Chapter 5 – Notes from the sidelines

Chapter 5 – Notes from the sidelines

We are home now for a few weeks rest, horses are out enjoying green grass and their pasture buddies.  At the request of a few, here is chapter 5 of my “sidelines” stories, describing the last few days of our PCT Adventure, phase 1.

Leaving Landers Meadow, I drove back down Piute Mtn Rd and was pleased to see that the road crew had finished the road grading project, making my drive easier than I anticipated.  Rose, BG and I drove to the Lake Isabella KOA to refill our water tanks and proceeded to Lake Isabella to fuel up and find a pair of hind shoes for BG.   I also stopped to buy a few pre-mixed salads and a pre-cooked chicken breast.  A cold salad for dinner on a hot day was a real treat for us.

Our destination was Bird Spring Pass.  Before we left home for this trip, the truck routes had been loaded in the Garmin Nuvi.  Unfortunately, once we were on the road, the routes disappeared so I spent quite a bit of time studying maps.  Backing up on narrow dirt roads was something I wanted to avoid.  We drove 5 mph for over an hour, finally reaching our parking spot for the night.   The top of Bird Spring Pass which was not set up for trailers and I needed to turn around.  I started to maneuver the trailer when a voice from the shadows called out and asked if I needed a spotter.  I looked up the hill and saw 6-8 hikers huddled under a Joshua Tree, resting in the shade.  I laughed and said “oh good, an audience” which brought laughter and encouragement.  I got the trailer turned around and parked in just the right place with minimal effort and received a round of applause for my efforts.

Next morning the hikers that camped with us were up early, ready to tackle the long steep climb they faced that morning.  Gary and BG started up the trail as Mercedes, Rose and I drove down to the next camp, Walker Pass, an easy paved drive.  We pulled in and saw another horse trailer parked, which I parked alongside.  The driver was Bryce, the other rider’s husband and crew.   We exchanged introductions and after I got my horse taken care of, we sat with the trail angels who had set up an amazing selection of beverages and food for the hikers.  The look on each hikers face when they saw the food was priceless.  We saw the hikers who had left Bird Spring Pass that morning, among them “Milwaukee Bob” who talked about home and his daughter, who he hoped could join him soon.  Gary and Phyllis, the other rider, arrived and at one point there were quite of few of us huddled around the picnic table and “trail magic”, all talking and laughing at the same time.  It was an especially nice day with the abundance of hikers that came and went… such a variety of people from all over the world and of all ages.

The drive to our next camp, Chimney Creek Campground was long but much of it was along a highway.  I parked in a great spot only to have someone in a US Government truck tell me the campground was closed so I moved to a wide spot on the gravel road, 500’ from the PCT trail crossing.  I didn’t unpack because Gary was unsure if he could actually make it to camp.  We knew a trail crew had cleared trees up to mile 668 or 669 but we weren’t sure Gary could ride the next 12 miles – dozens of trees were reportedly down and getting past them with a horse would be challenging.  I waited a few hours and just when I started to unpack, Gary texted and gave me a location to meet him.  Bryce was parked at the trail crossing and was walking up to ask me if I had heard anything.  I told him Gary was turning back and found the location we needed to be on the laptop maps, then on the Nuvi and plotted a course.  It was 3 miles as the crow flies, but 8 miles on a steep windy road.  Bryce had been warned that this road included a massive boulder that had come down and the forest ranger was not sure we could make it past that boulder.  We set out for the bottom of the hill, several thousand feet down.  We finally saw the boulder on the road and were able to get by with about a foot to spare – piece of cake!

We reached the location Gary had mentioned and within 20 minutes I saw him riding toward us.  After texts were received from Phyllis, Gary went back up the trail to help her find her way out to where we waited.  Bryce and I had decided it was time for a large adult beverage, and after Gary and Phyllis both arrived, we all drove to a quiet spot along Lake Isabella to camp for the night, took care of the horses then sat in our trailer talking about the day’s ride and the frustration of having to turn back.   Gary and I planned to head for home to give the horses a rest and wait for the snow to melt while Phyllis and Bryce stayed to ponder their next move.

Sunday evening, we arrived home to rain.  I hadn’t seen rain other than a few sprinkles, since I left home 30 days earlier!   It took me a day to adjust to no travel.  I’ve had just enough time to get all the laundry done, repack clothing in the trailer, make the bed and prepare a shopping list for our resupply.   The trailer will soon be ready for phase 2.  Now we need the weather to cooperate.  Hard to imagine the snow all melting when it is still snowing in places.   Stay tuned… more in a month!

