Scott and Rachel's Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike journal: Tehachapi, Mile 555, May 22

Bakersfield (staying with friends) - Writing this journal has been very rewarding, but a bigger task than either of us anticipated that it would be. It consumes a fair bit of our camp time, and invariably has consumed a good chunk of our trail-town time. It's too bad that we can't type into our handheld computer while we are walking down the trail, because then we have so much time to think; we find the perfect words to express things (which of course are gone from our mind the second we sit down with the computer in front us), and we remember all the things that it is that we want to relay. But alas, we don't yet have the capability. As a result, there will be times, after we have mailed off a segment of the journal, that we will slap our hands against our foreheads and wonder how it is that we forgot some tidbit of information that seemed so important at the time. At this point we have two of those tidbits that we want to share with you.

Both incidents involve the viewing of wildlife, one of which was our fifth rattlesnake, and the other was when we saw some large game: lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my!) Rattlesnake number five was seen on May 15th, that horrible first day after we had lost our guidebook, the day that we had put in 25 miles. We were making great time on the trail and we were traversing a steep embankment (when are we not?) with Scott leading. All of a sudden he came to a halt and stepped back quickly as he realized that he had just about stepped on a Diamond Back Rattlesnake, sprawled out across the trail. Scott had been within two feet of him, and he didn't even rattle! We stood there on the trail waiting to see if he would move along on his own accord, but he was apparently enjoying his position because he showed no signs of moving. At last we decided to resort to tossing some pebbles at him (he was a big snake and we didn't feel that the full extension of our trekking poles would buy us enough safety). Scott picked up a handful and tossed them at him. They landed all around him, but the rattler moved only a fraction of an inch. Two more, slightly larger, handfuls had him moving, but he decided to move across the trail in the uphill direction. This was not what we wanted as the hill was so steep that it put him in good position to strike at our upper bodies. We waited a moment and then started to edge closer to see if we could make our way past on the trail. Scott gingerly stepped past, and then Rachel quickly ran by, and we were both really relieved to be back on our way again.

The other incident occurred some time ago, as we were passing by some private property near the edge of the San Bernadino National Forest, approaching Big Bear City. It was late in our hiking day and we were pushing out the miles trying to make our first 20-mile day, when we looked ahead of us on the trail and we saw a lion lying on a concrete slab, behind a chain-link fence with his female counterpart in the cage beside him. A few steps further and we saw a tiger, and then a grizzly bear (lions, tigers and bears - oh my). These animals were a part of some type of zoo or something We saw some signs saying that the place was called "Predators in Action" and others warning us to stay on the trail as visitors were welcome by appointment only. To see these magnificent animals caged up was both a surprise and very distressing. It seemed cruel and inhumane, and we dread to think about the type of commercial enterprise that they are used for with a name like "Predators in Action". Nonetheless, as they are the largest wildlife that we have seen so far on this trip, we thought that they warrant mention, despite that it happened about two weeks ago now.

Now that we have brought you back up to speed on our encounters with wildlife on this trail, it's time to update you on what has happened more recently...

We had a wonderful stay at the Saufley's place in Agua Dulce, and we still marvel at how incredibly accommodating they were. After Donna had laundered all of our clothes for us and we had made our trip into Santa Clarita to go to the Post Office (to mail outgoing parcels) and had stopped at the grocery store, we were thinking about dinner. Five of us agreed to try the local Mexican restaurant, so we hopped in the Saufley's jeep and headed down the road. We had a fine meal, and then returned to the guesthouse to prepare for our early morning departure and to do our last bit of online shopping at REI (a pair of trekking poles for Rachel and a second long-sleeved UV protection shirt for Scott - to be picked up at our next re-supply) before climbing into the RV and crawling into our cab-over bed.

It was after 11 PM by the time we finally put our heads down, but despite the lateness of the hour, we couldn't sleep. We were in new and unfamiliar surroundings (it's amazing how our tent now feels like home) and it was hot in the RV. We tossed and turned, and then finally dozed off sometime around midnight. As we were worried about waking up in time to beat the heat, we actually set the alarm clock on Rachel's watch, but as it turned out, we didn't need it. As usual, Scott was awake in the pre-dawn twilight.

