PCT Section “F” Part One

It’s 8:30pm, I am in my tent with a cup of Tazo Wild Sweet Orange Tea, there is a definite chill in the air tonight at Walker Pass Campground. Today is Friday May 6th, 2016 and I spent the past four days hiking here from Tehachapi, about 87 miles. Tuesday 18 mi., Wednesday 26, yesterday 22 and today 21. So here is a story of the adventures of the past four days on the PCT as told through the eyes of Mary Poppins.

My friends and I left Tehachapi at 10:30 on Tuesday when my Mom so graciously dropped us off at the trail head after shuttling us around town to pick up re-supply packages and shop for more food for the week. I remember I had taken a photo just a few months ago from the exact trailhead at Cameron Road, and I posted it on Instagram, noting that the next time I would stand at that spot I would have hiked there from Mexico, which at that time seemed both daunting and wonderful. Well, the moment had finally come and so I took a photo there with my Mom. It’s a strange and also proud feeling, thinking back to all the miles that got me to this point, all 566 of them. Every day at some point, or many points, I can say I felt sore, tired, in pain, but also elated, happy, contemplative and always grateful to be in this position to BE hiking the PCT, to BE doing this every day. I am so blessed!

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And here is our little tribe getting our picture taken by my Mom:

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I was the last one to get on the trail from here, saying goodbye to my Mom, we hugged and I set off down the steep drop into the wash. I walked on for a few minutes, climbed the other side of the embankment to where the others were signing the trail register. I turned to see my Mom still standing there waving to me. I have departed from her comfort and love so many times, being dropped off at various trail heads, waving our goodbyes and me wandering off into some wilderness. These moments always bring a lump to my throat as I turn my back and walk away, and tears to my eyes that soon dry in the breeze. How poetically perfect the dichotomy of leaving the one who gave you life and who gives you so much love and security to enter a land of unknown, alone, and feeling like you are vanishing into nothing for days and days or even weeks or in the case of the PCT, months. How fortunate I am that both my parents have played such an active role supporting me along the Southern California section of the trail, and that I get to see them at certain points along the way.

We all had our anxieties about section F from Tehachapi to Walker Pass, as it is infamous for being one of the hottest, driest and more difficult sections, with a lot of climbing to get back up into the mountains and out of the glaring sun. Section F has waterless stretches, the worst one being 43 miles, where there is no sure trail water, so you have to be prepared to carry as much as 8 litres at one time, depending on your daily mileage and where you camp. On Tuesday morning, we were all fully loaded with 5 days or more of food and each carried enough water to take us through to that evening, so about 4-5 litres each. It was about 4,000 feet of climbing, which is not too bad over 18 miles, but with a 40+ pound pack, it’s a whole other feat. We were extremely fortunate with the weather though, and it did not top 75 degrees as we climbed. Actually, this stretch of trail was much less ominous than predicted, and for me, I was excited to finally get to see where the trail went, after splitting off into the hills. I have driven by so many times leaving my Mom’s house, craning my neck from the freeway to see where the trail went “up” but I could never tell. Now I know! These hills were indeed dry and it was hot with very little shade save the occasional Joshua Tree. The desert brush cracked in the wind and crunched under my feet.

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We spotted a friendly snake along the way:

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And just like every other section of the PCT thus far, there were wildflowers by the side of the trail, and patches of greenery, evidence of the rains that have graced us this season: 

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The trail climbed and climbed through different microclimates, starting in the stark barren dessert, through burned areas, more wind farms and finally finishing in the shade of Oak and Pine. By about 6:30pm we had made it to the first water source at Golden Oak Spring, where there were several other hikers. Since we had heard there could be bear in the area, we took extra precaution and cooked and ate our food down by the spring trough. It was a cement trough of algae covered water, with a black pipe sticking out, with fresh running water that was quite delicious. In the trough, in addition to the algae, were quite a few frogs who sang their chorus to us as we ate our dinners.

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As an additional precaution against potential bear visitors, some of us decided to hang our food in the trees. I hadn’t bear bagged my food since way back in the day, say close to 20 years ago when I first started backpacking, so I also wanted to see if I still remembered how to do it. Camel Back and I decided to bag our food together and it actually worked! I think we could have used a higher branch, but the actual technical part of the hanging of the bags was a success, and in the morning our food was undisturbed, yay!

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Catching the morning light here, I was the first one up and out of my tent. It’s ironic because I am typically the last one into camp in the evening, and the last one to go to sleep, and then I will be one of the first one’s up. Not because I want to get up and get an early start, but because I am so slow in the morning, that I know if I don’t get up sooner, I will be the last one out of camp again. But, hey, I am okay with that, I have fun in the mornings just sitting sipping my coffee and watching the earth wake up with me.

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