May 1 (~08:45 – ~19:20)
Mountaintop after Highway 58 – before Radio Tower (20.0 mi / Total: 592.9 mi)
Weather: Still chilly in the morning but it turns into quiet a nice day, which is not too hot. It turns cold and windy again at night, before I reach the campsite.
I have a late start and even for my standards I’m shocked – it’s almost 9. Oh well. I can’t do long days any ways – just before leaving Tehachapi I ordered a new backpack for the Sierras. I love my MLD Prophet but I’m not lightweight enough to get away with it with the additional I need in the Sierras. I had it shipped to Ridgecrest, a town 50 miles before Kennedy Meadows (the entry point to the Sierras) and it’ll take a few days for it to arrive. I may be able to pick it up on Saturday morning before the post office closes for the rest of the weekend. Prince had his bear can and ice axe send there from home, which may not arrive until after the weekend, so we’ve got some time to kill.
When I start my day, everything feels so much more mild and serene. The cowboy camp last night was hectic, and a fog came through that caused condensation on the trees, in turn raining on me this morning. Now everything is different again. The sun is warm although the wind is still fresh, but calm at last, and I wear all my layers because I still feel cold. The path continues at high elevation and meanders alongside the mountain, with tiny wild flowers everywhere. No matter where I look I see picturesque campsites everywhere, and windmills still adorn the far far distance.
After a few miles I join a dirt road, where I take an early break. My body feels tired today, my muscles are heavy. I don’t feel motivated by this stretch, I think it’ll be another few days with no big highlights. But perhaps I should embrace this. I can make sure to catch up on my blog, write all the entries that I’m running behind on because of the phone malarkey. Then I’ll be ready to hit the Sierras with no mental backlog to worry about.
There are more people on the trail today, but no one I’ve met before. We all leapfrog a little, then the dirt road turns to a trail again and I sidle around red rocky mountains that are a lot prettier than I can give them credit for, until I get to the spring, the first water source since yesterday, at last.
More people are congregated here, and so are Speedy and Prince, who are just packing up to leave. I tell them this morning felt so long, even though it’s only been ten miles. I feel like I’m crawling forward. Everything is slow paced. I’m getting a little sick of the desert, really. The Sierras are so nearby now, so close.
After they leave I find a little bit of sun to sit in, and make my bagels with salami and cheese. This is the first time I’ve brought bagels, and they are a dream to eat on trail, but after a day of sitting in my pack, both the salami and cheese have gone sweaty, which doesn’t usually happen. The bagels are great and they are wholemeal, but it’s a lot to eat.
The break turns out surprisingly fun. I speak with a Norwegian couple, then I meet Sunshine and Fairytale, and Donny, and a few other people quickly walking through. Sunshine has the same MLD pack I have, and agrees it’s great when it’s light – but the first few days coming out of town it’s pretty uncomfortable. He’s not going into the Sierras this year, but he also wouldn’t want to bring this pack and would substitute it for his ULA Circuit. They all agree me switching this pack for the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is a good call, and I’m happy they feel likewise. Before I continue the afternoon I take as much water as I can, around 3.5 litres, and curse my backpack once more. It’s really not comfortable today.
The landscape opens up and I walk along the mountains, windmills surrecting above a ridge, the sun strong for the last few hours of the day. After four miles I come across lots of tentsite, and it’s busy. Lots of people from the spring are there, lots of tents are set up already. The trail has been so quiet, and suddenly everyone is here. It’s a nice area, but I’m nowhere near done for the day.
I drag myself another six miles further, the only person left on the trail, walking towards dusk. I listen to music on and off, unsure of what I want to do with it. The wind picks up, another cold end of the day, and I put on all my layers while I trudge on. Today is not my day. At least the views in the fading light are great, and the farmland ahead looks as though it’s from a fairytale, with the sun hitting it lightly. I find Speedy and Prince in the trees, already drifting off to sleep.
When they wake, Prince shares his idea for going into Ridgecrest only to do our resupply, continue the 2.5 days to Kennedy Meadows, and then hitch back out to Ridgecrest to go to the post office. Otherwise we may have to wait in Ridgecrest for two days to get the packages from the post office, before continuing on to Kennedy Meadows.
Prince reckons we could do two 25 mile days and one short day into Ridgecrest, and get there for Saturday afternoon. After this dreadful day, I’m not convinced. I’d actually wanted to take some time alone and just meet them at the highway for the hitch out. Pushing these long days won’t really allow me to go with how I feel, play it by ear. We leave it open, and I walk a bit further up to find a better camp spot, and I notice even more tents spaced out among the trees. I set up mine for the first time in days, welcoming the shelter from the cold, the wind, the other hikers. Tomorrow might be a busy day.