Day 27 Walker Pass to Chimney Creek Or the end of an era

Day 27 Walker Pass to Chimney Creek

Or the end of an era

Mile 0651 to 0672, 32 miles, 11:48, 2.7 mph average, minimum elevation 3949, maximum elevation 7299, total ascent 6017, total descent 7118

The day started out with some iffy looking clouds to the west.  They were bunching up obscuring views of the mountain we would be crossing that day.  The trail climbed right from the beginning to over 7000 feet.  The first part was on the east side of the ridge, while still in the sun the strong wind made it seem cool.  As I came to where I would cross over to the west side I stopped and put my raingear on which helped with the wind chill.  Crossing over we were in the clouds, visibility dropping to a couple hundred feet.  Then we would cross over to the west side again and be in the sun, back to the east and in the clouds.  Finally around 10:00 the clouds lifted, the wind died somewhat and I was able to remove the raingear and one of my sweatshirts.

morning clouds

Someone built miles of rock walls on this hillside to make the trail.
even so the trail is none too wide.
but it is pretty
this is the first hike made cairn I had seen in days. I theorized that the hikers that make it this far aren’t the ones that stop and stack rocks 🙂
on the east side headed for the west and clouds

From time to time on this trip we have set out to ride a portion of the trail identified in the trail reports as impassable for horses.  In each of the earlier cases I found the hazard overstated or corrected by the time I came to it.  I had had the advantage of following Phyllis, who was followed by Trent with me bringing up the rear.  Admittedly I had been the beneficiary of their limb and tree cutting up to this point.  On this day I would be the first out on the trail, “Be sure to have all the trees cut before I get there” Phyllis called to me as I left camp.

The worm turned, I-Beam noted in the water report “A trail crew has been through there and cleared all of the downed trees. However, it looks like they stopped at Mile 669.4. From 669.4 to Chimney Creek, mile 680.8, there are over 100 trees across the trail. You can get around or over them, but it really slows you down and is exhausting. I don’t think a horse could make it through.”  That would basically be the last 11 miles of today’s 32 mile ride.  As a general rule, hikers are not very accurate in accessing a horse’s abilities.  It isn’t that they don’t mean well, they just aren’t familiar with a horse’s capabilities.  In this case, I-Beam nailed it.  For the first two miles after where the trail crew had been I was able to go around, over or under the downed trees.  Sometimes I had to cut some branches, sometimes I was able to muscle the tree over the side, nevertheless go arounds were doable.  At a little over two miles, the trail sides turned from steep sandy slopes to sheer rock walls.  Go arounds were no longer possible; to get past the tree had to be removed.

The new Silky Katanaboy and Big Boy saws worked great.  I cut one tree after another, each time thinking I’ll be able to get on my horse and ride a bit when I get past this one.  It wasn’t even worth getting on the horse; within yards there would be another sizeable tree to cut.  It took me 4 hours to go half a mile, it was 3:30 there were ten miles to go and who knows how many more trees to cut.  I knew I didn’t want to be on that narrow trail at 7000 feet elevation after dark, it’s bad enough during the day when you can see what is going to kill you, so I made the decision to turn around.

When a tree falls across a trail like this and it’s too low to go under and too high to go over cutting is the only option.

I had seen a ranch road in a valley three or four miles back.  I thought I could cut across country to pick up the road which would then lead me to a road where I could meet Janis another four miles away.  The other option was to ride back 22 miles to Walker Pass and I wasn’t going to get there before dark either and only then after backtracking over some pretty hairy trail.  I texted Janis the plan and started back down the mountain.

Shortly I met Phyllis coming the other way.  I explained that a horse couldn’t get through and if we wanted to get out before dark I thought the ranch road was our best option.  With so much time and effort invested in getting to where we were Phyllis needed to look at the trail ahead before turning around, she wanted to try getting through as she really didn’t want to go back over the past two miles of tough trail again.  I said that I would walk back down the trail until she caught up or not if she should be able to get through.


Going down that ugly two miles of fallen trees wasn’t quite as bad as the going up, gravity was working for us somewhat, but I wouldn’t want to do it again.  Getting back to the cleared trail was like getting on the freeway, nothing but clear sailing.  I kept going back on the trail until I realized I was putting more gulleys, steeper hillsides and trashier bottoms between where I was and where the ranch road should be.  We stopped at a creek crossing to let Mercedes tank up on water and get a few mouthfuls of grass, then turning around once more we headed back up the hill searching for a way to the distant road.  Eventually we got back high enough that I thought there was only one small draw that wasn’t too brushy between Mercedes and I and the ridge I believed the ranch road was on.  By then it had been nearly an hour and a half since I had seen Phyllis, more than enough time for her to get to where I had turned around and back to where I was now.  With only a couple hours of light left and an uncertain path ahead of me I opted to strike out for the road rather than wait any longer for Phyllis who might not be coming anyway.

