Hikertown to Cottonwood Bridge
Tony and I relaxed at Hikertown at the western edge of the Antelope Valley until 3:30pm. A gathering thunderstorm had by then covered the entire valley in clouds. If anytime was a good time to hike across the desert, it was now. So off we went.
I had done this trail before, but it seemed so much easier in the late afternoon with a cool breeze and moisture in the air. It was sprinkling big fat drops as we left, but the cloud moved off to the east and hovered just out of reach the rest of the evening.
As we marched across the desert, we stepped aside at one point to let a truck drive by. The truck instead stopped and offered us some grapefruit sodas. How refreshing. And the man inside knew who I was when I told him my trail name. His name was Roger and he had been following my journal. We talked with him for a while and then started to worry we were using up too much of the remaining day light. We said good-bye and tried to hustle before it got too dark.
Darkness fell on us for the last few miles. It seemed that wherever we were going was where the thunderstorm had spent most of its efforts. The aqueduct road was muddy and puddles of water rested on the concrete roof of the aqueduct.
Tony seemed tired and I offered to camp on the side of the road a few times. I pointed out a camp site that motorcyclers use that we could have camped at. I offered to stop at one of the concrete, locked access ports of the aqueduct. He just wanted to get there and get this hike over with. I felt bad that I had dragged him out here on this boring part of the PCT.
We finally arrived at the Cottonwood Creek bridge well after dark. The concrete of the aqueduct had captured enough moonlight to show us the way. As far as we could tell, no one else was there. We camped under the lean-to.
I felt bad that Tony hadn't seemed to enjoy himself. I thought the desert had been very beautiful with the clouds and the freshness after the rain and the two shrikes we had seen. It was such an enormous contrast to last year's experience.
Cottonwood Bridge to Willow Springs Rd.
In the morning before dawn, Tony got up and said he wanted to leave. I felt bad he hadn't enjoyed the trip. I hoped he knew how much I appreciated that he came, how nice it was to share the brief experience with him.
I went to go use a bush and when I returned, he was all packed and gone. I found him filling up water at the water fountain. We said good-bye and I returned to my things, packed up and headed onward up the trail.
As the sun rose the air still felt fresh and clean. There were millions of black beetles in the trail and clinging to bushes like black Christmas ornaments. I tried not to step on them, but sometimes I don't think it was possible.
All along the way, the trail had been cleaned of hiker foot prints. After following only bears from Santa Barbara to Hikertown, now I was following nobody. Soon I noticed some huge human prints and then I came upon their owner, a small man who went by Bigfoot. I asked him what size and he told me 15. I said I knew someone with 17s. He seemed relieved someone had bigger feet than him.
Bigfoot walked slowly and I ran into him again when I paused at Tylerhorse canyon to get some water. He seemed to be really enjoying himself on the trail. His method was not to plan too much, to just go with the flow, resupply where and when he wanted. Seemed like a good plan to me, too.
I continued out of Tylerhorse canyon, pausing once in a while to see if Bigfoot was coming. He grew further and further away. I watched motorcyclers tear up the hillsides as I rose into the Tehachapi mountains.
Soon I was on top of the Tehachapis walking through burned pinyon pine forest. I remembered much of this trail from last year. It started to get hot so I put up my umbrella. Then a cloud came by and I put it away again.
Just as I was thinking it might be nice to take a rest, I rounded a corner to find Maw-ee and Paw-ee resting under a tree. They invited me to sit with them. I sat there for about an hour. Maw-ee was very friendly and talkative and we talked for quite a while. They both seemed like really nice people. We planned to camp at the same place later in the day.
I started to get cold in the shade so I decided to continue. Out in the sun it was scorching hot again. But the trees seemed less burned and there was a little more shade.
As I dropped out of the trees, I came upon the Tiger shower. There is a shower on the trail. I turned the knob and water came out of the head. I tried to direct the flow to my head and face to cool off. It was quite windy here near the windmills. I filled up my water bottles with the cold, clean water and headed down to the picnic table where I planned to camp.
