May 19, 2017
Mile 529.9 – Mile 549.02
We had another chill morning today. Without an alarm, I was awoken around 6 by the desert sun piercing my eyelids as it crested the horizon. I rolled over and managed to sleep for another 45 minutes. Then, I sat up and made hot oatmeal and coffee while still inside my quilt. There’s something so special about waking up on the desert floor and feeling totally at home. The reason we were so relaxed this morning was that we had secret intel about upcoming trail magic. Cougar and Dr. McDirty are still off trail, and have been staying with some trail angels, who were planning to do some trail magic by Cottonwood Creek, which was 5 miles from where we camped. We really wanted to see them, and get in on the magic, so we only had to hike those 5 miles this morning.
Breakfast in bed on the desert floor
After breakfast in bed, we were hiking just after 8am. We were still on the road, but it was nice to just let my mind wander. After a while, we entered a wind farm, which was really cool. We got to Cottonwood Creek around 10, and Cougar, Dr. McDirty, and the trail angels were supposed to arrive around 11, so we chilled for an hour drinking as much water as possible and eating snacks. I was lying on the concrete faucet box when I heard a vehicle pull up, and a voice yell, “Ice cream!!”. I jumped up, and saw Cougar and Dr. McDirty up on the road! I was so excited to see them, it felt like it had been forever.
The trail magic was incredible. They had shade umbrellas, chairs, hamburgers and hot dogs (and veggie burgers!!), crackers with cream cheese and homemade jalapeño jelly, chips with homemade salsa, fresh fruit, soda, water, root beer floats! … It was heaven. We sat around for two hours eating everything and catching up with Cougar and Dr. McDirty. It was seriously amazing. All the hikers who didn’t know it was going to be there were so surprised and excited.
Finally, we managed to drag ourselves away. It was afternoon now, and the day had gotten hot. We got to walk right through the wind farm, which was really cool, but soon the trail began to head uphill, so I listened to a couple of podcasts to distract myself. We eventually came down into a canyon where there was a cool, clear creek running, and actual shade! We didn’t stay long since the trail magic had pretty much sucked up our break quota for the day, but I stopped to grab water and wash my feet and socks. This creek was the last water source for (what I thought was) the 25 mile stretch to Tehachapi, so we had to carry out a lot of water.
When we left the canyon, we were headed back up into the mountains. We wound around the ridge for a long time, the sun beating down, and then descended into another valley. The descent was quite painful, as we could see the trail immediately switching back up the other side, beginning the final (almost 2000 feet) climb for the day.
The climb was hard. Really hard. Uphills are always hard for me, and with almost 10 pounds of water in my pack, this one was especially painful. On top of it all, the trail was made of slippery sand and was washed out in some places, making each step mentally as well as physically taxing. I think I was also suffering from a tiny bit of dehydration and just generally being out in the sun too long. It was a struggle. And it seemed to go on forever. The one good thing was that the sun was finally going down, and the views were amazing. I wanted to stop so badly, but our planned camp spot was only a few miles away, and it was already getting late. I staggered onwards and upwards.
Finally, the trail began to flatten out just a bit. The sun dipped behind the ridge, and the cool shade felt amazing. I rounded a corner and saw a deer bounding along the ridge ahead, which instantly lifted my spirits. Soon, I saw humans and tents and the distance, and a couple of minutes later I arrived in camp. There were chairs! And water! Apparently there had once been other food and drinks but all of that was gone. I was still just so happy to be there. I opened one of the boxes that had once contained the snacks, and literally squealed with joy when I found a half-eaten sleeve of saltine crackers. This might not seem very exciting, but just a couple miles before, as I was climbing and really not feeling too well, I had experienced an intense craving for saltines. And here they were. I couldn’t believe it.
I started setting up for cowboy camping again, and a truck suddenly pulled up on the nearby dirt road. The man driving was the one who stocks this magical cache! And he had brought a bag of cherries, oranges, juice, cookies, and more water. Cherries!! It was so amazing I couldn’t believe it was really happening. I happily sat in my quilt feasting on cherries and a PB and J tortilla for dinner as the sun went down. As I was checking out what tomorrow looked like, I realized that there’s a road to Tehachapi only 9.5 miles from here. I had thought we would have to hike the 17.5 miles to the highway, but apparently this smaller road is much better for hitching into town. The day had very quickly gone from a serious low point, to an evening of complete and utter joy. The trail angel tells us he’ll be back at 6 tomorrow with morning coffee. Magic is real. The trail provides.