Luck was with me as within 50 yards of where I dropped down into the draw I picked up a trail that took me around the ridge and to the beginning of the ranch road.  Heading down the road I soon began to see lots of horse and cow sign.  Mercedes gave quite a start when we came around a corner and face to face with a pair of big ol’ well fed stock horses.  It would have taken two of Mercedes to make either one of them, Mercedes was nervous, they were curious.  We continued down the trail, now a three horse convoy the back two tailgating closely, Mercedes was really picking ‘em up and putting ‘em down, a pace that carried us down the valley, past the ranch and out to a waiting Janis in no time flat.

After the narrow trails and downed trees the ranch road was really pleasant riding.

Unluckily, I had not checked my inReach for messages since starting down off the mountain.  If I had I would have seen the one that said wait for Phyllis. (note to self, figure out how to make the inReaches ring when a message comes in as well as goes out!)  In the meantime she had tracked me down to where I had watered Mercedes before turning around and going back up the hill, naturally my downward tracks disappeared at that point.  We texted her directions on how to find my trail.  I say texted very loosely, inReaches are meant to be paired with a smart phone using the smart phone’s keyboard and software and the inReaches satellite capabilities.  Neither Bryce, Janis nor I use smart phones, so we had to use the four directional arrows to highlight each letter on the screen, a tedious process at best  I wasn’t convinced my directions were clear, so I headed back up the hill to give what help I could.  Between Phyllis and a couple of hikers they were able to decipher my code, so I met her coming down the ranch road, boy was I glad to see her.

Georgie was glad to be off the mountainside too!

Bryce knew of a good camping spot right alongside Lake Isabella, where we could spend the night.  It didn’t take us long to set up camp and pour adult beverages all around.  Janis and I decided to end the first part of our PCT journey right there.  I passed mile 665, just barely, which is the quarter mark to Canada.  Initially we wanted to make it to Horseshoe Meadow, but that road was washed out.  We backed our goal back 50 miles to Kennedy Meadow but got stopped by the trees 35 miles short of there.  It isn’t the end of the world, when we come back we will tack those 35 miles on to the beginning or end of the Sierra section.

Day 26 Bird Springs Pass to Walker Pass

Day 26 Bird Springs Pass to Walker Pass

Mile 0631 to 0651, 19.9 miles, 0:00, 0.0 mph average, minimum elevation 5051, maximum elevation 6981, total ascent 4684, total descent 4994, somehow I lost my track information, these numbers are from Halfmile’s data

Leaving Bird Spring Pass
headed down the valley

It was cool in the morning at Bird Springs.  It is hard to dress for the day when you get up as it is at least two sweatshirts cold first thing in the morning and depending upon the altitude tee-shirt warm between 9 & 12:00.  I should amend that, it is tee-shirt warm on the leeward side of the hill.  On the windward side it can stay at the two sweatshirt level.  Early in the trip I wore a long sleeved cotton shirt to protect from the sun but it just wasn’t warm enough after the Anza-Borrego.  Most mornings now I start out with a tee-shirt under a zip-up hoody under a pull over hoody.  Along about what I have come to know as geck-O-clock, that time of day when it warms up enough the geckos start running around, I tie the pull over onto the back of my saddle.  From that point on I adjust with the zip up.  From zipper and hood up on the windy side of the hill, to unzipped, hood down, Shady Brady on in the full sun and no wind.  The last couple of days I have been so brave as to ride with my arms exposed in the afternoon.

rocks make my day

I thought I might be riding into a more forested area again as we approach the Sierras but alas it is more high desert.  What trees I do see are pretty scattered and consist of mostly Juniper, Live Oak (these are the ones I didn’t think were really oaks because of the leaf shape) with the occasional scrub pine thrown in.  That isn’t to say the drier landscapes aren’t striking in their own right, panoramas without trees to block the view have a lot going for them.  I like to try and spot where the trail is going to go in the distance.  Sometimes I can see a hint of trail four or five miles away.  I like looking at rock formations, like cloud watching, scenes and figures can be spotted among the ever changing scenery.

