Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Pacific Crest Trail Hike 19 – Highway 58 Tehachapi Pass to Highway 178 at Walker Pass. 84 miles May 7th to May 12th 2006

This remarkably diverse section goes through mountains and deserts. After the traditional musical cars we slept in windy wash next to Highway 58 the night of May 7th and it was noisy, dirty and difficult to sleep. The walk up from Tehachapi Pass is steep and I got dehydrated and bonked at the end of about 18 miles; don’t know why. I thought I drank enough water. Saw 3 plastic PCT signs knocked over. Lots of Pinyon Pines which I found out always exist below the pine forests in dryer areas. Too bad pine nuts are out of season. Begin to see some wildflowers beginning with lupine. We scared off a large animal at Golden Oak Spring which is running well. We couldn’t see what it was because of the trees but it was big. Lots of cow pies in this section. This windy mix of public and private land means windmills for about 25 miles. Our first camp was at a very nice saddle. I slept for 9 hours! The body is a walking biology lab and some days the chemistry is out of balance.

On May 9th we left the camp under west facing windmills and walked to Robin Bird Spring. Keystone Kid and Balls from Portland joined us. They started the PCT early and skipped Section C because of the snow. Very nice young men and Balls is my son’s age. We saw a lot of cow pies in this area but no cows until we saw a giant black steer that ran away from us. Bill has cached water at two places for this trip but we had to depend on this and the last spring for the first 36 miles of the trip. Ray lost a walking stick; a nice one that had been made by a friend. We made a very nice camp above Cottonwood Creek and its tributary. Very quiet no wind. Balls and the Keystone kid passed by as we prepared our dinner. We never saw them again.

May 10th brought beautiful healthy pine forests along Landers Creek with an abandoned miners sluice box at waters edge. Crossed Piute Mountain road and found a trail journal with an invite for the house down the road about half a mile and history of this area once a town site called Claraville. Saw Velvet Ants, Grey Rats with a white butt (Bill calls them Bobtail Rats) and something that looks like babies breath and smells just as great. Got to Kelso Valley road after a big downward slope that took us completely out of the forest to a desert floor where the only shade is Joshua Trees. When we came near the road miraculously Mary Barcik super trail angel drove by. I hailed her and she said, “finally some through hikers.” We aren’t through hikers but we were thrilled to see her too. She said Robin Bird Pass road was repaired thanks to the efforts of Warner Springs Monty and some PCT hikers haranguing the proper officials and she had cached water at this important spot. She took Ray and my home numbers to call our wives as there is no signal in any part of this area. The walking is pretty easy afterwards but becomes a hot bitch on the way up to Desert Divide. We passed it about 1.6 miles to a great camp overlooking the desert. Through hikers who come through this area later must really suffer from the heat. We camped at the top of a wide desert valley to the east. We heard the braying of wild mules left over from the days of the prospectors. Hope they don’t come up here and try to mate.

May 11th gave us an early start out of lower elevations. It got hot yesterday which is what killed us. I have come up with a definition of PCT hiking especially in this area. It is a forced march with breaks. We have to cover so many miles to accomplish our goal that we must good use of daylight. I don’t want to walk at night even though we encountered our first full moon in three years of segment hiking. We saw an old rusty bus in a ravine and then as we descended farther found the hoof prints of the mules we heard the night before and then a carpet of flowers on the way to Bird Spring Pass. They smell great but they make Ray sneeze. We saw a rattler at the pass and curiously a Jackrabbit rolling in the dust like a happy dog. He didn’t seem too worried about us. Mary has a big cache here. Bill had left 4 gallons for us and we drank or packed it all out of there. There is no spring at Bird Spring Pass. Four well equipped motorcyclists went by on Hondas while we enjoyed our lunch break. Skinner Mountain is the big jump after the pass and the highest point on the trip at 6900 feet. We ascended 1100 feet in 1.1 mile fully loaded with water. Bill started to get sick. We still can’t figure out why because he fully hydrated at the bottom. Maybe he drank too much but we don’t know for sure. We got back into the Pinyon Pines on the north side of Skinner. I finally realized that it isn’t just altitude that brings you back into the forests but the side of the mountain. It can be barren desert at altitude on one side and a lush forest on the other. Bill couldn’t eat or drink at our next break. His stomach had taken over his body.
There are some killer views of the snow capped Sierra from here; beautiful. This has been first really clear day on the trip. Bill slowed downed and finally stopped. I went ahead to scout a camp and got my first cell phone signal when I recorded a journal note on my phone. We finally camped in a craggily haunted forest after Yellow Jacket spring. Bill lay down and slowly recovered but wasn’t able to eat or drink until the next morning.

May 12th we passed a big white steer in burn area that was just a nervous as the first one. There are a lot of blow downs here and it is bleak because of the burn. Didn’t see the road to McIvers Spring but saw a seasonal stream crossing near there. It is mostly flat here before descending to Walker Pass. We have our best view yet of the Sierras. The forest reappeared and smelled great along with the wild flowers. We met two older men coming up from Walker Pass campground one of which was the father of a PCTA board member named Corsine-Dennis. That is only four hikers in 84 miles. It was a joy to be near the end. We have never walked farther. A great guy named James who worked at China Lake and had done some hiking took us all the way into Ridgecrest. I apologized for us smelling up the truck and he said it was payback for all the times he had done the same to others. A hard but wonderful section of the trail.


Anonymous said...

thanks for the insight on your hike I am a east coast hiker doing research

Dana Law said...

You are welcome. Contact me if you need more info. Dana Law