Day 53-54: Rockhouse Basin to Kennedy Meadows

It was just a short eight mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail to Kennedy Meadows which soon will become the center of the hiking universe for the next month or so.

We both had sent resupply packages to the Kennedy Meadows General Store and spent a zero day organizing gear and supplies. We will be entering the Sierra in a few days and will hike up Mount Whitney and shortly after that hike over Forrester Pass, the highest point on the PCT.

We each sent new shoes in our resupply boxes to replace worn out ones. Bear proof canisters are required for our food in this section, so we have added those to our gear. We may encounter snow, so we will be carrying ice axes and crampons.

We also fattened up on the lunches and dinners offered by the general store and enjoyed catching up with new and old hiking acquaintances we have encountered over the last 7 weeks.

Photo: Deb organizes gear and supplies in Kennedy Meadows.

Trail Date: May 25-26th

Mileage: 8.7 miles

Day 52: Mile 676.1 to Rockhouse Basin

Shortly after we departed our campsite this morning, we had the thrill of the day – a solo bear strolling on the same Pacific Crest Trail right in front of us, maybe 20 yards ahead! We stopped and watched him for half a minute before he caught wind of us and galloped away. Deb has hiked the John Muir Trail twice since 2009 and was disappointed by no bear sightings so she is beyond happy today.

Trail Date: Saturday, May 24th

Mileage: 17.4 miles

Day 51: Mile 656 to Mile 676.1

A small monument created by a hiker at mile 665 reminded us today that we are one quarter of the way to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail.

That’s one quarter by distance, but about one third of our expected time on the PCT has passed. The reason for the difference is we expect to hike faster the more days we hike.

We created a “schedule” before we started that was heavily influenced by this document.

We are currently about a day ahead of the schedule, but we don’t refer to it often as we are in no hurry to reach Canada. We only use the schedule to help figure out resupplies and to reassure ourselves that we are on track as we watch the younger faster hikers zip by.

The schedule has us finishing on September 12th for a total of 162 days hiking on the PCT. We have no idea if this will be accurate and there is nothing special about September 12th. If we finish earlier or later that’s OK, although Northern Washington can have bad weather in late September.

Meanwhile, this section G has surprised us with its unexpected bountiful panoramas and big mountains. We have been perched on the upper sides of mountains for miles and miles – we are at the mercy of the trail to spit us down the mountains to water occasionally, but pay for the water privileges with another climb right back up.

Photo: A monument at mile 665 marks the first quarter of the trail.

Trail Date: Friday, May 23rd

Mileage: 20.1 miles

Day 50: Storm Clouds over Mount Jenkins

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As the sun was setting yesterday several small storms formed around us making dramatic cloud formations. When the rain came a few minutes later we were warm and dry in our well sheltered campsite.

Mount Jenkins is named after a guidebook author who sadly died at a young age in 1979.

Day 46 – 50

We just completed Pacific Crest Trail Section F, which is the section of trail from Tehachapi to Walker Pass. Deb thinks Section F is a test for hikers to see if they are ready to continue on.

It’s 85 miles (136 if you go straight through to Kennedy Meadows) with no resupply options, so it’s the most food we have had to carry, so far.

Section F is probably the driest PCT section, with frequent 20 mile stretches between water and one 32 mile waterless stretch.

Section F can be really hot, but a surprise change in the weather brought cold, wind and rain.

Section F is really beautiful, with amazing panoramic views.

Here is a brief day by day rundown to catch up our blog readers:

Day 46
Sunday May 18th
Tehachapi Pass to Mile 583.9
We had a very pleasant zero day at the Best Western. Rather deluxe compared to the hotels we have been using recently, but we both felt like the splurge was worth it.

We met Sam and Claudia, local trail angels, while having breakfast in the motel and they offered to return us to the trailhead.

It was pretty windy at Tehachapi Pass, which made it a big struggle at times to make it up the big climb but we made the 17.5 miles to Golden Oak Spring, where we found good water.

Day 47
Monday May 19th
Mile 583.9 to Mile 603.9
We got an early start and made good time as we hiked past wind farms, through a burn area, over Hamp Williams Pass to excellent water at Robin Bird Spring. We continued about two miles past the spring to camp.

