Day 38: Wind Drunk

Day 38 (Tuesday, May 24): Tylerhorse Canyon (mi 541.6) to Willow Springs Rd (mi 558.5), 16.9 miles. (up/down: +2730/-3427ft)

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I packed up my pack under a blue sky, but had some clouds spitting on me. I was on trail by 6:45a and again was happily surprised with cold desert weather. I packed 6 liters of water as the next water source was Tehachapi, 35 miles away. There were two ways into town, a road in 17 miles or a key in 24. I wasn’t sure which option I’d choose, but opted to carry the extra water just in case…and it gets me ready for the 40 mile waterless stretches to come.

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The morning started with a moderate climb up and down through some washed out parts of the trail until I came to a big climb. It wasn’t too terrible, but it was kicking my ass. Finally at about 10:15 I reached the top and was delighted to see some magic: chairs and water. I didn’t need the water, but was happy to sit in a chair surrounded by other hikers.

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From here it was a nice hike down with some rolling hills. The wind was again brutal today and picked up as I neared Tehachapi and more wind farms. I felt drunk trying to walk through the sandy trail mixed with the winds pushing me around.

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I made my way through the windmills, with even more than the day before. I reached Willow Spring Rd at about 1:45 and waited for a hitch into town with 5 others. This road was easier and safer than hitching from hwy 58. We dish have to wait too long until a pickup turned around to pick us all up!

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This kind fellow was named Joel who has been living in his rv with his rescue Chihuahuas. Turns out he worked for an animal rescue and was currently working with Marley’s Mutts in the area! How crazy! I had no luck getting a pup for my event in Tehachapi and he offered to help. Even if I still can’t get a pup it was neat to meet another person with a similar mission and maybe I’ll see him at Dog Days with his pups.

He dropped off the 5 hikers to their hotel in Tehachapi and then kindly took me to the airport where I planned on staying. It was a cool, yet loud experience to stay at the airport park. Many hikers were already camped and spending their zeros eating, chatting, buying resupply and going to movies.

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I knew there were hot showers but wondered where. I saw a portapotty just sitting in the middle of the lawn. Low and behold it was a beautiful hot shower! After getting cleaned up, I laid in my tent for a good two hours. Still no napping. I could have stayed in there all day, but decided I should move a little. I chatted with Tall Man from Germany and we eventually made our way to town to explore. Pretty much everything was closed, but I went to a pizza joint for a beer and yummy lemon cake.

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When I got back to the airport, there was a news crew interviewing hikers. A local pilot was also giving rides. I watched from a far as planes went up and down the runway. I now wish I would have volunteered for an interview to spread my mission – oh well. I instead cooked up some dinner and socialized with more hikers. I love how nice people are-you can really pick up a genuine conversation with anyone and in a short period of time, meet people from all around the world.

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I tried to stay up as late as possible, but tried to my tent around 8:30 for another night of tossing and turning and listening to blaring train horns.

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Day 37: The Apocalypse

Day 37 (Monday, May 23):
Hikertown (mi 517.6) to Tylerhorse Canyon (541.6), 24 miles. (up/down: +2450/-661ft)

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Though I woke up a little later than usual, I was still one of the first to leave Hikertown. I cooked up some oatmeal in the trailer and was on trail at about 7:25a. While packing up it was only 43 degrees, and was only going to reach the low 60’s. I hiked for 2 straight hours and about 6.5 miles before stopping for a break. Those 6 miles didn’t change much.

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The thrill of walking the aquaduct quickly become monotonous. It was quite windy, so I walked on the road below. There was no one around me for quite some time. At the beginning of the aquaduct I could see a herd off hikers behind me, which soon after faded – felt and looked like an apocalypse! The aquaduct road lasted 11 long and boring miles, just to turn into yet another dirt road. After my first break, Digger, a retire from the East Coast, caught up with me and we hiked together for at least an hour. This has been the longest I’ve hiked with anyone so far! It was nice to have company for this stretch and we chatted about life and the trail. I passed by the occasional “house”, which made me think why the hell would anyone chose to live out here. Digger answered that question…no one chooses to live out here… We also ran into a huge gopher snake in the middle of the road.

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Eventually the road led into a windfarm, which lasted forever. I stopped with a small group off hikers at Cottonwood Creek Faucet. I still had more than enough water as I hadn’t drank much in the 50 degree morning. I thought the desert was suppose to be hot! We ran into some very nice trail magic here. First with a bag of Jolly Ranchers (which I may now add to pocket daily), followed by Terrie Anderson with some soda and candy!

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I had already now gone 17 miles by 1:30 & was going to push on after my hour and a half lunch break. I continued through the windfarm and the wind really picked up! The flat transitioned into some rolling hills which eventually led to one final steep climb into Tylerhorse Canyon where there was campsites and the last water source until Tehachapi!

