a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL 2018
starts with a single step.
Miles 0. Kennedy Meadows.
What a sweet long sleep in in Kennedy Meadows! And we can take it really easy today because we did all our zero-day chores yesterday already. And Switzerland is playing in the World Cup today and we get to watch the game on telly!
The game is on at 11 am and a nice little international crowd has gathered to watch it with us. Everyone is basically cheering for Switzerland and when Shaqiri scores the second goal all hell breaks loose and we are yelling around and clapping. What a great result!
The rest of the day we basically just hang out, eat some more burgers and wait for Wizard and Brad to finally show up. We know now that Wizard got in late last night and stayed at Grumpy Bear‘s, the other place in town. When she finally comes over by shuttle in the late afternoon we celebrate our reunion by having some drinks and pizza. And then Brad, The Prodigal finally arrives! We haven’t seen him in like a month because he had to leave the trail due to shin splints and a pretty bad stomach bug. So good to have him back! But he is in for quite some jokes. We joke around that he missed the last 400 miles and is only a section hiker now. But good old Brad takes it well. There are also so many cute dogs and even a little puppy around to play with. I would love to bring them along on our journey!
We decide to leave all together the next day which for us means half a day later than planned. I guess some more chillaxing never killed nobody!
0 Miles (Zero-Day) in Kennedy Meadows.
We planned to sleep in today as we felt so exhausted when we arrived yesterday.
Well that is not really possible when you are used to getting up at 4am. So sleeping in is 6:30 am now.
So when we get up we still can’t believe we are actually here in Kennedy Meadows! But as usual there is a lot of work to do when we are having a Zero-Day.
So the next thing we do is taking a so called shuttle (which is actually an open pick up) with another 15! people to Grumpy Bear’s retreat, the other place/restaurant there is in Kennedy Meadows to have one of the biggest breakfasts I have ever had. The pancakes that come with the breakfast have the size of a pizza! Welcome to ‘Murica once more. :)
So after this huge breakfast we hit the Outfitter store next to Grumpy Bear’s which is run by Yogi, a rather famous triple crown PCT Hiker who wrote a famous PCT guide.
So there we buy another bear canister. To explain in a short version: To enter the Sierras you have to carry a bear canister, which is actually a huge plastic kind of bottle where you put all your food into. The thing is, the canister itself is very heavy and does not provide enough space for stretches of 8 days and is not even odor proof.
We already ordered one to Kennedy Meadows and hoped one would be enough for the two of us. But no chance at all! We also buy a lot of food there. Yogi knows exactly what kinds of food hikers need so you can find all the good stuff in one room (which saves you a lot of time).
After the shopping we head back to the general store where we do our laundry and chill some time with Simon (the cool guy we met at the river the day before), TwoBeers and some other people.
Tonight our friends Thibaud and Wizard should finally arrive. As we know that the restaurant closes already at 4 pm and the store at 5 pm we buy them some burgers, hot dogs, beers and wine and can’t wait to be reunited!
So in the late afternoon we are constantly checking if they are coming in to give them a big applause. But they are not coming. We keep on checking every 15 minutes but still no Thibaud and Wizard. Meanwhile some other people are coming in and we ask them if they have any news about our two friends. They tell us that they are about one hour behind but that they definitely should arrive soon.
So we reduce our checking interval to 10 minutes now.
And suddenly we see two dirty people walking slowly towards the store. It is Thibaud! But the person next to him is not Wizard!
But still we start yelling and give them a huge applause and hand over the food and beer to Thibaud who is so happy about it!
It turns out Wizard is about one or two hours behind Thibaud and it is not sure if she is coming to the General Store or is directly going to Grumpy Bear’s. Of course we texted her to come to the General Store but there is no reception at all on the trail.
So we wait and wait but she is not arriving.
At 10:30 we give up, go to bed and hope she is at Grumpy Bear’s and not still out there somewhere...
Miles 680.8 to 702.2. Bushcamp to Kennedy Meadows.
Today is the day we were waiting for a long time! It is the last day of the desert section and the day we finally will arrive in Kennedy Meadows!
We know that the local restaurant and the store closes early at 4 pm, so we set our alarm clock again to 4am. It is going to be a tough beginning with a rather big climb but after that it is supposedly easy terrain as the trail slowly goes down the mountain and then continues to stay flat all the way to Kennedy Meadows. But it is still a 22 mile hike.