We packed up our gear and then made sure that Frank (another thru-hiker) was ready to go before we woke up Jeff (another guest at the Saufley's, but he has been cycle-touring -- the word about the Saufley's hospitality is beginning to spread to other sports) to drive us to the trail head. It was about 6:15 AM as the four of us loaded ourselves and our gear into the Jeep and we made our way down the road.

While we had left the trail at the bottom of Darling Road, 9/10th of a mile away, we actually got Jeff to drive us 2.1 miles into the route, as we it was all pavement walking until that point. While we felt a little bad about missing 2 miles of the trail, we reassured ourselves with the knowledge that most other people were doing the same thing. (Pavement walking is really hard, after hiking on dirt trails. A mile on pavement feels like double the amount of trail miles.) All in all, it was about 6:40 AM by the time we were standing on the dirt road, where Jeff had just let us off, and we were ready to begin our next segment of the trail.

We hiked up the dirt road for about a half-mile before the trail tread resumed, and then we followed that as it descended on an easy traverse to a dry wash. Here we saw the footprints and evidence that Brant, Ken and Cindy had camped there the night before (they had left the Saufley's around 6 PM, so that they would be able to start the day on the trail - one tends to get an earlier start that way) and we subsequently followed their prints along the dusty path for the rest of the day.

We walked along, enjoying the rolling hills and scenery, until we were soon past by Frank (who had walked those two miles over which we had gotten a ride) as we made our way up the hillside. As we passed the ridge and dropped to the other side, we were treated to nice views of Bouquet Reservoir, down in the valley below us. We slowly made our way along, stopping often to re-adjust our packs, shoes, or just to sit and rest and allow our bodies to come to terms with the fact that we are walking again (with a full load). About eight long miles into the day, we came around a turn, as we approached Bouquet Canyon Road, and we found Frank lying under a large oak tree, napping beside a water cache. Eager for any excuse to stop, we dropped our packs and sat down to rest and refill our water bottles. As we were sitting there, Brian and Allana (two other thru-hikers whom we had met at the Saufley's and who had left immediately after us) came walking up. We sat there talking for some time in the shade of the Oak before picking up our bags and pressing on.

After leaving Bouquet Canyon Road, we had a 4.3 mile climb up onto the ridgeline where we stopped for lunch. We surveyed the map and determined that we would set our sights on the Ranger Station, about another six miles further, near Green Valley. We started moving again, still having a hard time finding our rhythm. We were just beginning to need another break, when we came around a bend and found Brian and Allana sitting in a hollow underneath the Manzanita bushes beside the trail. As we walked up, we had to do a double-take because both Brian and Allana were holding a Budweiser beer can in their hands. Rachel was just uttering some remark about how she was amazed that they had carried the beer all the way in, when she realized that there was a water cache in the hollow and Brian was sitting on a cooler. Sure enough, this water cache came complete with beer, soft drinks and an invite to the "Lunatic Lounge" in Green Valley. We joined Brian and Allana for a thirst quenching soft drink, and them headed out onto the trail again to tackle the remaining 4 miles of the day.

As is so often the case, the last few miles of the day are the hardest. We had already done 16 miles that day and we were pushing to make 20. The clincher was that not only was there nowhere suitable to camp prior to the ranger station (because we were on another steep traverse), but we didn't have enough water to see us through the night even if we had decided to stop. Our progress was slow and not soon after we left the water cache, Brain and Allana came bounding past us, which made us feel even more tired to see that others still had so much energy.

At last, we arrived at the ranger station. Then we had to ask ourselves, "Do we want to hike the 2 miles or so into the 'Lunatic Lounge'?". We stopped at the picnic area, by the ranger station, and chatted with Rex (a segment hiker from Carson City, NV) who had opted to camp there, rather than venture into town. After much humming and hawing, we also opted to camp on the trail. We figured that getting into town wouldn't be too much of a problem, but that getting back to the trail for an early start would be a major hassle and an extra two miles.