Sentinel Rocks keep a watchful eye on mortal visitors
beware to those who take advantage of mother nature

Riding into the campground at Walker Pass I was greeted by Phyllis and Bryce Keller as well as Janis and Rose.  In addition there was an extensive trail magic station manned by two young ladies from Portland Or.  As the Kellers, Peggs and trail angels were all sharing the same camp spot with a picnic table under a shade cover I got a first hand, close up and personal view of hikers reactions to what these girls were providing, fresh bread, deli meats, cheeses, fruit, condiments, chips, salsa, soft drinks, water, even hard liquor.  For hikers who have been expending large amounts of energy and subsisting on minimal diets this was a smorgasbord not to be passed up.  The girls even offered rides to the two towns relatively nearby, Lake Isabella, 39 miles west and Ridgecrest, 25 miles east.  They even gave the two Toms from Belgium a ride to Bakersfield, a five hour round trip.

It was nice to have a chance to visit with this group of people.  There were people from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Belgium, Wisconsin, Oregon, California, Nevada and I don’t remember where all.  Besides the obvious link of the PCT, It was interesting to discover much more we shared in common than differences we didn’t.

Day 25 Landers Meadow to Bird Springs Pass

Landers Meadow to Bird Springs Pass

Day 25, mile 0608 to 0631, 23 miles, 6:41, 3.4 mph average, minimum elevation 4567, maximum elevation 6690, total ascent 3494, total descent 4320. Total miles traveled 608

I was sorry to leave Landers Meadow, Janis maybe not so much, but that is a story for her to share.  Given time I think this is an area I might want to explore further some day.  The ride to Bird Springs Canyon Rd was 23 waterless miles.  There was a spring 14 miles into the trip; however it was a mile and a half off trail with a loss of 1000 feet in elevation.  So we filled up two gallons of water jugs to give Mercedes a mid ride sip and hit the trail.

Leaving Landers Meadow

What a beautiful morning it was.  Riding through a Ponderosa Pine forest up a gently sloping hill, with plenty of land on both sides of the trail was a very pleasant change of pace.  Add to that general sense of well being an appreciation of a sun that rather than being a harbinger of high temperatures was a sun than spread a little warmth on my back on a cool morning.  With ears perked forward Mercedes eagerly gaited down the trail, smoothly anticipating my cues.  After the heat of the open desert the coolness and shade of forest was much appreciated by both of us.

nature stacks rocks too
riding through a burn

The forest did give way to another burned area which in turn gave way to more desert.  The gently sloping hill turned into yet another steep side hill and another mountain to climb.  Eight miles into the day the trail crossed Kelso Valley Rd.  From over a mile away I could see a truck and trailer parked at the crossing, I reasoned that it might be Phyllis and Bryce Keller.  Phyllis is riding the PCT and Bryce is her crew.  They are employing much the same methods as Janis and I.  Mercedes thought it was Janis and BG; she was doomed to be disappointed.  The Kellers had started 10 days before us but were taking more zero days as Phyllis’s horse, Georgie, was carrying most of the load.  Her back-up horse, Mattie, is mostly used on shorter days.  I thought we must be getting closer as I occasionally saw hoof prints ahead of me on the trail that hadn’t been erased by the many hiker footprints.

lonely desert roads
high desert trail

Sure enough, it was Bryce who was taking his time getting ready to move to his next camp after Phyllis had left on the trail.  I had talked to Phyllis on the phone a few days prior, but had never met or spoken to Bryce.  Bryce generously provided a couple buckets of water and a basket of hay for Mercedes while we got to know each other a bit, falling into an easy friendship.  As it turned out our schedules were going to line up for a few days and we would be able to camp together.  I looked forward to sharing camps; it is always nice to meet new people.

a study in log and rocks

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, more high desert, more rock ledges, more steep side hills and finally the first view of our rig from on high a couple miles distant.

all we have to do to get water is climb down off this hill to where the line of trees meets the road, the book says there might be some there.

I need to work on my timing for announcing myself to hikers as approach from behind them.  Normally if they haven’t sensed my presence by the time I close within 50 feet I’ll start with an outside voice “Good Morning”.  If that doesn’t work when I get to about 25 feet I will try “How’s your day going?”  Usually if that doesn’t work it is because they are wearing ear buds and listening to Lead Zeppelin.  So I will follow, keeping pace with them about 10 feet back.  If I hear a pause in the music I will try again with some pertinent comment such as “doesn’t that look like a rock?”  Today I startled a couple of hikers, getting to the third greeting before they heard me.  The first was a young man who just had a “WHOA” reaction.  The second was late in the day in a particularly strenuous big rock section.  A young woman, who was obviously about done for the day, plodding slowly, so tired she wasn’t even swinging her arms in time with her steps, wearily stepping 12 inches ups onto a rock that projected over the cliff, suddenly saw Mercedes’ head just a few feet away and nearly jumped off the side.  I felt bad I had scared her so; I apologized as I went by, and even so I earned a look from her hiking partner.

