Breaking through the clouds

I barely slept last night after escaping the 70mph winds on the ridge top and finding shelter with Robin and Garth. It was so windy that I had to cover my entire head with my sleeping bag, and because I jumped in fully clothed, I had to empty my pockets to sleep comfortably which meant I had my phone charger and cords, maps, wet wipes, Advil, a few loose Jolly Ranchers and my wallet floating around inside my sleeping bag too.

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I woke to a beautiful sunrise and relived the previous night again with Robin and Garth, showing them the videos I took of the experience. I packed up in about 15 minutes and must finally have my systems dialled in because Robin said it was like watching a ‘how to get ready in the morning’ hiker video. They also said they’d never seen anyone get into their sleeping bag faster than I did last night.

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I thought the worst of the wind was over but was bitterly disappointed as soon as I came into a clearing on the top of the mountain and got pounded again. It sucked the life out of me and I stopped to rest a few times, trying to determine if the smart thing was to go on or not. When it started to rain I knew I had to keep moving or I’d freeze.

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It took me about 45 minutes to travel one mile but I was rewarded by the sight of a tent up ahead and found the Swedes (Laptop and Feather) and Lullaby, Travis and Ninja Tank all camped together. They had all experienced the insane winds yesterday but managed to bunker down early enough to stay protected overnight.

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I was thankful to have hiking company but the worst was actually behind us and the 12 miles to the next water source was easy in comparison. The boys chose to rest in the sun so I carried on solo to get to the water so I could enjoy my cup of coffee for the day. Unfortunately on the way I discovered I’d lost my Caldera Cone cup and bowl, the windshield for my stove and my only spork. Thankfully I still had the soda can element and my pot but the windshield I tried to fashion out of stones didn’t work at all well and it took 3 times the fuel to even get close to boiling water!

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I was also sad to discover that after lending my water filter to another hiker who thought he may have broken it, that it is totally inoperable. This means I’m carrying dead weight 135 miles and I’ll have to use the Aqua tabs I’m carrying as a backup. Thankfully Travis has lent me some bleach in case I run out of tabs in this long stretch.

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Travis and I headed out from the lunch stop ahead of the pack and I chewed his ear off having not had a hiking partner for a full day. I never realised how chatty I can be after spending just a day on my own. He let me go ahead either while he took a toilet break or just to rest his ears, so I carried on at a decent pace through a long stretch of burnt out forest until my feet were too sore to continue.

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After some tender love and care they were able to carry me another 3 miles to the campsite I was aiming for, 22 miles from where I stated this morning which given the conditions isn’t so bad. The whole group decided to stop here for the night and we even bumped into Birdman and Cowboy who were camping within earshot of us. I borrowed Travis’ windshield to cook my Top Ramen and his spoon to eat. I really need to sort myself out with a new windshield, bowl, cup and spoon by Kennedy Meadows! It’s an early night for me in bed by 9pm, hopefully I’ll get a better night’s sleep tonight.

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Welcome to the Mojave Desert

Tonight is my first of seven Top Ramen dinners from the Tehachapi Chevron. I’ve literally sat myself in the dirt with Hwy 58 still in view as the amount of water I was carrying became unbearable and the only way to rid myself of weight is to eat!

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I just heard from UB back in Tehachapi that today there was a strong wind advisory, I may start getting into the habit of checking the weather before leaving town. That stretch between Willow Springs Rd and Hwy 58 was mental, no wonder I haven’t seen any other hikers all day!

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Despite the creepy motel I slept incredibly well last night. I woke up around 9am and made coffee and breakfast on my stove on the doorstep of my room, true hiker style.

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I checked myself out of the motel around 1pm as the owner Kim was very blas√© about timing. When I took my heavy pack to reception to wait for Pac Man to pick me up I met Roy who also works at the motel. We had an interesting conversation about how he’s checked out from the world, doesn’t use credit cards, own a phone or receive mail. He also plays in a blues band and put on some of his music while I ate a packet of plain multigrain tortillas for lunch.

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I stopped writing this post earlier after my dinner and am now continuing it having just posted videos from the extraordinary winds I experienced coming up the mountains. The scenery of the desert was utterly stunning and the colours in the sky kept coaxing me to climb higher and higher until I realised how strong the winds actually were. By this stage it was too late and I found myself trapped on a ridge unable to move because the wind was so strong it just kept knocking me over. I texted UB to let him know I was in trouble and then took one last shot at crawling across the ridge in hope of some cover on the other side. Not long after I made it across I stumbled upon Robin and Garth and literally jumped on them and hugged them with relief, spilling out the whole story of my despair while adrenalin was still thumping through my body. I’m sleeping at their feet tonight like a puppy dog, so happy to be snuggled up with other hikers while the wind howls outside my sleeping bag.

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What happens when you don’t check the weather report

No Muk Muk’s were harmed during the filming of the following scenes…

The wind tonight put today’s to shame…

The realisation of my situation…

The final push to escape…

I finally got to my feet and found a couple, Robin and Garth, hidden under some trees 0.3 miles away. I hugged them both with joy and told them I thought I was going to die! Happy to have survived my own stupidity!