As we were walking up to the Ranger's house to get water from the spigot, a man pulled up in an old Volkswagen Bug and it turned out that it was Joe, the host of the "Lunatic Lounge". We thanked him for the two water caches that we had used along the way, particularly the last one, and then we explained that we were just going to head out and find a campsite, that we weren't up for a night of revelry camping at a lounge. He invited us back to the Lounge again and we were just in the process of declining when he realized that we thought the 'Lunatic Lounge' was a commercial bar. He explained that it was just a cute name for his personal residence and added that there was, "chicken on the BBQ and everyone was sitting around the campfire enjoying beer." That confusion behind us, we accepted instantly and had the fun task of squeezing our two large external frame packs into his little VW bug.

While we will be honest and admit that the real clincher on the deal was the mention of chicken on the BBQ (our dehydrated dinners are pretty darn good, only a fool would pass up BBQ chicken), a large part of us changing our minds was due to the clearing up of a misconception we had about the bar. Somehow we had gotten it into our minds that the Lunatic Lounge was actually a bar/restaurant, and somebody had even mentioned something about Karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights. We had envisioned that we would head into town and wind up camping on some small plot of grass, along with all of the other hikers, outside of a bar where drunken idiots would be singing Karaoke until one o'clock in the morning ... not a recipe for a good night's sleep. It wasn't until we realized that the Lunatic Lounge was actually his private residence and he was inviting us back.

When we pulled up at Joe's place, we were greeted by his wife Terrie and then we saw Brant, Ken and Cindy sitting around the fire pit. Cindy was lounging with her feet in a hot water massaging tub, complete with Epsom salts, and a beer in her hand... what a life! We quickly settled in with the others, and then went off behind Joe and Terrie's property to set up our tent in the manzanita bushes, so that when we decided to retire, we would have somewhere quiet to escape to. Dinner was served, complete with rice and salad (we really miss salad so it was a real treat) and was eaten off our laps, as we all sat around the fire, chatting. Joe and Terrie are wonderful hosts and go out of their way to do whatever they can to make everyone's stay comfortable. We all commented how Joe and Terrie's "style" is so different from Jeff and Donna's (in Agua Dulce), yet equally as pleasurable. (Jeff and Donna run their hiker hostel with friendly, corporate efficiency, while Joe and Terrie run theirs like a laid-back hippie style). Joe, with a Fu-man-chu goatee, told us to enjoy the hospitality because it is likely the last time that we will encounter these types of hiker retreats for the rest of California, if not the rest of the trail. It was about 9:30 PM by the time that we retired to our tent in the manzanita bushes. We had had a wonderful evening and we were really glad that we accepted Joe's invite.

Sure enough, the next morning it was back to the same old routine: up with the dawn, pack our gear, and head out on the trail as early as possible. This morning, however, the only difference was that we got a ride back up to the trail from Joe (this time he used Terrie's car so we could put our packs in the trunk - much easier than jamming them into the Bug). Clouds had rolled in during the night and, as Joe dropped us off at the trail head, he informed us that the forecast was for clouds that day, rain the next, followed by more clouds ... what a lucky bunch we were to have rain as we cross the south-western tip of the Mojave desert, he told us. We chatted with Joe a bit more and found out that he works as a set-dresser for the television show "JAG", which films in near-by Santa Clarita. (A set-dresser is responsible for making sure the set remains in position when they move portions of it to get close-in shots. He's responsible for making sure the picture on the wall doesn't move 2 feet between set moves!) Interesting! And ... for those JAG fans, you'll be happy to know that their contract has recently been extended for three years.

We bade Joe farewell and immediately began a 1000-foot climb into the mist and clouds. We were ascending another ridgeline that was supposed to have marvelous panoramas east, into the Mojave desert, and west, into undulating canyons. Unfortunately, the cloud cover was so low (if 4000 ft is really all that low) as to obstruct any views, except about a couple hundred feet in front of us. Nonetheless, the cool temperatures made for great hiking weather.

