Jun 12
Willow Springs Road

Over the past two days, I’ve been traveling by train and bus to Tehachapi. Much of the memory of this journey escapes my memory, as I slept well on the train, transferred to a bus for an hour in Sacramento to Stockton, then boarded the train again to Bakersfield, and again boarded a bus to Tehahchapi. My anxiety was stoked, in that three weeks off the trail were great for letting the snow melt, but awful for maintaining my rhythm of the trail.

There is an 8 mile segment of trail from Willow Springs Road to Hwy 58 that many thru-hikers skip, since it is mostly hot desert with nothing but windmills. Hundreds of windmills. Maybe even thousands of windmills as far as the eye could see. It is understandable and tempting to skip this section, but I decided to do it as a warmup by slack-packing it. Slack-packing is a term we use when you don’t have your full back pack but just food and water and a few necessities. I had a Lyft driver drop me off exactly where I stopped three weeks ago, and headed north. It was nothing but windmills and fairly high wind. It was sunny, but the heat didn’t kill me like earlier parts of the desert. I anticipated needing 3-4 hours to do this segment, but finished it in under 3, just in time to catch a Kern Transit bus back to Tehachapi. So, I’m psyched to hit the trail again tomorrow.

This part of the trail had multiple gates, possibly to keep the windmills from escaping
Looking down on Tehachapi Pass

During the end of the hike, I heard an enormous thundering roar behind me. I did not even have time to turn around when an F-15 jet flew directly over me, hugging the ground and zipping out of site as quickly as it came. Soon after, I got to chat with a young farmer tending his cows, and he mentioned that these jets used to be a very frequent occurrence.

08JUN- mile 566-mile 583

I confess that I was very apprehensive about returning to the trail. It was hot. I would be in exposed territory to the full beat of the sun. There were lengthy waterless stretches of the trail so additional water needed to be carried. It is not a particularly scenic piece did the trail, and windmill farms stretched as far as the eye could see. The Mojave desert loomed far below on my right, to the east. The start was a lengthy climb out of Tehachapi Pass. Fortunately, most of the remainder of the trail did not appear to be too demanding in terms of elevation gain and loss. So, it seemed reasonable to do this stretch, mostly for completeness sake.

I woke up this morning hoping to catch the 6:15 bus, only to realize that it was Saturday, and the bus runs on a different schedule. The bus came at 9:30, dropping me off at the trailhead at 10:00, just when it was starting to get hot. My saving grace was that the wind kept the temperature down, so that at one rest stop, a few people were actually putting on their puffies. I went through about 3 liters of water, carrying 5.5 liters, but know that less than a half mile from Where I decided to camp is a spring where I can refill all my water containers. I got to set up my new tent and loved it. It will take a little practice to have the setup down perfectly. All in all, the day felt quite good, and I was able to get in 16 miles in spite of missing 4 starting hours from the hike. Tomorrow I’ll be leaving camp at about 5-6 am and hope to get in 25-28 miles. We’ll see!

Vegetation increases as one gets higher
My new tent

09JUN- mile 583-602

Today was essentially traveling from one water source to the next, from Golden Oaks Spring to Robin Bird Spring. I had hoped to go further today but the heat left me rather wasted. The absence of water sources made it especially challenging, since I needed to carry all of my water for the whole 19 miles, and I went through the majority of the 5.5 liters that I was carrying. I felt wasted at the end of the day, and the next good campsite was four miles further, so I decided to call it quits early. Today’s hike had only a small amount of dirt road walking, about two miles, compared to about 8 miles yesterday. Tomorrow, my plan is to start early, before sunrise, and try to get at least 20 miles in. We’ll see, as water will remain a critical issue.

Looking east to the Mojave
Yup, 600

10JUN Mile 602-mile 624

I was awake at 4:15 and started hiking at 5 am. It was still dark and so I needed a headlamp. It was cool, so I was able to make fast miles. The first ten miles were thorough dense ponderosa forest. I was getting near to the high Sierra, so figured that this would be the trail situation. Boy was I wrong. The trail then dipped down to 4000 feet elevation, and it was real desert just like I’ve already gone through for much of Southern California. Except, it was more sweltering. The water cache at mile 616 proved true, and so my canteens were filled, knowing that the water cache at mile 631 was also maintained. Though I had enough water, the water cache was sitting out in the direct sun, and warm water does a very poor job of quenching the thirst. By 5pm the sky has clouded over providing some relief from the heat. A cold soda pop was needed but not available. Hopefully it cools down quickly. I now have only 27-28 miles of the desert to do!