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Digger and I where surprised to see that we were the first ones to arrive at about 5:30p. As we set up camp, many more hikers rolled in. I cooked up a delicious ramen beef stroganoff (I now wish I made more for the rest of my trip) and settled into my tent to hide from the wind. I planned to just relax for a while before finishing up my night time routine and perhaps socializing a bit more. I ended passing out at about 7:30 and woke up 2 hours later to find everyone passed out. Turns out that was really the only 2 hours of sleep I’d get that night. I have been sleeping horribly and tonight was no exception 😦

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Stroganoff!

Ate:

5 liters water
Tuna and tortilla
Oatmeal and hot cocoa
Pop tart
Tiger milk protein bar
Fruit snacks
Beef stroganoff
Trail mix bar
Cliff bar
Candy
Oreos

Day 35 & 36: Zero and Nero

Day 35 (Saturday, May 21): Zero day at the campground. I had to stick around to play candy bingo of course!

Day 36 (Sunday, May 22): Mi 510 to Hikertown (mi 517.6), 7.6 miles. (up/down: +912/-1886ft)

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Goodbye green, hello Mojave

I was fighting myself in what to do to get around the Powerhouse Fire Closure. Start right where the trail opens back up or to skip to Hikertown. I finally and reluctantly decided to meet in the middle…to get dropped off about 7 miles before Hikertown. I would have liked to do all of it, but transportation was turning out to be more of a pain then a blessing and my feet were still giving me a little but of a hard time. I figure some day in like 20 years I’ll return with my kids and do all the sections (I.e. Closures) I missed.

I was bummed to have missed the pancakes at Casa de Luna, but thankfully my mom whipped me up some for breakfast. I was then able to fully catch up on blogging. We left early afternoon for the trail with a stop at Del Taco for lunch. I can never get enough churros! It was interesting to see the solar panel farms taking over the desert.

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I hit trail around 2:20 and walked through the last bit of green I would see for a while. My feet were not completely happy with me, but the extra day and a half of rest sure did help my ankles and shin splints – no more tingly feet.

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I pulled into the infamous Hikertown around 4:40. It seemed deserted as I walked along the fence to the gate; I saw no activity and no hikers. Once I walked in the gate, I was happy to see I wasn’t the only one there. Everyone was tucked away hiding from the wind.

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I made my rounds around the property and the various “rooms”: the doctor’s office, city hall, feed store, etc. All had their unique creepy and dirty feel complete with fake guns, costumes, and some mannequins. I found the least creepy option, having none of the above: a trailer with two beds and a somewhat effective locking door (that is if you tie it from the inside). I then settled in at city hall for some rest, cover from the wind, people watching and conversation.

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More hikers trickled in. We waited to see who would take the doctor’s office…The most sketchy option. Smiles, whom my mom gave a ride to and helped find me at Casa de Luna, arrived and I saved him from the doctor’s office offering him the second bed in the trailer. I also waited for a ride in the dilapidated van to the gas station. Unfortunately, I missed all 4 attempts. Just as I arrived, a group had just left. While I was resting a group left with out my knowing. I found Bob and asked him to find me before the next group left. I watched from city hall, but when I went into the trailer to grab something, another group had left. When they returned, a couple other hikers and I asked to go, but by now the store had closed-bummer! I guess on the bright side I saved some money and on that note it was time for bed!

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Day 34: Slackpacking Isn’t Always Easy

Day 34 (Friday, May 20): Agua Dulce (mi 456.32) to Casa de Luna (mi 478.23+2mi road walk),  23.91 miles. (up/down: +5652/-4986)

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The weather was to be in the 60’s and 70’s the next week; perfect backpacking weather. My feet were still not 100% and I was going to use the privilege of having my mom near by while I could. I would be slackpacking (hiking with just things I would need for the day), 24 miles from Agua Dulce to Green Valley (Casa de Luna).

Just a couple miles into my hike, my feet started to get super tingly and numb. What the heck was happening?! Was it just because I hadn’t done much walking the past few days or a bigger problem? I stopped for a minute to check my feet. They looked fine and when I stopped walking the tingly feeling went away. As soon as I started walking again, the feeling returned. I called my mom for her 2 cents. After mom’s orders of resting and elevating for 15 minutes, they seemed to be better. I also loosened my knee brace which seemed to help.

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The weather was chilly, windy, and the hillside was covered in dense fog. I could really only see right in front of me – probably a good thing I couldn’t see the hills I was to be climbing. After 5 minutes, the feeling returned to my left foot and not too long after it was in my right foot too. I called my mom yet again, who offered to come pick me up. I was nowhere near a road. I’d either have to walk back the 5 or 6 miles I already hiked or continue another 5 to a paved road. I kept walking north. I had to stop every few minutes to move my feet around to regain normal or to lose tingly sensation. I ran into a few guys at the top. I joined them for a little while until Bear Springs. It was nice knowing I wasn’t the only cold and miserable hiker out there.

