Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella

My friend Nic saw a picture I put up of the town, and he commented “Wow, you guys are… OUT THERE,” which we totally were! This town was something else. I don’t want to bad mouth a town, but man I swear 75% of the people there were on tweak. Our retro family owned motel was like a beam of light shining down onto the hillside.

The hotel was really cute, and operates by a husband and wife. They even cooked all of us hikers dinner one night, and oh boy what a feast! She made us tacos, soup, potato salad, the works! It was so sweet of them, and very appreciated by all of us!

We also enjoyed some town food with our hiker friends Topo, Hog, Rocket Llama, Teddy Rose, and Rei.

While we were in town, a storm rolled through, leaving more snow in the Sierra Mountains right ahead. The whole town was dark and stormy. We looked at the mountains in the distance where the trail is, and it was frightening! It really made us rethink whether or not we needed micro spikes for the snow. Our German friend named Rei (he thought the outfitter REI was pronounced “rye”) was shocked that we didn’t prepare for the snow. “You have NO micro spikes? And you mean to tell me that you have NO mountaineering experience?!” All of us hikers at the motel were debating what to do. We ended up calling Backcountry, and ordered micro spikes along with more comfortable sleeping pads, and silk liner for the sleeping bags. They were wonderful and overnighted us the items for free!! Thanks Backcountry!!

We left the next day after we got our package. It was raining when we got our hitch back to the trail.

Lake Isabella was a last minute decision, but a really great one! We left feeling rejuvenated, and confident with near gear for the Sierras.

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What Do We Do?

It was about 145 miles from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows. Some people were going to break this stretch up, and go 94 miles into a town called Lake Isabella to resupply, then get back on trail and do the 51 miles to Kennedy Meadows. Most of our friends were going to do it all in one trip. We felt tough, and decided to do the same thing.

This section we had some really long dry stretches without water, some 30 to 40 miles! Yikes!! It’s recommended to drink a liter every 4 miles, and with 40 miles, you’d need 10 liters of water! Each liter weighs 2 lbs, so if you carried 10 liters that’s 20 lbs of just water! Sorry, but that’s not happening! We carried no more than 7 liters through those areas. Since we had so much weight in water, we tried to buy lighter food. Being the desert and all, we thought it would be hot, and we wouldn’t eat as much. We thought we’d be okay splitting dinners. What were we thinking?! What kind of hikers would survive 145 miles splitting dinners and not eating as much? Well.. It wasn’t hot, in fact, it was very windy and even cold some days! We were so hungry, and ate more food than expected. I started counting my food and realized that to make it to Kennedy meadows on what we had I could eat breakfast, two bars, and dinner. I was hungry, and grumpy. They call this emotion “hangry,” which I definitely was!

“What do we do,” I asked Lingo. Should we go into town for more food? It would put us behind schedule, and we heard it was a hard hitch. That day it was brutal out. It was hot, but the wind was cold. The wind was so strong we felt like we were walking in place. We were hiking against the strong wind, uphill, in thick sand, with no shade. Our friend Hog even got blown down by the gusts. We took a lunch break under a Joshua tree. When I put down my pack for lunch, my 2 liter water reservoir got a cactus thorn in it and started to leak! Lame! We tried to put tape on it. That night we camped on top of a mountain, that had some trees for protection. We struggled setting up the tent in the wind. It was cold. We were exhausted. I slept great. The next morning we woke up to the sound of the wind. It was loud! The wind hadn’t stopped in over 24 hours. We hiked down the mountain and decided, along with Hog, that we needed to go to town. I wanted more food, a shower to wash off all the desert sand, and most importantly, I wanted shelter!

We hiked down to Highway 178 (Walker Pass.) I took out my “Hikers to Town” sign and we tried to get a ride. It was difficult! We all took turns, and joked about how maybe if we acted more pathetic we would get picked up. When we finally got a ride, two cars pulled over at once! How crazy! There was room for the 3 of us in this woman’s car, but she was running late into town, and drove really fast. I’m not used to going “car speed” and she was going probably 80 or 90 mph. Ahhh!! She was friendly, and we got to town alive, so all was well.