Three miles into the day's hike, we had a decision to make. Should we take a short-cut across the Mojave desert, cutting out thirty miles of the route and saving us a day and a half of hiking, or should we stay on the trail and venture further west along the ridgelines before turning east again into the Mojave? The difficulty was that we could rationalize our decision either way, and we were having a hard time making a decision. We went through the pros and cons a few times over, as we were walking along the trail. The rationale went something like this: if we took the shortcut, we would make up a day and a half of the three days that we were behind in our itinerary; we had already done plenty of ridge walking and walking across the desert would be a new experience; and even if we did take the official PCT route, we wouldn't be following the crest line anyway (having to skirt the boundary of the Tejon Ranch property and then do twenty miles across Antelope Valley); other hikers were doing it, so it wouldn't be like we were the only ones. So that was it, we were gonna leave the PCT and cut across the desert to Mojave, no problem. Right? Wrong. We arrived at the junction where we would have to leave the trail, and we pulled out the map to have one more look at the options. We went through the options one more time, and then, when it mattered, we decided to stay with the 'official' PCT route: if we took he shortcut, we would have to carry a lot more water, as we wouldn't know where we would be able to get it; if we left the route, we would not be able to claim the full mileage of the trail; if we were going to start taking shortcuts, we might as well jump on the I-5 and shortcut the whole darn trail. We're already in for a penny, might as well chuck in a whole pound. With the decision make, we moved on along the trail, feeling good that we decided to do the whole deal.

The miles passed and we steadily made our way along the ridge. The clouds were still with us through much of the morning and at different times, the wind was blowing hard across the ridgeline, causing us to put on and remove extra layers of clothing. After another four miles or so, we came upon Elizabeth Lake Canyon Road, and found another water cache, (complete with Gatorade powder), courtesy of Joe and Terrie. We sat down to enjoy a quart, and we were soon joined by Brant, who had come up behind us. We spent the next five miles or so leap-frogging back and forth with Brant and Rex (who we had come up on) as each of us alternatively stopped to take a break. At last, they both passed us, while we were eating lunch on a view-full ridge overlooking Antelope Valley below (the clouds had taken a break and allowed us an amazing view of Antelope Valley, below, and the Tehachapi mountains, beyond). The cool weather was prompting Brant to push on ahead another ten miles, while Rex was opting for a closer camp spot, and we were setting our sights on something in-between, another 6 miles down-trail.

Those last six miles were tough going. We were walking through Black oaks, which provided us with a canopy and some shade from the sun that had finally burst through the clouds, but we were slowing down and Rachel's feet were hurting her a bunch. We were stopped for another of our many trail-side breaks, when we were passed by Katie and Tom (trail names Raven and Spunky Edison) who had had to pull off the trail for a few days due to a family emergency. We chatted for a while and then they moved on ahead, while we finished up our rest. We encountered them again, further up the trail, at the last, and final, Casa de Luna water cache. For us, camp was another 1.8 miles, and it was going to be a struggle to make it there. We loaded up with water in preparation for a dry camp and another twenty miles the next day (the distance to the next reliable water source), and then we shuffled on down the trail, groaning with the extra ten pounds that each of us had just loaded into our packs.

Just before we came upon that last water cache, we encountered rattlesnake number six. He was another diamondback, but he was just a baby, coiled up in the middle of the trail. Rachel was ahead and saw him first, and she thought that he was dead because he was covered in trail dust (like someone had stopped on him) and he was not moving. She prodded him gently with her trekking pole and then saw the slightest sign of life out of him. Unsure whether he was unresponsive because he had been stepped on, or whether it was just because it was cold, we decided that either way it was best to just leave him be and carry on up the trail, giving him a wide berth as we passed.

At last, we made it to the Sawmill Campground spur trail, and then we struggled up the remaining quarter-mile to the campground. When we got there, we were pleased to find that we had the campground to ourselves. We picked out the most level and most sheltered spot that we could find, and then settled in for the night. We put the tent up and then quickly climbed inside to escape the wind.. We had met some locals at the last road junction, and they had warned us that the forecast called for snow to 5000 feet that night, and where we sat at 5100 feet it was definitely chilly. We warmed up a little water for a sponge bath and then prepared ourselves a hot Spaghetti dinner and a hot chocolate. When we were finally warm, both inside and out, we settled in for a good night sleep.

The next morning when we awoke, we heard the pitter patter of rain on the tent, not the slight whoosh of snowflakes. At first, we believed it to be dew collecting and falling from the tree above us, but as we began to pack up our gear, we realized that it was raining. At that point, we both asked ourselves if we were in the mood to get wet and cold. We were warm and dry in the tent and we could just stay there. It was tempting, but somehow, we found the energy and hit the trail. We packed our bags and dismantled the tent while still underneath the cover of the fly (one of the great bonuses of our tent design) and then finally endured the elements, as we took down the fly and threw it, dripping wet, into it's stuff sack and into Rachel's pack.