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I figured I would continue to the road and see how my feet felt. The trail to the road was now down hill. My feet felt better when it was flat or slightly downhill. After the road, would be minimal incline. I figured I had already gone this far and getting off early wouldn’t make the next day of hiking any easier. I decided to continue to another 10 miles to Casa de Luna.

I guess I chose the scenic route. I could see Green Valley below me, but the trail kept going to the left around it. I figured I would just be going to the next saddle, and the road would be there. I was wrong. I got the saddle, and the trail led far, far away. There was one little hill that I could see around, but the trail went all the way around. Pretty sure it was an extra 4 miles, when it could have been one. I weaved my way in and out of the hillside then finally made it to the highway.

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The Scenic Route

I then walked the 2 miles to Casa de Luna. I arrived around 4:30, and seemed like most of the hikers were in the back napping in their tents. I found myself a nice comfy spot on the couch in the front yard and cozied up. I again saw new and familiar faces. It was chilly, and the trail angels could tell. They brought me a nice warm blanket and hot tea! How nice! My mom has definitely been meeting a lot of hikers. I had one come up to me,  “ You must be Demi?” – “Oh, you met my mom”. I guess she gave this hiker a ride around the toad closure and gave him my card.

Now me and my mom were having trouble communicating where and when she would pick me up. She had not seen the address I sent her the night before. She also had a new GPS which was less than user friendly. The plan was to meet at 6:30. It was nearly 8:30 by the time she found me. Thankfully she eventually made it to the right town and found some hikers hitchhiking who were going to the same place I was. They were able to give her accurate directions and we were reunited after I had a tasty Taco Salad – thanks Terrie! By the time my mom arrived, we were  both mentally and physically exhausted and mutually agreed to drive back to the RV vs driving around the closure.

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Don’t hold your plate over the food!

Personal note on today:

Wow, today was hard. Even though I was slackpacking, my mind and body were getting tested today. Just the other day, I wrote Ellen DeGeneres a plea to help me pay for college. In this message, I included a lot about my struggles growing up with depression and my past suicide attempt. Today was a flashback to those times. I was being challenged. I felt like quitting. I didn’t think I could go on. But today was different. I was stronger. I shared my struggles with my mom and fellow hikers (who were also experiencing some pain). I walked through the pain and desire to go back to the comfort of the RV. I made it.

Day 31-33: Recovery

Day 31-33, Tuesday, May 17 – Thursday, May 19:

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Tuesday was the start of a couple more zeros. I slept in until a bit past 7, as the fog hung over our tents. Once I got up, I had a nice foot soak while I ate my watermelon. A great way to start the day. Later on, I went to the computer tent to update a couple blogs as I was so behind. My mom was going to be meeting me later in the day in Agua Dulce. I also invited the Trail Angel, Mary, for some coffee or lunch. After people watching until about 11:30, I got a ride with Donna (L-Rod) to town. I then went to Sweetwater Café for their Tuesday burger special with Mary, my mom and step-dad. It was neat to learn about Mary and share stories among us all. After lunch, we headed back to Acton to spend some time at the RV resort.

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My ankles had swelled to double their size and I had an infection brewing on my right foot. Zeros were in order. I spent the next few days relaxing, elevating and soaking my feet. I was going insane again sitting so much. I left every chance I could get, for a trip to Walmart, a walk to the Adult Lounge aka wifi and billiards, Camping World in Santa Clarita and to UFC Gym.

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By Thursday, the swelling had gone done, though still apparent. I found a UFC Gym was located on the route to Camping World where my mom and step-dad were headed; so of course I went! The facility was amazing and huge! Two stories high, a huge bag and equipment area in the middle surrounded by rooms of various other things (yoga, basketball, DUT, locker rooms, BelaCore, etc). I joined in for a BelaCore class (new to me). Turns out today was leg day L Thankfully, trainer Ellen felt my pain and helped me through upper body routines while the rest of the class worked legs. After class, I of course strapped on some gloves and hit the bag before stopping at Baskin Robins for ice cream.

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Day 30: Heaven at Last

Day 30 (Monday, May 16). North Fork Ranger Station (mi 436.08) to Hiker Heaven (mi 454.5), 18.42 miles. (up/down: +3421/-5710)

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I was one of the earlier risers this morning, I even got a peak at the sunrise. I left camp around 6:30 while most were still in their tents. I wanted to try to beat the heat and get the 18 miles to Hiker Heaven ASAP! The morning started off with a nice walk and great weather, but I could feel it getting warm quick. During my walk I thought of various trail names, a daily occurrence – I still don’t have one! I also thought of what town food I would get. Watermelon sounded delicious.