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Tehachapi

At this point along the trail we had to chose between going into Tehachapi or Mojave for our resupply. I am so glad that we went to Tehachapi!

Some hikers thought the town was too “spread out.” I thought of it as being larger with more options. There were two Best Westerns next to each other. One was small and motel like, with the pool exposed facing the street. The other was a Best Western Plus, and was larger and looked a lot more expensive. The smaller one was full of our hiker trash buddies. We felt like taking it easy and having some personal space, so we went into the larger one for a price quote. Imagine our surprise when the woman at the desk told us that both hotels had the same owner, and for PCT hikers they were the same price!!! “It’s a government trail, so you get the government rate of $90.” It was the nicest, cleanest hotel I think I have ever stayed in. It was almost cozier than our honeymoon suite in Kauai! We took a full zero day soaking up the warm sun out by the swimming pool, and going out to a pizza dinner with our hiker family. It was wonderful!

When we were ready to go back to the trail, a trail angel named Tortoise picked us up at the hotel and took us back to the trail.

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More Desert

We left Casa De Luna and hiked through a beautiful little stretch that was filled with wild flowers and hundreds of butterflies. It felt magical!

We hiked through a place called Hiker Town, where we had sent a package of food for our resupply. We were excited to get there because it’s set up to look like a town in an old western movie. It turned out to be a complete let down. It was dirty and trashy, and had an eerie vibe. Lingo had a bad interaction with one of the caretakers on site, which made us, along with six other hikers want to leave. We picked up our package, made dinner, and we all hiked out into the night.

This was the start of a whole new type of desert. We hiked along the California Aqueduct through the night. I heard stories from hikers who had previously done this section of the hike, that in years prior, hiking along the aqueduct was torture. They said they hiked during the day, and that the sun was scorching hot, which no shade, and that you heard the water rushing under ground below you, with no access to it. I’m glad we hiked during the night because it was nice and cool. When we decided to stop for the night it was close to midnight. The trail had turned into a dirt road, and it was hard to tell what was private land and what was okay to camp on. We had only stepped off the road for a few seconds when a truck came blaring by. “Turn off your headlamp!” Shouted Lingo. We dropped down behind some cactus so that we would not be seen. It was a little scary there, being so close to “town,” and not knowing who could drive by. We weren’t sure if we were on someone’s property, so we set our tent up in a less exposed spot, with Joshua trees and cactus around us.

The next morning we hiked on through the desert, and into a giant windmill farm. Windmills! Days and days of hiking among windmills! They are giant and fun to watch! These feelings lasted for about a day of hiking thru the windmills, before I realized I would be content if I never had to be near one again. I almost even deleted the photos of this section because it pains me to see the photos of the windmills.. I’m sure this feeling won’t last forever.

Water was tough to come by in this section. We had long, heavy water carries. It was also very hot, with little shade. We took lots of afternoon naps, and tried to get the most of our hiking done in the early morning and into the evening.

We exited the trail and hitched a ride into Tehachapi. Oh Tehachapi!

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Hippie Daycare

We hiked a short distance from Hiker Heaven to Casa De Luna. It is a great trail angel home owned by the Anderson’s. They chose the name Casa De Luna (House of the Moon,) because it takes most hikers a month on trail to reach their house. I thought it was so clever! I heard this house could be a party house, full of Hershey syrup wrestling, and games of Edward Fortyhands (where 40 oz beers are duct taped to both hands.) It was actually an extremely mellow night while we were there, and very relaxing. First thing you do when you get there is put on a Hawaiian shirt! The main hang out spot is in the driveway, where lots of chairs are set for hikers to lounge in. Their is a big banner to sign your name, which also functions as a backdrop for photos. The backyard has a disc golf range, shower, and a labyrinth of gorgeous manzanita trees. The manzanita forest is groomed with tons of spots to set up your tent, and some of the spots even have cute camp names. We stayed in one tucked away, called the Lucky Penny. One of the best nights sleep we’ve had on trail! We were fed a huge taco salad buffet for dinner, and oh man was it delicious! A few of us pooped more than usual the next day, but whatever, the food was great! The next day was Mother’s Day, which was kind of hard for me, but it was nice to spend it with a big group of hikers. That morning we were fed pancakes and coffee for breakfast, and once again, the food was awesome!