As we made our way along the trail, we were pleased to find that the rain was little more than just a light mist. Unfortunately, however, we were hiking under the cover of mixed forests, with long, rain soaked grass at our feet. With every step, we were brushing against the grasses on either side of the trail and it wasn't more than a few short minutes before both of us had wet feet.

It may have been the weather or it may have been just a continuation of the previous day's tough afternoon, but whatever it was, we were having a hard time making the mileage. Normally we find that the first four or five miles pass by almost unnoticed, and then we put another six or so behind us without too much of a problem, but that day was nothing like that. It felt like it took us all morning to travel the first six miles to Bear Campground, (where Brant, Katie and Tom had all planned on staying). After the campground, the trail became hard to follow as the signage had been vandalized and the guidebook descriptions were vague. The weather was still poor, our feet still wet, and Rachel was just about at her wits end. Finally, another three miles past Bear Camp, the weather cleared up a little and the sun poked through, as we passed by another trail-side camp. We took the opportunity to take a break, have some lunch, dry out the tent fly, as well as our feet, and generally re-charge our batteries before tackling the remaining 10 miles to Jack Fair's place - water and our objective for the day.

Once back on the trail, we had about a three mile descent before we reached Tejon Ranch property. (Tejon Ranch is a mammoth landholder, and a public company, located in Southern California. They own thousands of acres that range from Liebre Mountain, across to the I-5 and up towards the Tehachapi Mountains. For many years the Tejon Ranch had refused to allow trail access on their property, but in 1993 they finally capitulated and approved a route that would skirt just inside of their property line. While it did provide a corridor for the trail to continue trough, it was a far from the Crest route that Congress had envisioned). We started onto the property, after passing a sign informing us that we had to stay on the trail and that camping and campfires are prohibited, and then proceeded to undulate up and down, in and out of all of the drainages that existed along the property boundary. The guidebook describes the route as one which was designed to inconvenience hikers as much as possible, rather than to help us. The terrain was covered with low desert scrub brush, junipers and lots of sand and we were generally descending down the alluvial fan and making our way towards the Mojave Desert and the Antelope Valley floor. Regardless of the indirect route, the six miles through the Tejon Ranch passed relatively quickly and we found ourselves emerging from a narrow canyon down the last alluvial fan, and onto flatness, just as the wind was picking up and a new set of clouds were threatening rain.

We had just under another mile to travel until we reached Mr. Jack Fair's place. Who is this Jack Fair, you ask? Well, we aren't quite sure as we never got to meet him. He committed suicide recently. Nonetheless, however, Jack Fair was described in the guidebook as a "concerned citizen" who allowed PCT thru-hikers to get water and camp on his property. We had heard that his property is still up for-sale and that other hikers had been stopping by, so we aimed to stop there as well. We had just hiked another 19 mile day, it was cool, the wind was blowing, rain was threatening, and we needed water, all good reasons (figured Rachel) to go no further.

We aren't quite sure what we expected from Jack's place, but what we found was definitely on the odd side. We made our way through the large chain-link gate at the front driveway, and walked onto the property. As we made our way up the drive we passed large, decorative rocks that were pained silver, with black polka-dots. We saw a shed with some strange, nonsensical writing on the side, (something about 509 PCT hikers to-date [1999] and then other mumble jumble). We opened it up (it was unlocked) and found inside, what must have been intended as a hiker's haven. It was a insulated shed, approx. 15 x 15, with linoleum flooring and a couple of benches around the inside and a counter-like structure in one corner. The interior of the shed was out of the wind and rain, it was dirty and smelled of mouse turds. Outside, on the rest of the property, we found more strange notes and signs all over the place ("May 23, 2002-when I was a young J.F.", etc.). The water tank was over-flowing with water, the pump running constantly, and it created a stream running through the middle of the property. The house had a seal on it with a notice from the Sheriff warning that breaking and entering is a felony. All in all, it was an eerie place and we felt a little uncomfortable, especially as we were the only ones there.

