Pacific Crest Trail Thru Hike: Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows – Why I hate the desert and will venture there no more.

I try to add something extra to my blog posts. Instead of just a slide show of my actions over a period of time, I like to describe the trail, and any experiences that transcend the individual and illustrates what makes walking such an immense distance so worthwhile and beneficial to mind, body, and spirit. However, if Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Charles Dickens decided to have a child together, that baby would fail if asked to write a kind word about the trail betwixt (OK there is one nice word) Tehachapi and Kennedy Meadows. So instead, for the sake of future hikers, I will give a brief account of this section and maybe brag a bit about a special day I spent hiking…for 43 miles.

After leaving Tehachapi, all your guide books will lie to you and tell you that you are in the Sierra Nevada. You are not. You are in a hellish landscape of fire and brimstone, where water does not exist and the earth has decided that the bottoms of your shoes should melt if you stand still long enough.

I wanted no part of it. And thus, my hiking style changed to a ‘hike the hell out of here’ technique. I left Tehachapi late, because my ride decided to check three different hotels for other hikers, and then wait for said hikers to finish eating breakfast, despite the fact that they had just sat down to start eating. So instead of a 10 minute drive to the trailhead at 7am, it was a 2.5 hour drive to the trailhead at 9:30. No big deal-except for the fact that it would be over 100 degrees for the next 5 days.

So with full water, and fully loaded pack, the hike was a slog and really not enjoyable. For those who would say, “Oh the desert is beautiful”- go to hell. It was beautiful 500 miles ago, now it’s annoying. I did 18 miles to the first water source outside of town, which amounted to a trickle of water flowing over a cut-open soda can. This type of water source would be a preview of the sources still to come.

It was the next day that truly beat me down. For a brief and glorious moment, the trail rises out of the desert and there are trees and a surprisingly flowing water source. However, on a trail register, someone had (helpfully?) written “Enjoy the next 40 miles of brutal desert, I know you will.” I contemplated dusting the register for prints and finding the author of that note and using my fists to explain the mentality of ‘ignorance being bliss.’ Instead, I made the decision to just get it over with. So at mile 608, I began walking and did not stop until mile 651. Ok I did stop between 7pm and 2am for a ‘nap.’ In 25 hours, I hiked those 43 disgusting miles, in which the day time temperatures must have reached 103. I arrived at Walker Pass just after sunrise, and was fortunate enough to get picked up by a dirt biker heading towards Lake Isabella. He dropped me off at South Lake, a town basically defined by a gas station and a grocery store. Fine. with. me. I waited outside the store until it opened and then ate 2 BBQ chicken sandwiches, a 24 pack of Gushers, and a king sized ice cream sandwich.

Having made it to Walker Pass just after sunrise, I missed the turn off to the water cache and parking area, so after hitching back to the trail, I was surprised to see several tarps set up with PCT Bandanas waving in the slight breeze. There stood Yogi, of guide book legend, cooking grilled cheese sandwiches. A small ginger boy with dirt on his face ran up and pushed a cold drink into my hand, and put mardi gras beads around my neck. Bear Bait was his name though originally he went by Julian Walker after the trail town of Julian and, you guessed it, Walker Pass.

Thus began the Walker Pass Trail Magic Vortex, where I met up with a bunch of hikers I hadn’t seen for a while, including the Trail Rats, Ambassador, Billy Jack, and the infamous shoe pisser, Timone. Timone arrived about 30 minutes after me bursting from a car and yelling about posting bail and taking some ‘jail zeros.’ Apparently he got rolled and the cops found some dubious substances in his backpack. What can ya do?

Short Step and Too Close, Ruthie B., Sparkle, and WestWood were all there as well and it was decided that we would night hike out, after dinner, and tomorrow. We left at around 6pm the next day in a lovely hiker train and made the final push for Kennedy Meadows and the gateway to the Sierra.

We did those 50 miles by the light of the moon and made it to Kennedy Meadows where we were met with double bacon cheese burgers and several days of eating garbage and compiling a hefty tab.

I would wait for 3 days for Legs to arrive and met me on trail, and venture into the range of light, the Sierra Nevada.

Oh and I saw 3 bears by mile 608. I was torn limb from limb. Just kidding. It was eventful.

(Sent my sd card home without uploading the pictures from this section, though it wasn’t worth taking many pictures of the trail.)

  1. Hi — I’m section hiking the PCT and thinking of doing this section (F) in mid-July. Sounds like you were there in early June? And it would be even harder in July?

    Reply

    1. Section F from Tehachapi to Walker Pass had the longest OFF TRAIL waterless stretch of the whole trail. Hikers could go off trail for an added few miles down a ‘gully’ to a water source breaking it down to a 13 and 30 mile carry. There were water caches though I don’t know how they will be filled in June. I would expect VERY HOT temperatures, and a lot of that trail is without shade. Sun protection, midday siestas, night hiking and hydration are going to be your biggest factors. Still doable, but just plan well. I was there mid/late may and it was sweltering. I got to Kennedy Meadows just a couple days before June began. I can’t imagine july. In July I was in Northern California and it was uncomfortably hot but more shady. High 90’s were the norm, triple digits often, and that was at a higher altitude that what you will be at the desert. There is one spot in section F where you go up and there are trees and a great gushing water source at a tank. But after that, it’s brutal.

      Reply

  2. […] For an entertaining read on the section, check this one out. (Click here) […]

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