beauty is where you find it

At Bird Springs Pass there were several hikers taking shelter in the shade of Joshua trees waiting out the heat of the day, and enjoying the water from a large trail angel cache, before tackling the next few miles of trail which included a 2000 foot climb to over 7000 feet on Skinner Peak.  Among the resting hikers were an Australian, Rattler, and a German, Mozart, to whom I had offered a cold beer, several days before, if they passed by our camp.  They took advantage of the offer as we sat in the shade of our camper and visited a bit.  They like the rest of the hikers left singly or in pairs scattered out over a couple of hours wanting to top the hill before making camp for the night.  Most hikers hike alone, but tend to gather together in the evening or at rest spots during the day.  There are a few that are partnered one way or another, couples, father/daughter, mother/daughter and the like that hike together, but even they can get separated by a mile or more during the course of a day.

a sunset moon over the Joshua trees

Later in the day Janis and I were joined by Milwaukee Bob and Cherry Pie.  Bob is from Wisconsin and has been doing a solo hike up to this point, his daughter plans to join him for a couple weeks soon.  Cherry Pie, or Dave, is a section hiker from Portland and teaches at Portland State.  I find the individual stories of how we ended up in the same place and time interesting, which at least partly explains the lateness of this note.

Milwaukee’s best Bob at Bird Springs Pass Road

By Popular Demand

I have figured out how to get you email notifications so that you don’t have to continually check in on this site to see if there is anything new.  Scroll down in the column on the left, beneath comments, archives, etc, there is a box to add your email & subscribe for updates – g

Chapter 4 – Notes from the sidelines

Chapter 4 – Notes from the sidelines.

Monday was taken as a half rest day.  We bid our adieu’s to Lynn Wolfe of Wolfe Haven Boarding Stables, Marianne, Loki and Thor and drove to Tehachapi to get a bale of hay, grab lunch at the local BBQ and drive to the oak tree parking place so Gary could ride the last 7 miles of his interrupted ride the prior day.  I drove to exit 159 and waited for him.  As I waited, a car pulled in behind me, then a few more. I wondered what was going on and then a school bus pulled off the freeway and a group of school kids hopped off the bus and into the waiting cars.  I have never seen a bus stop at a freeway off ramp; another first for me.  I watched Gary coming along the railroad tracks toward me and cross the overpass over Hwy 58, a major freeway.  Not the best of riding situations but they made it.  Returning to the oak tree parking area, we set up camp for the night and were in bed by 8pm in preparation for an early start to Tuesday’s anticipated long day.

Tuesday morning Gary and BG rode up the trail, starting at the exit 159 off ramp while Rose, Mercedes and I drove to the next day’s camp.   It was going to be a long, challenging drive for me to get to the next camp.  I had to negotiate Piute Mountain Rd which was the better of the two poor choices.  Piute Mountain Rd was undergoing repairs after flood damage and let me tell you it was a drive where I had to remind myself to breathe.  We came up and up and up a twisty, very steep sandy road, partially road graded with a deep sand mound near the middle of the road where my tires needed to be.  I had the truck in 4WD Low Range the entire time, straddling the sand mound as best I could.  I cannot tell you how many times the truck fish-tailed and struggled to make the turns. At one place the sand mound hid a large rock which I never saw but I heard it as we drove over it.  Ugh.  Near the top I passed the road crew who likely had bets placed on whether I could make it as they were all watching the entire time I was in view.  Finally reaching the top, the road leveled out and was not as difficult.  I decided to stop and park the trailer at Landers Meadow, our designated camp for the night, disconnect and drive the next 6 miles to where Gary hoped I would be able to meet him.  It would shorten his day from 42 to 36 miles.  A few miles into that drive I encountered a massive mud hole that I was not willing to go through with the truck and knew the trailer would not do well there so I turned around and came back to the trailer, texting Gary to come to mile 608.