Desert beauty
Desperately needed water cache

11JUN Mile 624-mile 651

Today was another early start, waking up before the crack of dawn, and getting on the trail before sunrise, using my headlamp to see. Most of the thru-hikers has gone on to the mile 630 water cache. I decided against that, and arrived at the water cache at about 7:30 in the morning. The last few hikers were taking off while I replenished my water supply knowing that it would be a long day without water. The trail became a very long climb with complete exposure to the sun, leaving me completely wasted and dehydrated. Fortunately, once you get high enough, you start seeing vegetation which could provide shade. The trail continued on all day over a series of ridges. Except at the water cache, I never saw a single other person, and hiked alone all day. And mile 643, the trail became a dirt road which is very hard to walk on, and which persisted for two miles. I intended to stay here for the night, but it was sweltering hot with low scenic value. It was only 3 o’clock so I decided to push on the last eight miles to Walker Pass. You might notice that I stopped d 0.7 miles short of Walker Pass. That’s because there is a campground here that has trail angels. The first order of business was to consume 5 sodas before I began to feel hydrated again. I came in late for the meal the trail angels had prepared, but devoured the watermelon and cantaloupe. No grapefruit! Unlike the group I had previously been hiking with, this group of hiker trash were all kids in their 20s and thus hard for me to connect with. Besides, I was completely wasted from a long day. So, tomorrow I finish the last mile of section f California, and will proceed to pick up my resupply box in Lake Isabella and use the day to wash self and clothes before meeting Russ in several days.

Morning sun
Evening sun taken from inside my tent

12JUN- mile 651- mile 652

This was a very short hiking day, but with a well-needed rest. It took only about 20 minutes to get to Walker Pass road. The bus was a half hour late and standing in the blinding sun without doing anything was itself hard to tolerate. Surely David in Ps. 32 considered this when he stated “my strength was drained as with the heat of summer. The bus finally came, I was able to get into a hotel room early, I got my resupply package, packed up a whole box of unnecessary items and too much food, and remailed them home. I would have liked to walk around town but it was just too hot with the temperature in the high 90s. Oddly, Portland, Tacoma, Old Station and much of the west coast was having a heat wave, being coolest in San Diego. I was able to take a long needed shower, get my clothes washed, wash up all my equipment, pack up for 3-4 days of food, and prepare for resuming my journey in several days, this time with the blessing of having Russ Andersen along. My clothes, by the way, were so laden with salt from sweat that they had the stiffness of being starched. Whenever I would rub my skin, white salt powder would come off. I could not smell myself except when I’m in the tent, and the odor was putrefying. No wonder Betsy is not eager to hike with me. Bless her sweet heart. I was able to phone both Betsy and Russ several times. Betsy in getting the stairs and upstairs landing re-floored, and Russ is eager to do some hiking.

Memorial at Walker Pass

The segment from Tehachapi Pass to Walker Pass is known as Halfmile CA section F, 85.5 miles with 14,900 feet total in elevation gain, ie., a lot of climbing. It also has the least availability for water, and if not for some kind soul leaving water caches at miles 616 and 630, could be a waterless stretch all the way from Lander’s Meadow at mile 609 until Waker Pass, 43 miles being just too long in the heat of summer hiking 15-25 miles a day for a normal person to endure. It makes me angry that the PCTA is quite vocal against water caches feeling that hikers should not depend on them. Na und? Comment? Stupidity often has its profundity. Section CA-F? This indubitably was my hardest, both physically and psychologically. The first half was thousands of feet of climbing through drab windmill farms. The central part with Landers Meadow was beautiful pine and mesquite forests. The last half from mile 616 was hot, shapeless, and with steep climbs and descents; this all interfered with the possible beauty to be seen in this inferno of a land. It is the one section that I would not repeat again even if I developed a delusion to rehike parts of the trail. I have better ways to torture myself.

So, the adventure will flip-flop north. About half the hikers are doing a flip-flop, but most are uncertain as to where to restart the trail. The hot weather is both good and bad, hard to hike in and definitely reduces your daily mileage, but also is eliminating some of the vexing snow problems that we could be encountering. So, until next time, may God be gracious to all you dar readers and please don’t be shy about using this venue to support the Huguenot Heritage Ministry.