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Hiker Heaven

We spent a zero day at the Saufley’s house. They are trail angels, and they call their property Hiker Heaven, which it totally was! This zero day was special since it was our one month anniversary of being on the trail!!

Since we were a couple we were given our own room in the hiker trailer. There was another room, and a living room and kitchen which were open to the other hikers staying there.

In the yard there were big canopy tents with cots, a fire ring, animals, Internet cafe, and fleet of bikes for town transportation.

There were bins of clothes you could borrow while they did your laundry for you, and they even washed our down jackets.

You were able to sign up for REI and Walmart runs, which Lingo took advantage of. He returned some faulty gear, and got some near gear too!

We watched movies in the trailer with other hikers, and indulged in some great town food.

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“D” is for Detour

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I really wanted to love this section of the trail. All I had been hearing from previous hikers is how it was horrible and they wanted to get done with it as quick as possible. 

“How could someone dislike a whole section of the PCT?!” I asked Lingo our first morning in the section. Well my question was soon answered. Detours, road-walks, long water-less stretches, poodle dog bush, and nights of hiking miles and miles passed what you wanted to hike, in search of finding a spot to camp. I really tried to stay positive during Section D, but it was tough!

We started Section D at Cajon Pass. We had just left McDonalds around 3pm, and we were feeling pretty great. A handful of our fellow hiker trash friends were getting a hotel that night to “prepare” for the climb out. The way they talked about the climb, and how it was hot, hard, and exposed sounded scary! We just wanted to get it over with so we left in the afternoon. Our belly were nice and full with a days worth of indulgence at Mickey D’s, I had my I Pod blasting a mix of Metallica, Godsmack, and Queensryche, and I powered my way up that mountain! Leaving in the afternoon was a great idea because most of the trail was in the shade. But it was steep, windy, and long. Once we got towards the top there was a jeep road that we were able to take as our first detour around the poisonous poodle dog bush! We got on the jeep road, and the sun was starting to set. We found a perfect spot to camp off the road where we could see the city below. Normally city lights aren’t my cup of tea, but there was something beautiful and comforting about them that night. We slept warm and cozy all night, and woke up to a beautiful sunrise. Day one of Section D was good. 

The next morning we covered up, like we had been told to do, so that we wouldn’t touch any of the poodle-dog bush. Poodle dog is a plant that takes over in burn areas. It makes you itchy, and has an outbreak similar to poison oak. I’ve heard nightmares of hikers who have walked through it, or camped in it at night, and had to be hospitalized! So we wanted to be covered up since we heard it was in this section. Well, day two had hardly any poodle dog bush! It did however, happen to be blazing hot starting at 7am, with no wind, and no tree coverage. I had on my long sleeve shirt, and long pants. I felt like there was a rain forest in my pants I was sweating so much! I finally changed after 12 miles or so, when we had hardly seen any of the dreaded plant. We hiked through Mountain High Resort, and it was covered in green grass where the snow usually is. It was really neat walking through it! We hiked 17 miles by 3:30pm, and ended at Highway 2 Angeles Crest. There were some other hikers there on the road waiting for a ride into Wrightwood. They were going to stay at the Pines Motel, and the owner was on his way to pick them up. He zoomed into the parking lot in a little red rice rocket. We asked him if he had any more rooms available. “Only one. Big room. Two beds, two couches. Sleeps 8 people. Usually $120 but for you $99… $89! You can stay for $89!” He left and told us he would be back in 20 minutes with his bigger car. When he came back, he was driving a Dodge conversion van, and it came screeching into the parking lot, bass thumping, Rhianna blasting. We got in the van. The windows had curtains, and tvs on the back of the seats. “Sunflower seeds?” he asked Lingo, and pointed down into the cup holders, both driver and passanger cup holder filled with seeds. “Dill flavor.” he added. The highway might have well not have had a line down the middle, because the van was going all over the place. I felt like I was in a scene of the Hangover, with Chow driving us around. We pulled up to the motel, and it was full of our hiker trash friends! It was so exciting to see faces we hadn’t seen in the last week! We split the room with our friend Glitter (formerly known as Rob,) and Rocket Llama. The funniest part is that since there was only 4 of us splitting a room that sleeps 8, the motel manager and his wife kept asking if we could fit more hikers in our room since all the motel rooms got booked!

