FYI, I’m technically entering the southern Sierra, and Internet access will probably drop. I’ll probably have a signal here and there for a few days, but there’s no signal (I hear) at Kennedy Meadows, so I might be radio silent for a few weeks. Don’t worry! It’s expected. 🙂


Day 42: Zero in Tehachapi

So. Everybody is exhausted! I just saw Rose from the UK. She said she feels like the 560 miles just suddenly sat up and slapped her in the face. She’s thinking about taking a double zero. Me, too! But probably not. Because…

I feel a thousand times better this morning. There’s nothing as rejuvenating as laundry, a shower, a ridiculous amount of healthy refrigerated food, ice cold drinks, and the knowledge that you can sleep in the morning. Just sleep! I didn’t actually sleep a ton–I woke up at 5:30 out of habit. But it was a full, soft night. No wind, no parties, no ants, no bathroom visits, no cold, no hot–and that, my friends, is my definition of heaven. Sweet sleep! My response to every bad, quirky mood should be ‘Go to bed early and look at it again in the morning. Really, it should be a rule. 🙂

There are hikers up having breakfast in the hotel. Some are headed out today. Some are panicking over the difficulty of the next leg and considering skipping it entirely. But why? The next stop is (gulp) Kennedy Meadows (unless you decide to hit Lake Isabella; most hikers aren’t planning that). Snow levels are too high for the average hiker. That week will make a huge difference. “Ray Day”–the earliest day it’s advocated to enter the Sierra–is June 15. Before that, you’re just ensuring a harder time for yourself up there. (Now, after that, you have to be able to do 25s. That’s just what it is. That will be my personal challenge, as we’ve discussed. But that’s then, this is now, and one day at a time.)

In a week, two weeks, I’ll be in the Sierra. The desert will be DONE. That’s the equivalent of finally finishing Virginia on the AT.

Anyhoo. The temps on the TV this morning weren’t as dire as the hiker gossip and Facebook temps. Hot, for sure, but 90s rather than 100s. That moves things from impossible to merely very challenging. (Why do we like to fan up this sort of hysteria? That’s one of the lessons I’m learning on this pilgrimage; I’m trying to step away from engaging in the false conjecture and rumor and disaster-mongering. ‘Right speech,’ as the Buddhists say! It’s a difficult habit to work on.)

The plan for the next leg: Night hike. Or, rather, start at 3 AM if I can. (That’s closer to my habitual biorhythm, and it’s currently warm enough that I’m not fighting the cold as well as the dark.) As I learned the last couple of days, it’s way more doable here than on the AT, where you’re surrounded by gaps between trees and it’s hard to find the one gap that means ‘trail.’ This trail isn’t even blazed. And even though I’m off trail every single day (yesterday by a quarter mile), so far my nav apps have straightened me out. (Invariably it’s at a juncture with another trail or road, and I miss a turn.) One of my weight choices was a heavy headlamp with very high lumens, just in case I had to do any night-hiking. And yes, I’m nervous about the mountain lions (somebody saw one not far from here a couple of days ago), but it’s like bears–you’re cautious and aware, but you can’t let fear of bears keep you from walking. Lions still sound pretty unlikely to me.

Wow. There’s a 42-mile water carry this leg! I’ll have to carry 8 liters (17.6 pounds) (gulp) and ration it.

I’m planning to take a cab to the trailhead tomorrow. I like to use taxis when I can. You’re on your own schedule, you’re supporting local businesses, and you get a chance to show that hikers can be good tippers. 🙂 But we’ll see how the day develops.

So. I schlepped up to Albertson’s market. 1.5 miles away, to resupply. People here are so friendly! I had a great conversation with a guy taking a walk. He gives rides to hikers sometimes. He was a transplant from San Diego, but he’s lived here for 29 years.

I managed to get my food–hopefully not too much, not too little. I’m mostly concerned with bulk. It won’t all fit. That’ll be good practice for the Sierra, when the bear canister will be taking up most of the space in my pack. Also, the grocery store was out of SmartWater, which amused me. (Most thru-hikers carry SmartWater bottles these last few years; they pack well, and the threads line up with the Sawyer filters that most people use.)

I replaced my little scissors so I can do surgery on my shoes and hair. I got plenty of OTC stuff for my gut, and some probiotics and other things. Protein powder for my breakfast shake.

As I was checking out, a beautiful woman named Rachel asked me if I wanted a ride back. I was so grateful! Honestly, the kindness of people boggles. One of the reasons I like it out here is that the opportunities to be randomly kind are multiplied–not just the trail angels, but the hikers. I have so many chances to be generous every day–whether it’s putting something in a hiker box, or letting faster hikers pass, or giving somebody some extra water or the last apple, or sharing my water treatment with somebody who’s out, or leaving a big tip for a waiter. Saying please and thank-you and asking hikers on a break if they’re doing OK. The suffering breeds a general sort of compassion; the suffering feels very bad, but the compassion feels so very good! Thanks, Rachel!

So now I’m back in my room eating leftovers from dinner, under the covers, and thinking about a shower. And there’s nothing else on my agenda from noon until tomorrow morning.

Best zero ever!

Oh! And I really don’t have pictures. I tried taking some, but there really isn’t anything to Tehachapi except a couple of highways. And some stores.