The mission to escape Tehatchapi

When a cowboy wearing a brimmed hat driving a truck with a blue heeler, pulls up next to you and says, “do you want a ride? I won’t kill you…”, what else do you do but accept?

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I was walking at least 1-2 miles back to my motel after visiting Auto Zone just before they closed to buy HEET. I had already asked a woman at a nearby petrol station for a ride but was rejected so when Alex came along I was happy to oblige. He laughed when I told him I was staying at the Ranch Motel and told me the place is meant to be haunted. Great!

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I’ve bolted the door after a mission to the local burger joint up the road where I was the only patron alongside two local lads. Where are all the hikers? It was here in my solitude that I decided to get the hell out of this town tomorrow and visited the Chevron station for a full resupply.

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I had hoped to find HEET there but the young guy Chris who served me said to try Home Depot. When I found out how far it was and that his dad worked there I asked if he could check with his dad if they sold it and if he could grab me a bottle and drop it off. Unfortunately they didn’t stock it, otherwise I’m sure he would have delivered.

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Having decided to forego my resupply box and try and have the post office bounce it ahead (along with your package Xy), I set about picking food to last me at least 7 days and 135 miles. Chris thought I was a crazy lady, piling up the counter with food and grabbing anything that was discounted or reduced. I was even so bold as to ask if he would drive me to the trail head tomorrow. He said if he replaces something in his car which enables him to steer by the time I need to go then he’ll do it. Good enough for me. I now have a mountain of ridiculous food to ponder over and reassess for the next section (which happens to be our longest stretch this far on the PCT).

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To hell with Tehachapi

When shitting in the woods and your own filth is more appealing than the hotel room you’re in, you know you’ve picked a doozie! For any hiker out there considering accommodation in Tehachapi, either run for the hills or avoid the Ranch Motel like the plague.

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Not only do they give you the room key before they even consider cleaning up after the person before you, when you do ask for the bed to be made, they tell you they’re busy catching a chicken that got loose in the yard and actually ask you to help them capture it.

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On the up side the woman eventually agreed to do my laundry, gave me a clean towel and some left over soap from another tenant, AND I found a used jumper and T-shirt in the hiker box to wear about this thriving metropolis!

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I’m sitting on the floor of this luxury suite hoping I’m not contracting anything from the un-vacuumed carpet and praying the chicken will soon be captured so I can lay down and put my tired feet up. I did 16 miles today after polishing off 7 last night through some of the windiest terrain we’ve been exposed to so far.

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I ended up camping at a small stream where a few other tents were set up and finally laid out under the stars by 11:30pm. I set the alarm for 4:30am but didn’t even hear it and woke up with the sun just after 5am. I quickly filled up some water and cleaned my pot, bowl and cup before heading up the hills above the wind farms.

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At 8:30am I reached the first water cache and caught up to Pac Man who was just about to set off. I was so relieved that there was water available which meant I could indulge in a cup of coffee!

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It was a windy 9 miles from the water cache to Willow Springs Rd where Pac Man’s wife was waiting to take him into Tehachapi. It was mostly downhill and in sections the wind was so strong we had to run down the hills because our knees were not strong enough to stop the momentum.

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Pac Man’s wife Leanne and his two dogs greeted us and our sore feet at the road around 1pm. I needed to make a decision about accommodation and unfortunately for me I’m stuck in this town until the post office opens on Tuesday after Memorial Day weekend. I’m planning to venture up the road to ‘down town’ Tehachapi to scope out something for dinner and hopefully some kind of grocery store. They weren’t lying when they said this town was spread out. I honestly just want to get the hell out of here!!

The herd moves across the desert

Last night we had a group of close to 30 hikers depart Hiker Town for our Glow in the Dark walk along the aqueduct into the Mojave desert. I commented to UB that I’d never seen such support and excitement for an event during the hike. Hikers are sometimes like racehorses ready to bolt out of their gate, so I was amazed that so many chose to wait until dark so we could all set off into the night together.

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The herd moved together for close to 7 miles before groups started to break off and people chose to set up camp along the way. The beauty of the glow sticks lighting up the long flat stretch of trail could be seen for miles. Every dog in the neighbourhood barked their approval as we wandered by, we must have looked like some large moving rave party!

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We slept of the road right next to the aqueduct. Some hikers reported trucks driving past in the middle of the night but we didn’t hear a thing. We were up at sunrise this morning and made an early departure before the sun rose too high.

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We stopped for breakfast after a few miles and enjoyed scrambled eggs and coffee with our limited amount of HEET fuel after it leaked in my bag when the lid mysteriously came loose. UB has been getting into the habit of simply adding cold water to meals and leaving them in the sun to cook. Seems to be working just fine. His feet are really troubling him and like me has become quite creative in his foot care by strapping a sock to the bottom of his foot with duct tape.

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This was meant to be a 17 mile stretch without water but there were trail angels along the way that left coolers out with water and cold green tea. We met three of the people who left out the first cooler and thanked them for their kindness. There was also another couple up the road in a trailer who left out gallons of water, and we later discovered fed hikers pancakes!

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We worked our way through the wind farms to the official water cache at Cottonwood Creek Bridge. We caught up with Pac Man and the head of the herd before they departed. We then found shade, ate lunch and have snoozed until the temperature is ideal again for hiking this evening around 8pm.

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