So we start to climb. It is still dark and the air fresh. It is easier than we thought and in the light of our headlamps we arrive at the first water source after about one hour. We quickly filter water for the next 16 miles and continue our climb. The sun is now slowly making its way up and we turn our headlamps off. We are now in some kind of pine forest and it already does not feel like the desert anymore.
After a short breakfast break we want to make the remaining 3 miles to the top as fast as possible. In our mindset the job is mostly done after reaching the top.
Abd indeed after 1.5 more hours we make it! Finally we are at the summit and it was not as hard as we thought it was going to be.
We are so happy now! Almost there we think! Only 15 miles remaining. And it is all downhill or flat. So it is 7 miles of descending and then only 8 miles more to Kennedy Meadows. We immediately start our way down and in 2 hours we are at the bottom. It is now 11 am and 8 miles left! But now down in the valley it is starting to get soo hot! We decide to have a quick lunch under the shady bushes and continue afterwards.
The hiking now becomes a real torture because of all the heat. It is actually pretty flat, which helps, but after 15 minutes I look like I directly jumped in to a lake - I am that sweaty.
We are now in a strange section, somehow between desert and pine forest, but without any civilisation in sight. Only 5 miles now but we start to have doubts that there should be a village here in the middle of nowhere?!
Nevertheless we push further until we reach a river. Well it is the biggest one we have encountered so far, but more like a creek for Swiss standards. We both immediately agree to have a refreshing bath in the river and pull off our packs and leave them next to the trail.
There is a small path between the bushes that leads from the trail to the river. As we reach the end and are finally standing at the river, we realise we found the perfect bathing spot and jump in as fast as we can, in my case still wearing my dirty hiking shirt in the refreshing river. Oooh my god, what a feeling! The water has just the perfect temperature for relaxing in there.
Soon we hear cracking branches behind us and meet Simon, the English model, again. He thanks us like 1000 times for putting our backpacks next to the trail as he was wondering how to access the river before.
So we chat for a while and crawl our way back to the trail.
5 more miles now! But again after 15 more minutes I am all sweaty again. I begin to count every remaining mile.
After another hiking hour which felt like 3 hours we reach the 700 mile marker. At that point we don’t really care anymore about another marker but still quickly take a picture and continue.
Now we are down to 2 miles. But now the hiking feels endless, all the heat, not much water left and again a smaller climb to do.
I now begin to feel a little dizzy as it is now the hottest hour of the day and of course there is no shade at all…
But we push through and finally make it to the road leading to the General Store where everyone stays.
But it is still another mile of road walking! I am starting to get grumpy as I am so tired, so thirsty and almost starving! The roadwalk, which is not part of the PCT, feels so unnecessary! But after another 20 minutes that feel like another 2 hours, we reach the store!!
And as we slowly walk towards the store people start to yell and give us an applause!
Wow, we made it!! We really hiked 702 miles which is equal to 1’130 km all through the desert. It was definitely hard work but also so great! All this beautiful and different landscapes, all the nice and less nice moments, the pain, the sweat and most importantly all the amazing people we have met so far! It was a hell of an adventure so far and there is a lot more to come!
Thank you desert for all these moments, but now we are ready for a change.
So Sierras be prepared, we’re coming!!
Miles 656.9 to 680.9. Bushcamp to Bushcamp
We get up at 4 am and wake up TwoBeers and Zach, now Roadrunner, in the process. It is still dark and cool, which is welcome because it's all uphill. After another half hour we watch a beautiful sunrise and soon decide to take a breakfast break and send a video message to Dani, our Swiss friend and birthday kid. Happy Birthday!
The next section is downhill again and it is in the shade, walking is fairly easy. We get some water and the Joshua Tree Spring. The water is barely dripping out of a rusty pipe and surrounded by bees. Luckily someone had put a basket underneath it which had already filled up by the time we got down to the spring.
Water is an issue today. It's hot and the sources are scarce. Our midday break we spend underneath a beautiful tree, there is a nice breeze going and we manage to cool down a bit and have lunch. After Dario‘s nap (he sure can sleep in any condition, also when it‘s like 40 degrees) we have a huge climb ahead of us. It‘s hot, there‘s hardly any shade and it just won‘t stop going up. I feel like an absolute beginner again! We keep checking on our PCT app called Guthook‘s how much longer it‘s supposed to go up, but there‘s no point, it looks like we‘re hardly moving. This isn‘t fun anymore, I just want to leave the desert at this point, reach KM and don‘t look back. Finally, after what seems like forever, we reach the mountain top. It turns out we climbed 700m in altitude, but it sure felt like double that!
