The end of the desert

American towns tend to be a little difficult for pedestrians. Often, there is no real centre and everything is far apart, and there are few or no sidewalks. Tehachapi is no exception. After finding a motel for the night, I leave Andy and Chrigi to get hypnothised by the cycles of the washingmachine (with the laundromat we luck out, it’s close to the motel) and walk to the postoffice which is more than a mile away.

The good thing when walking is that you feel the atmospere of a place much better than if you just drive through. I really enjoy my walk, I see the offices of the local newspaper for example and little businesses. And the caracteristic thing of this town, the trains – every 20 minutes a huge train (I count 105 waggons on one) slowly drives through and while doing so is honking loudly. Sleeping might be a little difficult here😉

Sunset over Tehachapi – I like that town😊 (pic by Chrigi)

I get our bounce boxes (we send ourselves a package up the trail that we pick up now and then, it contains spare contact lenses for me and other items we don’t need on trail at the moment but might want later) and start my walk back, clearly less enthusiastic than before. The parcels are quite heavy and I’m wearing nothing but my raingear as everything else is in the laundry. It’s clinging to my skin, unless there is a strong gust of wind. Then my homemade rainskirt has the annoying habit of flapping open and revealing a bit more than just my bare legs if I’m unlucky… Just as I have to cross the bridge over the freeway where it’s quite windy, a car pulls over behind me and a woman shouts “Do you want a ride?”

Of course I do! My trailangels introduce themselves as Claudi and Travis. Claudi is originally from Germany and enjoys talking German with me. They drive me to the motel and help us again the next day (we zero in Tehachapi because we have many things to get done) to reach the postoffice before it closes for the weekend. They even wait for us while we pack our boxes there to bring us back! Just wow!

To thank them, we suggest to invite them for drinks. They like the idea and we agree to meet that evening. We play pool (or try at least in my case😉 – Travis plays very well and teaches me how to play) and try the local beer while chatting. There is a jukebox that we take advantage of – so there’s always good sound, too! It’s a super nice evening and we all enjoy it a lot! Thank you so much, Claudi and Travis, for everything!

Leaving town is sometimes a little difficult, especially if the conditions are not favorable. Like now: The upcoming section of the pct is apparentely the driest of the whole trail. That means we’ll need to carry a lot of water – we have bottles for five heavy liters each. Also, it seems to start with a tough climb everybody warns us about. So we set out a little anxiously…

The start is quite underwhelming. If you have seen the movie ‘Wild’, you know it: It’s where Cheryl Strayed started her pct-hike. The trail followes the freeway for about a mile (and therefore wouldn’t exactely win an award for a scenic trail) and then leads uphill. Slowly, it becomes beautiful again. And the feared climb is not so bad – maybe because we subconcientely prepared for something terrible. After only two hours, we’re in a very nice forest!

The pattern desert – forest – desert – forest repeats over the next few days. Every time we reach another part of forest, it seems to be a bit more like an alpine one – a glimpse maybe of what is to come in the Sierra Nevada that we are approaching at last?

Desert…

…and forest…

…and desert again!

Aha, we’re still on trail!

Said Sierra Nevada is a very beautiful, higher and more alpine area. There is a lot of uncertainty connected with it: The last winter saw a lot of snow, which means that there is still a lot covering the pct that climbs very high up into the mountains. Nobody really knows what to expext, and there is a lot of contradictory talk. Our plan is to go and see for ourselves and then make a decision based on our own experience…

Right now, our problem is not too much water, but rather too little. Sources are around 17 miles apart at first and then there is no natural watersource for 35 miles! So even doing 20 miles per day as we manage now it’s going to be very tough, or rather, we’re going to be very thirsty… Thanks to anonymous, awesome trailangels there is water in this stretch, though! As we can’t count on it, we still carry five liters each – a little training for the physically demanding Sierra Nevada…😉

A much appreciated watercache!

We reach a few milestones: 600 miles, 1000 km, 1/4 of the trail and 700 miles! Being Europeans, the 1000 km especially makes us feel really happy – never did I dream that one day I’d walk 1000 km!! It feels quite surreal…

That’s mile 621,4…

One quarter done!!

Out bodies feel strong after so much walking. Going uphill with a heavy pack has become much easier – it still takes energy and we sweat in the hot climat, of course, but we are much faster now and it simply feels good! Healthwise we are doing quite well, too. The only problem seem to be our knees: They don’t bother us while walking (well, not too much at least), but when we stop and need to crouch down, they protest! And you need to crouch down a lot when backpacking! You’d think we’re at least 90 years old if you saw us in these moments😉

After a few days, we reach Walker Pass from where we hitch-hike into Lake Isabella to resupply and get much needed showers and laundry. On the way there, the pct comes up with something we haven’t experienced yet while on this trail: A snowstorm! In the desert! I know, I know… We have witnesses for our story, though😉

It doesn’t look too bad here, but the strong wind blows everything in our faces – it feels like little stones hitting us at times! I’m quite proud I’m still smiling😉

Hikers trying to stop a car by showing their sexy legs😉 We actually managed to make three big campers stop for us!

