Mickey Jones!  Now some of you might not recognize the name, but he had a re-occuring role on one of Twist and I's all time favorite shows "Home Improvement".  He was one of the construction workers who appeared on Tim Allen's character's show "Tool Time".  It may seem small, but for us it was pretty cool.

Lisa (above) and I getting ready to head over to the winery. 

And NO hiker's zero day (or a couple zeros in this case) would be complete withought food.  We ate plenty during our stay, but we did our best to represent the hiker hunger at the local Chinese buffet.

Thank you David and Lisa!

Tomorrow we are heading out (wether my leg is ready or not) and should be in Kennedy Meadows by the 1st or 2nd of June after a quick in-and-out resupply in Lake Isabella.


Into Tehachapi

May 19th, 2012
Day 49
Today's Miles: 16.8

We woke up early this morning after an off and on windy night.  Nothing like the day before, but we got some good gusts in the canyon we were camped in.  We woke up and got hiking about 5:30am with Bone Lady in front of us while Swiss Cheese and Bucket were shortly behind.  The first few miles we got a great view overlooking the wind farm we hiked right through yesterday as the sun began to come up.

 Looking back East toward the Mojave.

We climbed down into a deep canyon about 3 miles into the day and got a view straight accross of our 4.5 mile climb up the other side.  Unfortunately, we didn't get a good picture of it but the switchbacks looked awesome from the South side of the canyon.  On the way up we passed a hiker we hadn't met before named "A Squared".  He had aparently hiked South from Highway 58 to Hiker Town and decided he like the desert so much he turned around and was hiking back from where he came.  About half a mile from the top of the 2,000ft climb, we came accross a cache that had been left for hikers and took a break there.  Shortly after, we started to drop over the other side of the mountains we had just climbed and found ourselves in a burn area.  We even saw a little Poodle Dog Bush, but mostly just burnt Oaks and more windmills.

As we hiked on, we couldn't help but think of how beautiful the area we were walking through must have been before the fire that had come through the area.  It was nice and flat in many areas and with the trees that used to be there would have made for great camping...but today we passed right through.  We climbed lower and lower into another wind farm before hitting Tehachapi Willow Springs Road where my Step-Sister Lisa was waiting to pick us up for our stay just outside of town.

We met up with Lisa and headed back to her and her husband's (David) home where we quickly showered and were handed cold drinks before were were even able to put our packs away.  We are looking forward to taking a couple days to handle a few gear issues we've had in the last few days as well as to visit with more family along the way.


A Very Blustery Day

May 18, 2012
Day 48
Miles: 14.8

I grew up watching Winne the Pooh and all I could think about today was the "blustery day" episode. It was so windy! I was up a lot of the night because of the howling wind, but we set out this morning and enjoyed another beautiful desert sunrise.

About this time we figured we were in for a very blustery day!

Tailgate braving the wind.

I guess the hundreds of windmills are a clue of how windy it is around here. We made it to a faucet next to a bridge over a dry creek bed and hid from the wind for a little break. The faucet was turned on surprisingly, but we hear that it has already been shut off again.

We had a six mile climb to get to the next water source and MAN it was a long six miles. We were fighting the wind the entire time. The wind was blowing around 40-50 mph sustained with gusts up to 60-70. It was absolutely insane. I was leaning all of my body and pack weight into the wind and I was still struggling to stay upright.

Here I am "being a windmill". I think the wind was getting to my head.

The lovely scenery...

We arrived at Tylerhorse Canyon around mid-day and decided to camp there since that was the only water until we hit Tehachapi.  We enjoyed an afternoon nap. However, we woke up to a camp invasion! We jumped out of the tent to protect ourselves from the invaders.

There were about 5 cows that meandered up the creak. They were keeping an eye on us, but didn't seem too interested.

This evening Bone Lady, Bucket, and Swiss Cheese showed up to camp. They had been beaten up by the wind as well and were anxious to set up some shelter for the night. We all cooked some dinner and hit the sack.

We have a short day into Tehachapi tomorrow. Hopefully we won't wake up to a big cow tongue licking our tent tonight.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hiker Town

May 17, 2012
Day 47
Miles: 22.3

We woke up today at Bear camp near PCT mile 504.5 and quickly packed up. Carrot was the first one out of camp, but we left soon after and were on the trail just after 6:30am. Our hiking through oak forests continued during the morning giving us some really dramatic light displays as the sun made its way up.

Soon, we got our first real glimpses of where we would be entering the Mojave.

We lowered down closer and closer to the desert floor and hit it just before a little place called Hiker Town.

We arrived in Hiker Town just before noon and were surprised to find we were the only ones there. We decided not to stay the night, but to rest and wait until around 5pm before heading out again. Hiker Town was great! Shortly after we got there, Carrot showed up. We ate and filled up with water as much as possible.

A little while later, Bucket hiked in. He was followed by Bone Lady and Swiss Cheese.

(L to R): Bucket, Bone Lady's feet, Carrot, Swiss Cheese and Me.

Even the dogs at Hiker Town were Hiker Friendly.

The entrance to Hiker Town.

We packed up and started to leave at about 5:30pm when we were ambushed...

Twist never could resist a puppy.

On out way out the front gate Frank, who we had hung out with in Lake Hughes, came hiking in after a brief hello/goodbye, we were on our way again. We didn't really have a set goal for the night's miles but we knew it would be beneficial to get a jump on this long dry stretch while it was cool out. So with that mentality, we decided to simply hike until we felt like stopping.

For tonight and a decent part of tomorrow morning we are hiking right on the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

The first mile or so was open Aqueduct, but the rest of the way there is no access to water.
If there are two reasons to hike in the desert, the sunrises and sunsets would be at the top of the list.

We made it only about 9 miles before deciding to bed down for the night. Winds are supposed to gust up to 50mph tonight so we found a pretty well sheltered spot just off the Aqueduct and we'll get an early jump on the rest of this waterless stretch in the morning.

- Tailgate