PCT Day 51 – Saturday June 3
Tehachapi Willow Spring Road Mile 558.5 to Mile 571
PCT Miles Hiked Today: 12.5
Feet Ascended Today: 2669
Feet Descended Today: 1545
Current Elevation: 5202
We got a ride back to the trailhead at Willow Spring Road this morning from a trail angel at 6:00 am. My pack was probably the heaviest that it’s ever been so far on this trip. I had packed enough food to hike all the way to Kennedy Meadows, which was 150 miles up the trail. I also packed some extra fresh vegetables and fruits and snacks. I was getting tired of my homemade trail mix, so I mixed in some yummy new ingredients (caramel corn, M&Ms). And I packed a LOT of water as I wasn’t sure when we’d hit the next water source.
It was forecast to be hot today and we knew this section wouldn’t have much shade, so we wanted to get an early start. At the trailhead we saw Legend’s mobile home and went over to say hi. This time he was at home. Legend warmly greeted us and invited us to sit down. Soon we were chatting while he made us coffee and tang and pancakes. Legend moves with the “herd” of thru-hikers as they make their way up the PCT, offering trail magic, advice, and friendship.
We had an animated conversation and before we knew it an hour and half had passed. We ended up getting on the trail significantly later than planned, but I didn’t mind the delay. Chatting with Legend was worth it.
The next 8 mile stretch between Willow Spring Road and Highway 58 winds through another large Windfarm. It’s a relatively easy hike from an elevation perspective, but it’s hot and doesn’t offer much shade. When we started hiking around 8:30 am, it was already stifling.
We arrived at Highway 58 around noon, and found some water and cold beer in a cooler on the offramp. Captain Underpants was struggling with the weight of his backpack and decided to head back to Tehachapi to mail ahead some of his food and gear. Sunkist and I decided to find a shady spot and wait out the hottest part of the day while we waited for his return.
Unfortunately, there was no shade anywhere to be found at the intersection of the PCT and Highway 58. Sunkist and I attempted to devise some shade by hanging a rainfly, but we weren’t very successful. The rainfly flapped ineffectually and was more of a nuisance than a help.
Around that time Sea Biscuit and Sizzle arrived. They were heading back to Tehachapi so we decided to join them so we could find some shade. It felt dangerous to stay on the side of the highway in such heat.
Soon we were back at the hotel, crammed into our friends’ air-conditioned room. Ahh! We relaxed all afternoon. After eating dinner at a local burger joint, we were wondering how we would get back to the trailhead when Legend drove up! It was great to see him again and we chatted with him as he drove us back to the trailhead.
Captain Underpants, Sunkist and I hit the trail again around 6:30 pm. The trail followed the freeway for a few miles and then began climbing uphill. Soon it began getting dark, but it was light enough to see without headlamps.
I was tired and drained. We planned to get in some miles that evening, but the hike uphill was brutal and carrying my heavy bag was draining. I wished I would have mailed some of my food ahead too.
We only made it about 4.5 miles that evening when I just couldn’t go any further. I was a little embarrassed to hold our group back from getting in more miles but my body simply shut down. It was really windy and we found a spot under a tree which offered some limited protection. I was too tired to set up my tent and so I cowboy camped, with the wind whipping under my tent like a wind tunnel.