No Comments »
Jun 01
Two doctors-Dr. Diane (DD) and me

There has been a silence in my posting, and a few people have wondered where I’ve been on the trail. Actually, I am totally okay, and ready to resume walking. In fact, my feet are itching to get back on the trail. But first, I owe my dear readers an explanation. I had planned from the very start of this adventure to sneak home at the end of May. My youngest daughter Diane was graduating from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with DNP (doctor of nursing practice). As far as Diane knew, I was still on the trail, until we encountered each other soon after the hooding ceremony. It truly was a surprise for her, as I intended it to be a surprise. I felt most honored to watch Diane graduate. She was chosen to give the oration for her class, and she did a superb job of that. She will do well.

Diane offering the oration for the DNP class
Diane being hooded: now a gurl ‘n da hood!

There were two other reasons that seemed to fit into my plan quite well. First, I was having a nasty case of anterior tibial stress syndrome, that was not only dreadfully painful but also causing redness and swelling in my right leg. I posted a photograph of the lesion in my prior post. It is now completely gone, and I’ve been able to run up and down hills without pain. I attended church (Faith Presbyterian in Tacoma) and encountered the kind, wise and gentle ole’ Doc Darby, an occupational physician, who told me exactly what I had and how I got my leg condition before I told him anything. He also was able to recommend a treatment plan, namely, rest and compression wraps. It worked. Second, there was a serious dilemma as to how to handle a trail still untrod by hikers ahead of me and covered deep in snow. Following many posts on Facebook from the PCT Class of 2019, it was clear that those who were able to make it partially through the snow of northern California were having a most difficult time, while those who felt comfortable pushing through the high Sierra were inundated by ongoing snowstorms, many suffering from such maladies as frostbite. This is a year that the PCT was NOT meant to be hiked.

My plan is as follows. On 05JUN, I will take the train and bus back to Tehachapi to finish 94 miles of the desert uncompleted, going from Willow Springs road east of Tehachapi to Walker Pass. I will do that in two stages, first slack packing (hiking with a day sack) from Willow Spring Road to Hwy 58, taking the bus back into town, and then the next day, taking the bus back to the trail where it meets highway 58 and heading north. This will give me a chance to again break in my legs, and will cut a 25 mile waterless section down to 17 miles, allowing me to carry less water and thus move quicker. After I reach Walker Pass, I will take the bus and then train up to Redding, meet a church friend Russ Anderson in Redding, and head over to Old Station, where we will resume the trail. Old Station is just north of the troublesome Lassen Volcanic National Park, still heavily burdened with snow, and south of a long snow-free area. We’ll start by walking through a 29 mile dry stretch of the Hat Creek Rim, and then encounter some snow as the trail turns toward I-5. We will probably rest a day and clean up in Shasta City, and then resume our trek through the Trinity Alps and Marble Mountain Wilderness of NW California. This last area is deep in snow, but we will be arriving there in 3-4 weeks, where other hikers will have blazed the way through. So, that is our plan. It is possible that snow might further delay our ventures, but the intention is push on as much as God gives us the strength to continue.

I’ve been able to accomplish a few other matters while at home. I’ve completed the papers for signing up for MediCare. Scary. Government health insurance. Secondly, I’ve realized that my diet has completely changed. There are things I now prefer to eat, and things I now detest. I love granola at home but hate it on the trail. I will pack apples and other fruit, in spite of the weight. I developed a love for lunch that consists of peanut butter and honey or jam put into a tortilla wrap, or, tuna wrapped in a tortilla. As a gluten-philiac, it’s a great way to get a little extra gluten in my diet. Then, I realized that certain necessities like batteries (for the headlamp) and toilet paper and toothpaste just don’t go as quickly as I thought, so was able to extract them from the resupply boxes.

My new image, more adapted to the forests of the Northwest. The hat is a Seattle Sombrero.