In Lake Isabella, we wait for Chrigi. He wanted to walk this section alone to find his rythem. The only problem is that there is almost zero signal on this part of the pct, so it’s very hard to stay in contact. We as the ones who are ahead leave messages for him in the trailregisters that now and again are positioned along the trail. For us it’s more tricky to get news from Chrigi. We ask other hikers, and on day three since Tehachapi meet somebody who has hiked with Chrigi. It’s very good to hear he is doing fine…

When he showes up and we are complete again, we start discussing how we should proceed. Vincent received a winterstorm-warning for the weekend and we are not sure if we should hike on or sit it out here in the more protected valley. Also, we talk about our plans for the Sierra Nevada where a lot of fresh snow has fallen these last days and will fall in he next days. Finally, we decide to wait in Lake Isabella: We’re on a nice and not too expensive campground and I’ve got a cold, so it makes more sense to relax a little here. This gives us the chance to repair some broken gear and relax, play poker and horseshoe-throwing, watch movies and read… We quickly get “itchy feet”, though, we just want to go on!

Chrigi and Vincent throwing horseshoes

After three zeros we finally start hiking again. The land still resembles the desert, but a cold wind is blowing that reminds more of icy peaks… We still see cacti and sand, but more and more pines and big rocks.

On our last day in the desert, we get a mix of everything (as goodbye-present perhaps?😉): Snow, sunshine, wind and rain! What a crazy trail! I see my first scorpion (thank you, Vincent, for showing me!) and Chrigi and Vincent find Obsidian!

Chrigi in the snow!

Ok, it’s tiny…😉

Other animals on the pct: A beautiful lizard…

…and an owl😉

Descending from the last peak in the desert, we find ourselves in big valley that definitely doesn’t look like desert anymore! It’s wild, there is a big river (the South Fork of the Kern river) and it somehow looks very ancient with the granit peaks and rock-formations surrounding it. We almost expect to see bears and wolves! It’s super beautiful!

And then, we finally reach it: Kennedy Meadows, the official end of the desert!! Now, a new chapter of our adventure will start… Slowly 😉

The real desert!

In Agua Dulce, we stay in a place called Hiker Heaven. It truly lives up to its name! Like at Scout and Frodo’s, a couple opened their house and garden for us hikers, providing us with everything we need on a stop in town. It’s amazing and so helpful for us! A big thank you to everybody who helps us there!

So after eating, showering, preparing laundry and resupplying (in that order; if you have been dirty for the past six days, staying filthy for two more hours really doesn’t matter if you can get a lot of food during that time😉), we hang out with other hikers around a gas-fire, sharing stories and relaxing… It’s great!

Chrigi gets a hearcut by a Spanish barber in Hiker Heaven

A ride to town – crazy hikers in a truck…

The next day, we continue our northbound journey – or in Chrigi’s case, start it for real. It’s hot (hello again, desert), and we climb, but soon we reach beautiful green hills.

A professional siesta-sleeper😉

Chrigi is lucky, already on his second day we see two big snakes – a rattlesnake and another one.

The other snake – it was very slow…

Our path leads us to Casa the luna, another trailangel place that welcomes hikers. While Hiker Heaven is all organized, this place is more chaotic, but great in its own way!

We camp in the magic forest behind the house and hang out with all the other hikers there, having a lot of fun. Also, we get the pct-bandana – after we dance to earn it! It’s so nice to rest a little without having all the usual town-tasks to do… And in the evening, Vincent showes up, juhui!

The magic forest…

What happens in Casa de luna stays in Casa de luna…😉

On and on we go, getting surprised once more by the always changing trail. It’s very green for the next few days, we almost can’t believe we’re in the desert! Also, we see many squirrels and chipmunks – they run around and seem to play hide and seek, it’s very cute! Our hopes to see a bear are not fulfilled, though. I guess we just have to wait until the Sierra Nevada for that…

There are drier parts, too...

What a milestone!

We start leapfrogging a lot with Bruce (aka Springsteen) and Pankace on this section – they are both from the states (though different parts) and it’s super nice to share stories with them! Bruce comes up with a trailname for Chrigi: (Peter) Pan! It fits, and Chrigi likes it😊

And then, we reach the desert – the real desert! After walking around it for weeks, we finally have to cross the Mojave desert. It’s flat, and hot, and there is a lot of wind. Also, there are flowers and butterflies!