I pulled in where the trailer was parked with the doors all locked and unloaded Mercedes, tied her to the fence, turned the truck around and started to back the truck under the trailer when out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mercedes walk past me with no rope attached.  I have no idea how she managed to get the rope unsnapped.  I jumped out of the truck and said “Mercedes, whoa, whoa, whoa” at which point that old BATTLEAXE broke into a run and down the dirt road she went, whinnying for BG.   Seriously?  I feed her, water her, brush her, bathe her, give her carrots, apples, blanket her when it’s cold and this is the thanks I get.  I ran back to the trailer to grab a rope and grain – doors locked – for you Seinfeld fans, this was a “Serenity Now” moment.  I quickly unlocked the door, grabbed a rope and a can of grain and tore off after her in the truck.  Now, as I pulled away, I noticed a truck appear behind me that turned around; uh oh, I believed they saw I was leaving and were going back to ransack the trailer.  Thank goodness the doors were still locked except the rear tack door.  I stayed on Mercedes’ trail, following the hoof tracks down the road, almost catching up then she took a side road.  I turned the truck sideways in the road as she came back down.  I got out, shook the can of grain and was able to get hold of her and attach the rope.  I turned the truck around while holding her lead rope then we headed back to camp.  She gaited alongside me the mile or so back to the truck where as I suspected, the other truck was parked and a woman dressed in army fatigues was indeed going through the tack room.  I pulled in behind her, blocking their escape and heard her start swearing.  I got out still hanging on to Mercedes and asked very sternly “what do you think you are doing in my trailer”?    She was not able to get a complete sentence out, stammered and appeared to be either drunk or drugged out.  Her companion got out of the truck, a big fella, 6’4” and 250 lbs.  I didn’t let on but they scared me a little.  I was very aware of how isolated it is here, and I caught them going through our stuff.  She claimed her 4wd went out and she was going to take a rope for their drive home.  She claimed she was leaving me a note.  I asked where the note was and she said she hadn’t written it yet.  She was lying, kept changing her story.    Why the rope was necessary was unclear but, the ropes were in plain view while the bridles, extra breast collars, saddle blankets, and everything but our highline ropes, were out on the ground.  Total ransack job.  I closed the tack room door, tied Mercedes up and moved my truck, hoping they’d be on their way.   She followed me the entire time, making me nervous.  They lingered, asking me the same questions again and again.  Did I know so and so, am I from around here, am I going back down now, how far to the highway, what is the horse’s name.  I said I was busy and made sure they knew our visit was over.  They finally left, heading out the way they’d come, then turned around, spun their wheels throwing sand everywhere, and headed out toward Jawbone Canyon Rd, the worst choice they could have made.  I watched them go and waited for hours for them to reappear, but the only visitors I saw after that were a couple friendly old guys taking a drive and the road crew.  I hope I get out of here in the morning before the road crew starts again!

So, today was one of those “I have had enough” days; I am looking forward to tomorrow being better – I still have to make the drive back down Piute Mtn Rd and I didn’t save enough finger nails for the drive.    Tomorrow, the road should be a little better, at least that I recall.  Not great but certainly not like today’s road.  Just think, 5 more days and we’re on our way home!  More later

some more pictures

These little red ones only seem to grow right in the trail
see the cow hiding in the bush? Makes opening and closing all of those gates worthwhile 🙂
windmills everywhere
and more windmills
Janis and I call these grocery bag flowers. From a distance they look like plastic grocery bags that have gotten caught in the brush

Day 24, Tehachapi Pass to Lander’s Meadow or the long, long day

We’ve been out of cell range for a few days, plus at the past three camps we have had socialization opportunities with our fellow PCT adventurers and I have chosen to drink a beer and share meals and hear some of the stories this diverse group have to offer.  Janis and I are on our way home now from Phase I of our journey so I am making every effort to get caught up – g

Hwy 58 to Landers Meadow

Day 24, mile 0566 to 0608, 42.3 miles, 11:25, 3.7 mph average, minimum elevation 3706, maximum elevation 6722, total ascent 9222, total descent 6722. Total miles traveled 586 – I changed the time and average speed to total time instead of moving time.  Earlier I was turning the GPS on while getting ready in the morning skewing the total ride time and speed.  Lately I’ve been remembering to reset the trip info so total time and overall speed is a more accurate representation of what is going on.

early morning trail

always time for flowers

Knowing it was going to be a long day in the saddle we tried to get an early start.  Despite Janis’s best efforts it was 7:30 before I could get myself going.  We climbed 2500 feet in the first six miles, never steep for very far, but steady climbing.  Through the middle of the ride it was all up and down, losing as much as a thousand feet only to gain it back again.  We ended the day with a 3000 foot climb, long day.  On the bright side it was cooler than it has been, the clouds were threatening enough that I carried rain gear.

ridge running

It was also a dry day for BG.  First water was 17 miles into the day, the next water 20 miles after that.  We packed two gallons of water for BG.  It isn’t nearly enough to meet her needs or satisfy her but it is enough to give her a little relief.  I don’t like packing water; I am heavy enough of a load without adding another 16 pounds of water.  We stop about half way to the water source and let BG drink what she had carried.  We refilled the bottles at the first water and repeated the procedure in the afternoon.