I’ve changed a few things in the pack. 1. I bought a new Z-packs Duplex tent. It is a 2 man tent that weighs slightly more than a pound and very suitable for inclement weather. The poles to support the tent are your hiking poles. I got rid of my hydration system that sits inside the pack, and am using a system that connects to a SmartWater bottle. I’m back to an air mattress and am using the ThermaRest Uberlight pad. Hopefully, it lasts longer than the Exped mattress, which spontaneously tore on night 2 or 3. And, I’m changing my clothes which will be more effective at heat retention and mosquito protection, as well as rain protection, including packing a heavier raincoat. So, I feel ready to fit the trail with my altered equipment. In all, the base weight is perhaps just slightly heavier, but I will be needing to carry much less water.

The view from the lunchbox area of Mt. Si, looking toward Snoqualmie Pass.

I’ve tried to retain my hiking legs while home by getting out on the hills I trained on before the hike. Several days ago, I ran up Rattlesnake Ridge with Russ. Today, I took Betsy all the way to the top of Pinnacle Peak. A few days after that I ran up Mount Si, 3500 ft of elevation gain with a 9 mile hike. I do all of these with a loaded backpack to simulate me being back on the trail.

Le Garçon at the entrance of the Foucachon house.

I traveled back to Moscow, Idaho to interact with the Huguenot Heritage people. They wish to do a little more filming. Perhaps, I might add that the cause of HH is helping me to push things on the trail as hard as possible, though always keeping safety in mind. HH is an incredible and desperately needed ministry to bring sound Gospel theology to the French-speaking people of the world. It is helping to provide seminary type education to parts of the world where there is no opportunity for pastors to get a solid education in the Christian faith. As a fan of church history, it is without question that the church until recently held great value in an educated clergy and laity. Catechumens in the very early church were denied baptism until they proved knowledgeable in the faith. The Christian faith has always held that it is not only that you believe, but that the content of your belief is correct. I have seen first hand the Christian church exploding in Africa in places where French is the main language outside of the native African tongue. These are people that need the solid Gospel taught to them and Huguenot Heritage through the Third Millenium Ministries has been greatly instrumental in that task. If my hike accomplishes nothing but brings greater awareness to the Third Millenium and Huguenot Heritage ministries, then I will consider my hike a worthy venture.

I always enjoy interacting with the folk from Moscow, Idaho. They are wonderful people that are very intellectually stimulating to me, like a breath of fresh air with kindred spirits. Francis Foucachon was instructed to cook something very simple for me, and so promised hamburgers but made shish kebabs instead. Francis, as a trained French chef, is incredible. He can make dirt taste delectable. I never ever really cared for eggplant, but his rendition of eggplant was exceptionally savory.

Betsy, Carol, Lew, Gaylon

Today my brothers Lew and Gaylon with Lew’s wife Carol popped up from Portland for a visit. I made shish kebabs (with eggplant!) but could not imitate the culinary masterpiece Francis cooked up several days before. We had a wonderful time discussing my next plans for the trail. I will meet with Russ tomorrow and the Medicare man on Tuesday. Wednesday, Betsy takes me back to the Amtrak station, and the adventure resumes. My next post will probably be from Lake Isabella on about 12JUN. A bientôt!

So, I’ll end with the Pilgrim’s Song, #136 from the ACCA Zion’s Harp, the words very slightly corrected. For ACCN members, it is sung to the tune What Could be Lovelier Ever, ZH #297.

Come pilgrims join in singing, Sweet praises to our King,
Who blest us with salvation, Through faith in His good word.
Who blest us with salvation, Through faith in His good word. 

He is the faithful Shepherd, Our rock and Refuge true,
Who lovingly doth lead us, Whose word doth us renew. 
Who lovingly doth lead us, Whose word doth us renew. 

His word our soul does nourish; it is so sweet and pure,
gives faith and strength in conflict, all trials to endure,
gives faith and strength in conflict, all trials to endure.

It shows us our rich treasure, Which God doth now prepare,
Refreshes us with pleasure, Its comforts we do share,
Refreshes us with pleasure, Its comforts we do share.

Our hearts are filled with praises; Our zeal it does renew,
Removes all fear and doubting, Gives motives pure and true,
Removes all fear and doubting, Gives motives pure and true.

He graciously beholds us and leads us in His way,
And joyfully we’ll journey to heaven day by day.
And joyfully we’ll journey to heaven day by day.

So let us journey onward, to heaven and the blest,
For after strife and toiling we’ll reach the land of rest.
For after strife and toiling we’ll reach the land of rest.
ZH 136

preload preload preload