Like us, they travel from Mexico to Canada – but mach faster! Up to 500 miles a day they can fly… Unless there are such beautiful flowers like these, then a little rest seems better😉

In the middle of it all, there is Hikertown. That’s a sort of hostel in the form of a village in the Wild West. Some people think it’s amazing, some others think it’s creepy. With such contradictory reports, we were naturally very curious to see it for ourselves! And when we’re finally there, we join the first group: This is an awesome place (at least in daylight, Bruce, who stays there for the night, says that at night it’s creepy…)

We are able to borrow the old van from Hikertown and together with Vincent, Bruce and Pancake we drive to a coffee/store to satisfy our current and future appetite. Driving through this vast, flat land, we feel like in a movie…

Finally, we move on – in the late afternoon to avoid the heath. The pct followes the aqueduct that brings water from the Sierra Nevada to LA. It’s very impressive!

At first it’s open and later covered – the big aqueduct!

We feel good and decide to nighthike – together with Kevin and Mama (he’s actually a man😉) who we accidentally meet on trail (Bruce, Pancake and Vincent decided to spend the night in Hikertown). We see the light slowly fading and changing the flat desertlandscape… It’s great! The only downside is that there is a lot of wind. A lot of wind! When we decide to rest, we’re barely able to put up the tent!

The desert at sunset – there are many Joshuatrees here…

So much sand was blown into our tent last night!

The next day we realise how good it was to split the flat aqueduct section in half by camping in the middle: We literally see it in different lights and it’s more interesting that way. Also, we partly avoid the heath.

The desert in the morning – flat and hot…

And it is hot the next day! We’re glad when we start to climb up into the hills, as there is a breeze there… And a big windfarm. At first, the big blades of the windmills barely turn. Then suddenly, they all start redirecting their turbines, although we don’t feel a lot of wind – it’s a bit creepy… Then 20 minutes later, a strong wind starts blowing!

Once again, walking becomes difficult, but we don’t mind, as at least it’s not super hot that way. And hiking close to the huge windmills is very impressive! They sound like plains… Swush, swush, their big blades go…

Reaching the last watersource for the next 16 miles, we fill up (water is sooo heavy😉) and head on to the next campspot as the one next to the water is quite crouded. At first, we’re a little disappointed by our choice: Unlike the previous one by the water, it doesn’t look like much. But when the sun sets, the fading light somehow turns the colours into amazing shades, the crickets are chirping and the moon is visible – our plain campspot becomes a magical place! I feel so happy to be here!

Desert hills – would you expext water here?

Although we had filled all of our bottles, it turns out that this wasn’t enough: The next watersource that is located 16 miles away from the other one is dry (a few days ago it was still running and we counted on it)!

We don’t know what to do now. In the vage hope that somebody might have left water by the highway close by, I leave my pack in the shadow by the river and walk up to check. There is no watercache, but a man sitting on the back of his pick-up. I greet him and we start chatting a little. When I mention our water-problem he introduces himself as “Magic Man” – he’s a trailangel who offers cold drinks and snacks to PCT-hikers, and in our case, water! How lucky we are! I run back to fetch the others and Andy runs up the trail to fetch other hikers we saw camping there. So we not only get enough water to reach Tehachapi the next day, but also good company and cold drinks😄

As it’s already getting late and the next miles are said to be exposed and windy (there is another windfarm, an ominous sign), we decide to camp under the trees next to the dry river. A better decision than we realised just then! In the middle of the night, I wake up, quite disorientated. What is that weird sound? And where are the flashlights coming from? Then I get it: It’s a thunderstorm, and it’s raining heavily! In the desert! I certainly didn’t expect that😉

Packing up a wet tent with cold fingers in the rain is not very fun, but we know we’ll reach town around lunch, which makes it a little less bad. We hike on through the windmills (luckily, there is not much wind now!) in the mist, which is quite eerie as it looks a little like a graveyard… Yet another perspective the pct offers!

We’re very happy when we finally reach town where we can warm up with a hot soup and an equally hot shower (well, almost😉)! And we’re even happier when we meet Vincent, Bruce and Half & Half and Penguin (an Argentinian couple whom we haven’t seen since BigBear)! The pct not only offers wonderful nature, but also meeting great people!