Trail conditions were on both ends of the scale.  Most of the trail from mile 558 to 608 is maintained by the different windmill power companies.  An adopt a trail kind of thing with plaques noting their contributions at the beginning of their sections.  I suppose it is considered a PR effort on their part, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this was the best maintained trail so far on this trip.  The volunteers that do the bulk of the maintenance on the PCT do the best they can, but there isn’t any substitute for employees or contractors being paid to make the trail comply with standards.  Fifty miles of not having to duck under branches, not getting scratched up by brush or having to scramble up banks to get around wash outs.  Now that is a little bit of heaven.

The only obstacles encountered were down trees.  This early in the year the maintenance crews haven’t been through yet to clean up last winter’s wind falls.  There were large sections of the trail that went through fire zones.  Some of the burns are old enough almost every tree has fallen, in some the trees are starting to fall now and in others they haven’t started falling yet.  BG and I found our way over, under and around  dozens of trees.  There is job security for maintenance crews for years to come.

fifteen miles to go

On the other end of the scale there was a several mile section of the trail that was multi-purpose.  Jeeps, atvs, quads and motorcycles shared this stretch of trail with the hikers and horses.  It was awful.  Much of the track went straight up and down the fall line of the hills.  Rains and snow melts turn the trail into a small river that washing away what little dirt that had been there exposing rock, rock and more rock; ankle twisting for hikers and very slow going on horseback.  Happily there was just the one section along a ridge top where there wasn’t room for a parallel trail.

I can’t imagine this would be fun for an OHV either
BG didn’t like it either

The last ten miles was through a heavily forested area, with abundant natural water, springs and streams.  After the dryness of the high desert it was a pleasure to feel the cool moisture of a forest trail.  Both BG and I were glad to see the truck and trailer parked at Lander’s Meadow.

heading for the trees
I just liked the sign, no development that I could see
old wigwam burner, brings back memories from my youth when these burners glowed red and threw sparks high into the night sky.

Don’t know what to tell you about these sideways pictures, they are upside right on the editing page, they are upside right in my file manager and in the picture editing software.  I have decided to ignore them, I suggest if you turn your monitor on it’s side and all will be right with the world. – g

Day 23 Gamble Springs to Hwy 58or the fruit stand

Day 23, mile 0545 to 0566, 24.3 miles, 5:07, 4.8 mph average, minimum elevation 3463, maximum elevation 6291, total ascent 4746, total descent 4361. Total miles traveled 543

Snow on the ;mountain

On Day 23 we returned to Allan’s and picked up where we left off the day before.  We climbed nearly 3000 feet to the top of a ridge, all high desert kind of landscape.

Lonely line shack

I did pass two hikers, the first in three days.  On the top of the ridge trail angels have built an elaborate trail magic oasis.  They have cleared about a 20 foot square space of all vegetation and built a stick, branches and brush wind break about four feet tall all around.  They have patio chairs set up and offer a variety of drinks, fruit and other snacks.  It had been cold up to that point, two hoodies and a Carhardt jacket so it was very pleasant to sit in the sun out of the wind enjoying the panoramic view for a few minutes.  Mercedes enjoyed the apple.  From the oasis we dropped about 3000 feet to where Janis awaited us and another night at Wolfe’s Haven.

Trail Angels
Trail Magic

We did pass all the worrisome slide areas which turned out to be much ado about nothing.  The Tehachapi’s are a popular OHV area, mostly motorcycles.  They have trails everywhere, hundreds of miles of them, trails that scare me just to look at them and trails sedate enough for the whole family.  It is too bad that a few inconsiderate riders choose to use the PCT as well creating a maintenance nightmare on a trail that was not designed for motorized use.

Chapter 3 – Notes from the sidelines

Chapter 3 – Notes from the sidelines.

Friday morning I left the day’s camping spot amongst the mountain lilacs and drove toward I-5, looking for an opportunity to fill my water tanks in preparation for a few days in the desert.  I drove to a little town named Gorman right on I-5 and pulled in to a gas station.  After filling up with diesel I asked about water and the clerk said they didn’t have a spigot.  I drove under the freeway and asked at an auto repair shop where I could see a hose laying out in front.  The man told me no, they were on water restrictions but said there was an RV dump station with water at the Rest Area a few miles north on I-5.   As I drove to the rest area, it occurred to be that my daughter Tracy might be in the area, driving home from LA.  I called her and amazingly, she was 10 miles from me so I told her where the rest area was and drove to meet us.  She and her dog Jack were as happy to see us as we were to see them.  Rose was especially happy to see someone she knew!  It was fun to see them and give Tracy a big hug before we went our separate ways.