Our plan was to stay that night and do our resupply shopping the next morning, and leave in the afternoon. Leaving town is always hard, and we felt like taking a full zero day would allow us to get too comfortable. We can’t get too comfortable and get sucked in! In the morning we went to an awesome bakery where I bought I cinnamon twist pastry, a fresh from the oven most delicious chocolate croissant of my life, and a peanut butter and chocolate muffin (I packed out the muffin for breakfast the following day.) Lingo also got a cinnamon twist and an apple turnover. The food was seriously amazing.

We got a hitch out of Wrightwood back to the trail that afternoon. We hiked up Mount Baden Powell, which was named after the first Boy Scout leader. It was a Saturday evening, and there were quite a few day hikers there. Its a very popular trail, and reminded me of Cowles Mountain, except this trail kicked my butt! It was 4 miles up to the top of constant switchbacks. The locals were friendly though and asked if we were “thru hikers,” which when we told them we were, they thought was “so cool!” The mountain summitted at 9,407 feet, and had snow towards the top. The view, along with the altitude, was breathtaking. It was cold up top, and the sun was going to set soon. We ate dinner at the summit, and pressed on for another mile or two until we found a spot that leveled out enough to camp among some trees. We must have found the only spot.. There was hardly anything since we were on a ridge, and the wind was bone-chilling and strong. Another hiker, Blue Yonder, was also camping there. We all watched the sunset, and went to sleep. It was a cold night.

The next day we hiked only 16 miles to a trail camp. That day was weird. We hiked our normal length of time, but didn’t make our normal amount of progress. We hiked the first road-walk of this section. It was a detour around an endangered toad. Poor toad. We also encountered lots of day hikers over the course of the day. There was even a “meet up” of hikers at one of the trails. There must have been around 60 of them. When we passed them I felt anxious. They were loud, and I heard multiple conversations. They smelled too! The smell was so strong. It smelled like laundry detergent and clean people. I had gotten used to body odor and stentch. When we got to the trail camp we were exhausted. We wanted to get more mileage in, but it was almost 6pm and we were discouraged and tired. There were a few other hikers there, including this cool older hiker named Raspberry. He felt like he had been hiking all day too without going his normal hiking distance. It was nice to know another hiker felt the same way we did. We ate dinner and decided to camp there that night.

The next day was full of poodle dog bush. It was everywhere. The trail had the bush to the left, to the right, and even in the trail. Big poodle dog, little poodle dog, and incognito poodle dog hiding within other plants! We had to do the “dance” around it the whole day. Our hiking speed plummeted. We had to keep focused with every step we took. It was mentally and emotionally draining. We ended up hiking our longest hike that day though, so go us! We did 23.5 miles, mostly due to looking for a spot to camp, but everything was overgrown with, you guessed it, poodle dog bush! We hiked to the Mill Creek Fire Station since that was the closest water source and we were almost out of water. It was about 7pm. The station was closed, and we decided to just stealth camp there for the night. We walked around the back of the station and a couple hikers were there set up! They said a woman who worked at the station said it would be alright to camp as long as we were gone before the firefighters got there in the morning. It was windy and cold so we set up our tent next to a trailer for the hot shots, and there storage. We tried to be stealthy, but when the sun set a street light came on directly over us. Stealth camp fail!! Rocket Llama showed up and set up next to us. We all slept with our buffs over our eyes to block the light. It was awful, but we were too lazy to move the tent.

