Fortunate to have found rides in and out of Tehachapi, Frog, Rif-Raf, & I made the quickest resupply yet. We were back on the trail by 4:00 and made it 3 miles up yet another desert ridge before pitching our tents. We quickly tucked in, as the wind was brutal. It battered us throughout the night but, with the aid of ear plugs, I slept heavily.
I awoke to find a whole encampment of new hikers around us, including, to my delight, 3 other young ladies. We all set off, up the open hillside, battling both gravity and the wind. The howling gusts did not permit to hold a thought for the span of even a second. I proceeded in something of a bewildered state. reaching the top of a ridge, we found trees and shelter from the wind and I spent our morning Union Break trying to gather my scattered and scrambled thoughts.
The next several days blurred into fog of tree-lined ridge walks and following jeep tracks. As it turned out, a couple of our new friends were suffering from what we have termed 'butt plague'. 5 days into their process of illness, I found myself out of energy and pukey. This, coupled with the shin splints I have been hiking on, made for less than easy going. By the second day, our trees gave way to open desert again, a very El-Paso-ish landscape called Kelso Valley.
Both of the boys were so kind and patient. Frog kept trying to convince me to let him have some of my pack weight. Rif-Raf kept close to my plodding pace and engaged me in conversation and stories. These shows of support made a world of difference for me.
All of the water supplies in this area were pretty far off the trail but, again, we were the beneficiaries of another's kindness. An older woman, by the name of Mary, carried hundreds of gallons of water on her motor bike up to dirt road crossings along the trail. Because of her efforts, we did not have to go ff trail at all. In my condition, this was significant. At 3:oo pm we sat at Mary's 2nd water cache, peering up yet another daunting, exposed climb. Thankful not to be encountering it in the middle of the day's heat, we began upwards. Rif-Raf's company and encouragement helped keep my mind from stewing and 2 hours later we sat atop a ridge, much like the forested part of the Tooth of Time Ridge at Philmont. he reminded me that despite my lack of appetite, I needed to eat, so I did.
As we walked the 6 miles along the ridge top, I thought about Philmont and thanked God for my experiences there, for they gave me the confidence I needed for this undertaking. I thought about my cousins, Brian and Travis, who are staff out there this year and felt so proud and blessed to have such an amazing family who understand how to celebrate the outdoors.
That night we cowboy camped (sleeping bag under the open stars) in a dry, sandy wash. I slept heavily and awoke the next morning feeling much better. I decided to grant myself an extra 10 minutes before getting up and rolled over. As I blinked my still sleepy eyes, I saw that my ground cloth was crawling with ants. While they hadn't bothered me all night, I could not consciously abide their presence and so gave up. As I reviewed what I had considered to be a dogged progress the day before, I was surprised to realize we had covered 21 miles and, despite my illness and heavy loads of water, had still been moving at about 2.5 mph. A pace of which I would have been very proud of only a month ago.
The 12 miles to Walker Pass were a largely gentle downhill slope and we tore it up quickly, at the rumor of a Trail Magic grill out at the Walker Pass Campground. We arrived at 1:oo pm, just as the day's heat was reaching it's peak. No rumors or even exaggerations could have prepared us for what awaited. Not only was there water and food, but coolers of an array of icy beverages, hot dogs on the grill and a collection of prominent characters from the trail.
Warner Springs Monty, whose emails back and forth had assured me that the PCT was the right thing to do. Yogi, whose guide had let me know I could do it. Meadow Ed, the first person to start leaving the water caches along the trail. I also met Okie Girl and Jackelope and Eagle Eye. These latter two having been previous thru-hikers and Okie Girl, a section hiker. Each having driven a significant distance from their home, were out here for several days, making us food and offering rides to town. After a yummy supper we sat around and told stories and spoke of this trail which we all love. I basked in the company and array of experiences. I can't wait to grow up and be just like them and they assured me they wished to be in my shoes.
A jolly good time was had by all. Tomorrow morning Rif-Raf is picking up a box at the Post Office and we will set out across these last 50 miles to Kennedy Meadows. Reports of the conditions are starting to leak out, but I will just see for myself in three days. Wish me luck!