As strange as it was, there was no moving Rachel further on down the trail. She had had enough for one day. Her feet were aching, she was tired, and she didn't want to be camped in the middle of the Antelope Valley, exposed to the gusting wind. At last, she set up the tent inside the shed (the floor of the shed was so dirty that we felt cleaner in our tent -- it's strange that the dirt outside doesn't bother us, but inside it really grossed us out) and then cooked ourselves a hot meal. As we were just finishing up dinner there was a knock on the door, and when it opened, we saw Tom and Katie standing there, decked out in all of their rain gear, looking very tired. Apparently they had made it about 4 miles past us the day before, but then they had taken a wrong turning on the trail and had been off trail for about 7 miles before they finally got back on track. Immediately we felt more at ease, to know that we weren't the only ones to be staying at this strange place that night, but even so, we moved our tent and gear out of the rodent smelling shed and pitched in the yard.

The next morning, we got up at the usual time and began our long walk across the desert floor. At first we made our way down the road to where the California Aqueduct flowed along, like a large river, making it's way to LA. Unlike the other aqueducts that we have seen so far, the California Aqueduct is not encased in a large metal pipe, but rather it is an open concrete banked river with no fencing or other such means to keep people away (as a matter of fact, there were signs indicating that fishing was permitted). We walked along a dirt service road, following the California Aqueduct, for about a mile, until we reached the "historic" LA Aqueduct, a huge metal pipe crossing above the California aqueduct. There, we turned north and walked alongside it for 3.2 miles, before we followed it's path as it turned north-east. We spent the whole day following the aqueduct, which made for 16 miles of dirt road walking, across the floor of Antelope Valley. We passed by groves upon groves of Joshua trees (that only grow in the Mojave Desert) and countless eccentric desert residences (geodesic domes, yards littered with dismantled cars, etc.), but for the most part, the scenery was unchanging and largely consisted of juniper bushes, chemise shrubs, and lots and lots of sand. To the north of us was the Tehachapi Range, with a minor dusting of snow or frost (from that night's cold temperatures and low clouds). Clouds were spilling over the range, in and along one of the canyons, but they were dissipating quickly, as soon as they hit the warmer desert air. To the south-west, across the valley floor, we looked back at the Sierra Pelona Mountains, much greener than the Tehachapis, also cloaked with stormy looking clouds.

While our experience on the Mojave portion of the trail was like many other peoples, (a slog across the desert floor) ours was relatively unique in one special way: we were cold. The wind was blowing hard all day long, and if it caught us from any direction but behind, it ripped through us and cooled us down instantly. When we took a rest break, we had to seek out shelter from the wind (rather than the sun, like most hikers would) in order to keep our core temperatures up. Fortunately, however, the majority of the day was spent hiking in an eastward direction that kept the wind at our backs and allowed our packs to shield us from the brunt of it.

While we had made relatively good time hiking along the dirt roads all day, our feet and legs were feeling particularly fatigued from the firmer ground. Finally, sixteen miles into the day, we arrived at Cottonwood Creek bridge, where there was a drainage trough out of the aqueduct that enabled us to refill our water supplies. We read ahead in the guidebook and found that the Tehachapis are described as "waterless" so we loaded up with about 8 lifters each, in preparation for a dry camp as well as another 23 miles of hiking. With our packs heavy under the water weight, we ventured out onto the trail again, waving goodbye to Tom and Katie who we had leapfrogged back and forth with all day (they were taking the second short-cut option, to follow the aqueduct on it's eastward course towards the town of Mojave, while we ventured more north into the mountains). As we pulled away from the aqueduct, and changed our direction, we found ourselves walking almost head on into the wind. It was blowing so hard that at times we had to lean into it to make any forward progress. The miles became tougher as we fought the wind and slowly made our way up the alluvial fan and into the Tehachapi mountains, each step requiring the energy of three. We stopped often and once sheltered behind a juniper bush, wolfing down another chocolate bar to give us the energy to push on. At last, we made our way the last six miles, 1800 feet up, to Tylerhorse Canyon, where we camped for the night. We dropped down into the delightful little canyon (deep and sheltered from the wind) and to our surprise, we found the creek to be flowing... so we hadn't needed to carry that extra 12 pounds of water each!