The next day included a road walk up Mount Gleason to avoid the poodle dog bush that took over the forest where the Station Fire came through. It was devastating. We passed the Station Fire memorial, and it was a very beautiful but sad memorial. It got cold that afternoon, and started to sprinkle. The clouds were dark and scary. We hiked another 22 miles that day into the desert towards Agua Dolce. We had trouble finding a place to camp, so we camped on a ridge, that had a little bit of clearing. The sunset was beautiful.

We hiked 7 miles into Agua Dolce the next morning, and ran into Rocket Llama in town. We found some large dandelions and made a wish. She stopped at the cafe for lunch, and we pushed on into Hiker Heaven where we took a nero, and a zero! Finally!

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Big Bear to Cajon Pass

We only had a short hike of about 8 miles to ‘Nero’ into Big Bear. It was a beautiful clear morning with a slight breeze and yet there was talk on the trail of some moisture moving into the area with some possible snow at higher elevations. We didn’t expect much of the storm because last time we heard about rain nothing happened.
We got a quick hitch into Big Bear and found a hotel for the night and shortly after arriving our good friend Brando arrived with his mom (who we ran into in Idyllwild) and they brought a bunch of good beer from San Diego! We all went to lunch and then just hung around the hotel and chatted for the afternoon. It’s always so nice to be able to get together with friends and family while out on the trail. Thanks again for visiting!
The following morning we woke to SNOW! The cars in the parking lot were covered, the streets were buried and the mountains on the other side of the lake in the distance were white. How lucky we were to have headed into Big Bear for the night. I almost felt guilty for having spent the night in a warm hotel with a fireplace. It would have been kind of fun to have been out there while it snowed. Cold, but fun.
Today was our zero day and we had made plans to get picked up by Sugarpine’s cousin and taken to Lake Arrowhead for the night. She picked us up at Von’s after we shopped for the next few days of food. While we were waiting, a stranger who had done the PCT years ago offered to buy us some Starbucks and chatted with us for a while about how the trail had changed, why we were on the trail, and life adventures in general. People on the trail are just great!
We took the drive with Kathleen from Big Bear to Lake Arrowhead and there was even more snow on the way out. We arrived at a beautiful house that one of Sugarpine’s relatives own. It felt so nice to be in a real house, and not a hotel. There was even a trail that led to a dock on the lake! We got comfortable while dinner was made and she even treated us to some beer! We worked on making a sign for hitch hiking. We wrote “Hikers to Town” on one side, and “Hikers to Trail” on the other. For dinner we had amazing veggie tacos with quinoa and beans. It was outstanding! We did our laundry, showered and relaxed with Kathleen. We woke up to the smell of veggie sausage, eggs, and coffee. It was so hard to leave after having such a nice day off.
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Kathleen dropped us off at the trail the next morning. After taking two zeros and a nero it was almost painful to hike. Our packs felt heavy and almost foreign. We must have gotten too relaxed in town! The vortex had sucked us in! We started to notice a weird sound a few miles into the trail. It sounded like a heartbeat. What was it?! We hiked a little further. It was techno! But it was coming from deep in the mountains! It was alright at first, but after hiking 18 miles hearing it, and then all through the night, and into the morning wasn’t alright. It never stopped. A few hikers joked about a rave in the mountains, another thought it was accidentally left on at a rental cabin. Either way, we finally hiked far enough to where we couldn’t hear it anymore.

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We hiked along a creek for a couple days. The creek was called Deep Creek, and one of the spots along the creek had hot springs. It was really fun relaxing in the hot springs, then jumping into the cold creek. There were lots of old naked locals, but as more and more PCT hikers arrived, we took over the area and the naked locals covered up. There was even a guy wearing a loin cloth going by the name of Tarzan, who had been living there. We left the hot springs and kept hiking for a few hours before setting up camp for the night.

A few days later we hiked to the 15 freeway were we stopped at McDonalds. We actually ate McDonalds! It had been a long time, but it was actually really good!

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