Snow, rain and sunshine

Wrightwood is a very hikerfrindly town. We haven’t been there more than two minutes when local trailangels offer us a place to stay (we have already organized accomodation, so we have to decline), tell us about where to eat, where to buy food, get stickers and pins etc. Resupplying and getting a few items from our parcels and reposting them takes some time, and then we satisfy our hungry hiker-stomaches…

T

Look, I opened a bakery😉

The next day, we have a slow start: First comes breakfast, a big one, of course! Then we slowly get ready to hike on. The trail is gentle for a few miles, it feels like a sunday-walk in the woods (apart from the fact that our packs are heavy again). We meet a few other hiker, Outlayer, Second Chance and Panda, and chat a little. The trail is amazing in that way, you meet so many different people with different stories and backgrounds!

Then we reach the base of Mt. Baden Powell. The path starts to ascend steeply. After about a mile, we hit the first snow. There are only patches at first, but soon they become bigger and bigger, until the trail is completely covered in snow. We put on our mikrospikes as the snow is quite slippery. Finally, the footprints stop following the trail and instead climb up in a straight line. It’s physically very demanding! The people going ahead must have been a lot bigger than us, because the steps are far apart. This doesn’t help, nor does the fact that the snow is very slushy and often we slip and stumble. It feels like fighting for every meter, and I have to remind myself repeatedly that I can do it…

It doesn’t look that steep on the picture, but I tell you, it is!

At last, we reach the top. And the feeling of accomplishment combined with the awesome view are a great reward for our struggles! We decide to camp there, as it’s getting late. So we also get to enjoy an amazing sunset!

Proud at the top!

The next day, Andy and I follow the ridges westwards (to avoid he mojave desert, the pct followes the mountains to the west) through the snow, while Vincent returns to Wrightwood as he lost his knife there, that is very important for him. Our progress is slow, we only do about a mile per hour…

Watching snowfree lower mountains…

Reaching the end of the snow, we think that we can advance faster now. But we’re wrong. After a few faster miles, we reach a parking lot. There, we run into Second Chance again. He is amazing, reaching Canada is only his secondary goal, the real reason for him to hike the pct is to loose 200 pounds of bodyweight! (You can follow him on youtube, he has become quite famous.)

We stop to chat, and while we are there, several trailangels come and give us drinks, fruit, fresh muffins… We stay a little longer… And chat a little more with everybody…😉

Finally, Andy and I say goodbye. We hike on over a mountain only to reach the same highway again. Guess who we meet there? Second Chance and the same trailangels we talked to before! Also, there are Euro and Philip whom we met on our way to Wrightwood. They all did the roadwalk instead of the climb we took. We have lots of fun together! Joking and laughing we spend so much time there that later, we only hike half a mile on to a campspot. With all the food we got, we don’t even need dinner. What an unexpected, funny ending to our day😊

The next morning, the pct has another surprise for us! We wake up in a cloud. Everything is wet and dripping. The atmosphere is so different to everything we’ve seen so far on this hike! Almost all day long, we walk in the fog, and unlike I would at home where this is more common, I really enjoy it here! It’s fascinating to see the same world we saw yesterday in bright sunlight in mist…

Surprises on the pct😉

Yuhui!

The clouds are still there the next day, but now we try to reach sunlight again to dry all our wet stuff. We manage to do that, and also, it turns out to be another pizzaday: We hear that there is another possibiliy to order pizza. We joke about this with Outlayer, whom we meet again this morning. Later, we decide to skip the chance, though, as we think it might slow us down too much (we try to reach Agua Dulce quickly, I’ll explain later why). But when we reach the lunchspot, Outlayer, Euro and Philip are already waiting for us, with pizza! Thanks so much again, Outlayer, for thinking of us and ordering one for us!

We have lots of fun again, falling into pizza-coma and getting entertained by ants trying to get morsels of pizza… It’s the little things😉

Despite of the fact that we’re so full of pizza (it really almost finished me) and of a climb at the end of a day, we manage to do 22 miles that day! This is a new record, we’re quite proud! And it motivates us to speed up more to get to Agua Dulce, where we’ll meet my brother, Christian. We’re looking very much forward to meeting him!

The trail to Agua Dulce has unexpected surprises for us: Back in the desert with it’s blooming flowers, we see hundreds of butterflies, it’s amazing! They’re so fast, though, that I couldn’t take a picture, so just imagine lots of beautiful butterflies fluttering around our heads…

Just before reaching town, the pct passes through Vasquez Rocks. They appear in many movies (in fact, we see a movie-set there) and are truly spectacular! The San Andreas fault shaped them, I’ve never seen anything alike before.

Inspired by a movie…😉

After walking this great last miles, we finally arrive in Agua Dulce, and we meet Chrigi😄😄 We’re super happy! Now we’ll continue all together, and we hope Vincent will also catch up again!