We had hiked 23 miles that day, which left us with only 16 miles to Tehachapi - Willow Springs Road and our pull-out spot. We were planning on hitch-hiking into Tehachapi and then on down into Bakersfield, so we wanted to make it out in good time.

We started out really strong, putting the first 3.2 miles behind us in an hour, but from there the progress got slower (doesn't it always?!). We climbed another 1500 feet, to cross the summit of the Tehachapi mountains, after making our way up and down a few ravines. As we reached the ridgeline, and over onto the north side of the hills, we found that we had moved out of the sagebrush scrub and mountain mahogany and into increasingly larger junipers, pinyon and Coulter pines. In many places, the trail had been all but obliterated by dirt-bike users who had scarred up the whole area with a plethora of tracks, obviously heeding no notice of the signs indicating that motorized vehicles are prohibited on the PCT. Fortunately, however, the trail was pretty well posted at each crossing of the countless paths and we only veered off course one, which we quickly recognized and got back on course. The dirt bikes had created miniature, three-foot gullies that we had to hike up and down every ten feet or so, and they left ruts that were hard on our ankles, as we tried to find level footing.

At last, we came over the ridge and saw the familiar sight of the Tehachapi wind farms below us (Scott used to work at one of those wind farms, and we had both done some day hiking on this portion of the PCT a couple of years ago). We began our slow and easy descent the final 6.5 miles into Oak Creek Canyon and toward Tehachapi -Willow Springs Road. About half way down, we were passed by a jogger making his way up the hill, and then again later as he was on his return trip back down. We got to chatting with him, and he offered us a ride into Tehachapi. He finished his jog down the hill as we made our way more slowly behind him, but he waited for us at the trailhead and drove us into town. (Thanks Dan!)

We were dropped off at the Chevron gas-station, by a Highway 58 onramp, by which, we hoped to catch a ride into Bakersfield. We purchased a bag of chips and a diet Pepsi and then walked the short distance down the road to onramp. We dropped our packs there and then began to exercise our thumbs, hoping to get a ride the 45 minute-drive into Bakersfield. We stood there on the side of the road for about half and hour, chilled by the incessant wind that blows through this region (hence the wind turbines) before we finally got a lift to within a couple houses of our friends place. (Thanks Chris!)

When we arrived, Rob and Jana were not home, but they had left a key out for us so we could let ourselves in, shower and get our laundry started before they arrived. They got home shortly after six PM and then we had a very pleasant evening of pizza, beer, and good company before we retired to the comfortable bed for a good night's sleep.

True to our trail routine, we woke up in the pre-dawn light of the morning. It was just before five AM and we were awake! Rachel was very frustrated that her body did not allow her to take advantage of her one opportunity to sleep in, but we did enjoy lounging in bed until about 6:30. (It was nice to be able to cuddle in bed this morning. As a newly married couple we have found that we miss our cuddle time as being in a tent, in sleeping bags, with the constant need to get up and moving with the dawn, is not conducive to cuddling.) When we finally got up and moving, we sat with Rob and Jana while they had their breakfast before venturing off to their jobs. We, on the other hand, have taken the time this morning to catch up on the journal writing, as well as some email replies, and we are thinking of heading out for lunch and to run a few errands. Rob and Jana have not yet received our re-supply box that was mailed from Northern California over a week ago (this postal service thing is really starting to get to us... we guess we are going to have to start having everything sent Priority Service as regular service is proving not to be reliable enough - how frustrating) so we are hoping that it arrives today. If not, we are going to have to do some grocery shopping and be a little more creative with what we eat this next leg -- let's hope it doesn't come to that!

Just a reminder that our next re-supply locations are in Kennedy Meadows (the gateway to the High Sierras) and Cedar Grove Ranger Station. There is no public phone in Kennedy Meadows, and it is unlikely there will be somewhere that we can connect to the internet in Cedar Grove, so as a consequence, it will probably be about three weeks (until we get to Red's Meadows) before our next journal update. Have no fear, though, we will continue writing the journals in the same fashion, and they will be posted at the first opportunity we get. In the meantime, thank-you everybody for your continued support, encouragement, and for coming along with us on our great adventure.