Day 48
Tuesday, May 20th
Mile 603.9 to Mile 622.5
We passed several good water sources early in the day and Deb even found time to rinse out some clothes using a zip lock bag as a wash basin at Landers Camp. Here we also met Forrest of the PCTA, who was scouting out the camp conditions for a work crew.

The water situation in this section changes dramatically around mile 616. In the past water caches have been maintained at mile 616 and mile 631, but the person doing that is no longer able to continue this. Water caches aren’t absolutely necessary, but they can make hiking dry sections of the trail easier. Anyway, the water cache at mile 616 was empty, so we hiked to the water two miles off the trail near mile 620. We decided to carry enough water to reach Walker Pass in 32 miles (13 liters between the two of us).

When we made it back to the trail it was incredibly windy, but we were lucky to find a place to camp sheltered by a large boulder and Joshua Trees.

Day 49
Wednesday, May 21st
Mile 622.5 to Mile 641.2
Cool windy weather continued this morning. The trail was sandy, and deep sand at times, one of the many features making this trail section a final performance test before entering the Sierra. Turns out there was water at Bird Spring Pass, but we didn’t need any because we were carrying enough. It rained several times in the afternoon, and also as we were setting up the tent for the night.

Day 50
Thursday, May 22nd
Mile 641.2 to 656
We packed up our wet tent and other gear, and headed down the PCT to Walker Pass. We had arranged to meet Dal who was going to collect the data from the GPS trail logger and change the case to a waterproof one. Dal also resupplied us with the 2.5 days of food we had bought in Tehachapi, so we could hike on to Kennedy Meadows without having to go into Lake Isabella to resupply.

We were also surprised by awesome trail magic at the Walker Pass campground, thanks Yogi.

We spent a few hours at the campground, and only hiked four miles past Walker Pass to a very nice campsite where we made an early camp and relaxed the rest of the day.

Blog Update Note

As we leave Tehachapi tomorrow, we will be leaving behind the relatively populated Southern California. This also means cell phone coverage, and the ability to update this blog, will be limited too. We will do the best we can, but expect less frequent updates. I will be sending more updates to my Twitter account which I can update from anywhere via the InReach satellite text messaging device.

Day 44-45: Oak Creek to Tehachapi Pass

Friday was a short day hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail to Highway 58 and Tehachapi Pass, where we were met by White Jeep and Dal. They gave us a ride into the town of Tehachapi and swapped out the GPS trail logger with a new version with updated software.

We decided to take a zero day Saturday to rest and recover and escape the heat. This is only our second zero day of the hike not related to attending ADZPCTKO (the kickoff event.) The hiker friendly and very nice Best Western here is full of hikers doing the same thing.

We quickly got our chores done (lunch, showers, laundry, and groceries) and settled into our nice room. The pool and jacuzzi also awaited us.

Tomorrow we will start hiking a dry section of the PCT, and will likely have heavy packs due to the water we will need to carry. In about a week we will reach Kennedy Meadows and shortly after that we will be in the high mountains of the Sierra Nevada.

Photo: Tehachapi Pass

Trail Date: May 16-17th

Mileage: 8.2 miles

Day 43: Mile 538.6 to Oak Creek

We were happy to be back on real trail today as the heat and road walking the past two days have taken a toll on our feet. However the trail tread continued to be very sandy and we had three climbs today. Deb’s pinky toe has a pretty serious blister, and Lon had his first blister of the hike. Fortunately Lon’s blister is small and a little tape took care of it. Deb was not so lucky. Dr. Lon exercised his mastery with a needle and drained her blister with thread, which she left in overnight to dry out the blister.

Eventually the trail led to a (surprising to us) water cache with chairs. We were carrying enough water so we just signed the register. We encountered Heidi from the Pacific Crest Trail Association there too, doing some survey work in connection with the BLM to protect the trail from motorcycle use.

We camped at the first road crossing into Tehachapi, planning to finish the remaining 8 miles in the morning.

Photo: Tehachapi, the land of windmills and wind farms.

Trail Date: Thursday, May 15th

Mileage: 19.6 miles