After spending Friday night in the desert where daytime temps had touched the 90’s, we awoke to cool breezes and partly cloudy skies.  I swapped the clothes I had laid out the night before, cutoffs and sandals, for a pair of jeans, a long sleeve shirt and hoodie.  Once Gary and Mercedes rode down the trail, BG, Rose and I headed to Tehachapi.  I wanted to get to the local veterinary office as they opened to see about an appointment for Rose who seemed to have something in her ear.  We arrived to find them very helpful.  They took her back to take a quick look, advising me that if she needed to be sedated I could pick her up later in the day.  Ten minutes later the vet came out with a piece of gauze with 2 foxtails taped to it that had been extracted from deep in Rose’s ear canal.  They washed her ear out, applied antibiotics, gave us some ear medicine and sent us on our way.  The vet also showed me a new device some a few of the local ranchers are using.  Made from the same mesh as a horse’s fly mask, it attaches to the dogs collar and covers their head, like a bee keeper’s mask.  It keeps the working dogs from getting foxtails in their ears.  The rancher’s gave the masks a trial run, and so far, thumbs up.  It took the dogs a while to get accustomed to them but now they love them; it not only keeps the foxtails out of their ears but also provides protection from the dust and sunlight.

As I sat writing this chapter, I watched the In-Reach Satellite tracking and wondered why the signal hadn’t updated in a while.  I could see Gary had ridden down into a canyon to get water, and knew that was the plan.  I was a little concerned because while it often takes 10-30 minutes to update the new location, it had been over an hour with no change.  Just then, a car pulled in to my quiet little oak treed waiting area, and I saw a man get out of the passenger seat with a bridle in his hand.  Initially I though either he lost his horse or was going to say he lost the horse tied to my trailer because he got out and came toward the truck with real purpose.

Have you ever seen someone you know in a place they would not normally be so you don’t immediately recognize them?  That was the situation here when it suddenly dawned on me that was Gary!  I hit the internal panic button.  “What happened?  Where is Mercedes?”   After a hasty explanation I loaded BG and Rose we took off following the driver, Allen, to where Gary had intercepted him, a few miles from where he’d lost Mercedes.   After navigating miles of dirt road, we unloaded BG; saddled her up and away Gary rode.  He figured if he rode BG up there and whistled she would hear him, maybe BG would – whinny and draw her in.  I could see with the In-Reach that she hadn’t run far.  After less than an hour, Gary sent me an In-Reach message that all was well, meaning he found Mercedes and the tracking device that was in her saddle pack.  Whew!  The forecast was rain and snow in the mountains and I was really concerned that Gary would be searching in that weather.  Thank goodness for the In-Reach… it let us see where she was every 10 minutes or so.

Once that emergency was put to rest, I began to think about dinner, graciously being prepared by our hostess Lynn Wolfe of Wolfe Haven Boarding Stables, which will be our home for the next 2 nights.  I was looking forward to a night in a real bed and a real shower.  I was not disappointed.  It is a wonderful place to take a rest day.  Lynn has built a great boarding facility she shares with her sister Marianne.  It includes an apartment available for us to rent with a special bonus…a washer and dryer.  Her two dogs Thor and Loki were very friendly; Rose played and ran with Loki while Thor looked on.  Thor is a very large old Great Dane mix who greeted us with hound dog howls – quite funny.  He reminded me very much of Randy Rinehart’s old dog Herbie.  Our dinner was delicious as was the almond coconut cake for dessert.  Tonight’s menu will feature pork chops, gravy and mashed potatoes.  At this rate it will be hard to leave.

With all the excitement of the day, I almost forgot to mention the initial theme of this chapter.  This trip has included a few firsts for me:  I saw my first road runner, finally saw a snake though I don’t think it was a rattle snake, too long and thin.  I saw a few white geckos running across the road with head high as they ran, really looked comical.  Also saw a family of quail and a family of bunnies cross the road in front of me at the same time which was odd.  And last, I put the first dent in my new truck on the front bumper L  – a sad moment.  The sensors I depended on to warn me I was too close let me down this time.  Gary said he was glad it was me and not him that did it.    More Later