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The past couple days, the tendon (?) in my ankle was hurting quite bad. With some steps, I got a shooting pain. I just kept telling myself I could rest when I got there! I passed by Acton KOA, skipping the stop for water. After there, it would be a bit of a climb and at 11 o clock it was getting uncomfortably warm. Thankfully, I found some solace in a cave down the side of the trail and took a little break in the shade.

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Finally after going up, I started to drop back down. I kept nearing the highway, and I saw there was really no way out. I knew at some point in the near future I would have to go through a tunnel, but I wasn’t exactly sure what mile marker it was at and if it would be today. I was now right below the highway; I saw a tunnel, but from my angle it looked way too small to walk through. I scanned for another trail, but did not see one. Sure enough it was the tunnel, and I did fit!

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Walking through the tunnel, terrified I would step on a snake in the dark.

As I came out the other side, I was in Vasquez Rocks! Super cool to see and so different than everything else I have been through so far. There were signs along the trail, labeling all the flora. Too bad they didn’t have all the signs earlier along the trail – it would have been cool to know what I was looking at from day 1. I was running low on water, but knew I was coming close to a faucet. I made my way though the rocks and to the parking area where there would be a horse faucet. It didn’t work, bummer! I was only a few flat miles away from my destination though – I could make it.

Holy cow – so many trails, but none labeled as the PCT. I got lost in Vasquez Rocks. Finally, I pulled out the GPS map on my phone and started to walk in the direction of the trail; though I only ended  up walking in more circles. I eventually just followed a gravel road that would eventually lead to the trail. Now I was on the trail, but it turned to a road. It would be a road walk through town and all the way to the Saufley’s aka Hiker Heaven. After a mile or two on the road, a van pulled up to the guy behind me asking if he wanted a ride. He denied, so they came to me. Sure! So I hopped in what turned out to be the REI shuttle, full of freshly showered and laundered hikers – sorry guys.

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I had made it to Hiker Heaven – a heaven indeed. A beautiful site and so well organized. I set up my tent, got my name on the shower list and chilled. I was reunited with people I had already met, and met many new faces. A few hours later I got my shower and went to town to explore and get some food. Pizza, beer, and watermelon for the next morning.

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I had arrived to Hiker Heaven on a special day. It was the Saufley’s 24th Wedding Anniversary and the hikers and volunteers planned a special moment for them. We shined our headlamps on them for an awesome photo and enjoyed some cake. As night fell, hikers surrounded the fire. I joined for a few minutes, but wasn’t feeling social (the usual). Instead , I went and cuddled with the dogs and headed off to bed.

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Day 29: Donut Ya Say!

Day 29 (Sunday, May 15): 310 to North Fork Ranger Station, 25.74 mi. (up/down: +4893/-6895)

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This morning I left camp by 7:20. I am super bummed that my phone battery is shot as there would have been some great photos. I started above the clouds as I walked through trees and meadow-like landscapes. As I got lower, I hiked through the clouds giving some eerie looking views with the fog and burnt trees. By 10 am I arrived to the Mill Creek Fire Station, where I was able to put a little bit of charge in my phone.

There were 3 other hikers when I arrived who were waiting for Trail Angel Mary. She brought goodies – donuts and bananas! Within the same conversation, I met Mary from back home in Minnesota and Homeboy who was from Sandy (I actually saw him at Ziggy and the Bear’s but left before I could chat)! How crazy two meet two people at the same time from places close to home. It turns out HB lived just 3 miles from me – small world! By this time there were a few more hikers, but not enough to polish off the donuts. You’re not allowed to leave food unattended so Mary had to take the donuts back with her. She gave one last call, and for hiker hunger’s sake, I took two more – double fisting donuts (chocolate and powdered sugar).

I filled up my water for the 18 mile waterless stretch to come in the blazing heat and no shade. It was hot indeed, and I found a nice shady spot for lunch where Homeboy and John later met up with me. I wasn’t sure yet where I was going to stop for the night, but chances are it would be a long day. Today I ran into 2 snakes- likely a Gopher Snake (Rattlesnake look alike) and baby Coral or King Snake look alike. I also saw a bunch of Hummingbirds!

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I got to Messenger Flats campground, but it wasn’t too appealing and it was only another 4 miles, mostly downhill, to the Ranger Station and water. Onward I went. It was a nice walk, and the sun was going down, giving cooler air. I arrived to the North Fork CG and Ranger Station around 7:10p. Another windy evening, but toilets! A near 26 mile day – wow! With the little extra walking around during breaks and at camp, I am sure I traveled a marathon today. Tomorrow, I could make it to Hiker Heaven!

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Ate:

Milk and Granola

3 Donuts

2 Bananas

Luna Protein Bar

2 Mini Slim Jims

Tuna and Tortilla

Breakfast Essentials

Tiger Milk Protein Bar

Santa Fe Rice and Chicken

Simple Square

Snickers

5 liters water