It was still pretty early in the day. I had come so far. I told myself I must stay at the picnic table and not continue on. Twenty-four miles is plenty. When I reached the table, there was no shade so I found a tree to sit under for a while. The creek there was disappointingly out of water. I had hoped to sponge off a little.
Maw-ee and Paw-ee arrived about an hour later. When the shadows lengthened enough, I moved over to the picnic table and lay on the ground on my back with my legs on the bench. I fell asleep like that for a few minutes.
Paw-ee said he heard voices. I heard them too. Just then, three hikers arrived. They looked too clean to be thru-hikers. They were clean because they had just cleaned up in Tehachapi and planned to camp at the picnic table and head out in the wee hours. They spent a long time negotiating different strategies to manage the 24 mile waterless stretch ahead. They had a bottle of Jack Daniels and a bottle of Coke and drank it all. They were hillarious. Their names were Trashman, Hello Kitty and Matt. Matt had lost 50 pounds.
At dusk we all went to bed. The men stayed up a little longer talking trash and then also went to bed. In the early hours before dawn, they arose as planned to continue their hike. I could still smell the alcohol. How can they do it?
Trashman had been nice enough to let me borrow his phone to call my ride to Tehachapi. It was all planned that she would meet me at Cameron Rd. at noon. I didn't need to leave very early to hike the 8 miles there, but I left early anyway so I could hike in cooler hours.
The 8 miles were pleasant, hiking through rolling, grassy hills filled with cattle and windmills. I watched some workmen fixing one of the windmills. I scared a bunch of cattle who couldn't seem to figure out that if they ran perpendicular instead of down the trail maybe I wouldn't keep coming toward them.
At the summit of the segment I paused to take my picture sitting on a bench. Then I began the long descent to Highway 58.
Along the way, a very large bull stood in the trail and refused to move. I tried to see how close I could come. Then I got nervous and hiked up the side of the hill around him. He wasn't budging.
I reached the bottom of the trail at Cameron Rd. and found a water cache. I paused there to sit in the shade, planning to wait 3 hours for my ride into town. As I waited a man named "The Dude" arrived and we spoke briefly. He was headed all the way to the next water source 16 miles away. He didn't stay long.
I decided the shade here was inadequate and decided to walk to the overpass. Maybe those distant Joshua trees would be better shade. When I arrived two men standing there said, here comes more trash. Yep, hiker trash I am once again. One of the men was Boots, the Ultimate Trail Hiker. He was a funny guy. The other was the Stumbling Norwegian. Somehow both knew I had lost my penny whistle.
The Stumbling Norwegian had a rental car and drove me into town. I got all my resupply stuff done very quickly. As I was walking back to Stumbling Norwegian's hotel room with my groceries, a lady in a minivan pulled over and asked if I needed a ride. I said yes, and could she take me to a music shop so I could buy a penny whistle. Along the way she told me how she had won the car in a contest where she had to write an essay about why she deserved the car. She was mother of several young children and had no car and had to walk to the store several times a week with all her kids. She swore if she won the car she would give rides to others so they didn't have to walk with all their groceries, too. Trail magic! Magic for her and magic for me.
We stopped at the music shop and they just happened to have one penny whistle. More magic. I bought it and she drove me back to the hotel where I finished packing. I decided to send some of my food ahead to Onyx.
I walked over to the post office to mail my box. Stumbling Norwegian saw me and picked me up and drove me there. I may not get my box because if I get there at all, it'll be on Saturday and the post office might not be open. I will take the risk and hope for the best.
After all that, I went in search of hikers and found some at the old Santa Fe hotel that I stayed at last year. Some offered to let me sleep on the floor. Out to eat, I met some more hikers and yogied my way into an early morning ride to the trail tomorrow. I think it would have been better to hit the trail in the evening, but there's not enough time. I will try to hike really long days to get to the post office in Onyx on time. I think things will work out. I'm letting the magic of the trail just happen. So far it's been full of it.