By now we are completely exhausted, sweatier than ever and just want to reach our camp for the night. But if we want to make it to Kennedy Meadows by tomorrow night we still have a couple of miles to go. At least it‘s cooled down a bit and we are fast descending down to the valley. Mosquitoes and other annoying flying insects keep flying into our faces, this certainly doesn‘t help our mood. Dario then speeds off, and I hike as fast as I can, even taking over some other hikers. It is beautiful now, around sunset, I keep taking pictures and fully taking in the moment. I am so exhausted, have probably never been dirtier, sweatier and stinkier, but this moment is nice and it‘s all mine. Finally I reach the campsite where my sweet super hero boyfriend has already set up the tent and is about to get water from the stream nearby. We don‘t even eat dinner and just fall asleep the minute we lie down on our pads. Kennedy Meadows tomorrow, what a milestone! This is truly hard to believe!
Miles 635.3 to 656.9. Bushcamp to Bushcamp
When the alarm goes off at 4 am, Dario insists on sleeping longer. He claims that his body needs more rest. And so we turn the alarm off and sleep in until 6.30 am. The hikers in the other tents are also getting up around the same time. It‘s almost special for us when it‘s light out and we don‘t need our headlights.
Our hike starts off downhill which is a welcome change, only to become flatter after a while while we walk on a dirt road. It‘s really hot today and we are pretty exposed to the sun. It will take us about 15 miles to reach Walker Pass, the pass dividing the mountain range of Southern California and Central California.
After breakfast Dario is soon ahead of me. At a crossing he painted a heart in the sand with an arrow pointing down the dirt road leading to a water source. I follow it down and soon see him getting water near a creepy looking cabin. We know from our PCT guthooks app that the water here smells and tastes disgusting, like foul eggs, but it‘s water nevertheless, we are in the desert and we have no choice. We put some electrolytes in it and that helps a little with the taste. Let‘s hope though that we will reach the next water before we have to drink this one!
The early afternoon is downhill to Walker Pass and Dario is just running off again like some young deer. I am left alone with my thoughts, so many things on my mind. What we are doing here is sometimes hard to grasp and I start asking myself how I am feeling about it all. But I also think a lot about our upcoming visit back home for Carolina and Mauri‘s wedding and get so excited about it! Then I picture in my head what the rest of our 15 months trip is gonna be like. Or I watch some critters or plants next to the trail and wonder what their existence out here is like. It feels like a privilege but also a challenge to be this exposed to my thoughts and emotions. I surely have enough time for all these thoughts running through my head, and I really feel grateful that I get to take time off my ordinary life and do such a meaningful thing for myself.
Then finally, Walker Pass! We know we should never expect Trail Magic, and for some reason we really thought there was gonna be trail magic here, right next to a drive-in campground and easy accessibility from the road. And there is a water cache there which is really helpful (we can now throw away the bad taste water from before). There are quite a few hikers there, TwoBeers, a girl from Idaho, among others. We met her in Tehachapi and liked her instantly. We will see her later because she plans to stay at the same tentsite. And then we are off again for the big mountain climb of the day.
And we are so fast despite the heat! Almost jogging up the 500m in 6miles ascent and arriving at the campsite before anyone else. Only after we‘ve set up our tent, washed ourselves as best as we could and had the most delicious dinner on the trail so far (couscous with eggplant curry) TwoBeers shows up. She decides to cowboy camp right next to our tent and so we talk about all kinds of things until late at night. Just kidding. Hiker midnight, 9 pm. Let‘s try to get up early again tomorrow!
Miles 612 to 635.3. From Bushcamp to Bushcamp.
We wake up at exactly 03:50 - that is our new trick so I can snooze for another 10 minutes and eventually get up at 4 am.
Well it actually works today and at 4 am we immediately start packing everything together.
When we hit the trail, our watch shows 04.35 and it is still so dark.
The first 4 miles are really easy, the trail is leading us straight all the way down to the valley. As we reach the lowest point we can already see a bunch of big water bottles (or as Wizard pronounces it: Wota botul), which trail angel Cinnabon must have brought here (hopefully for her not on the back of her motocross bike). Thanks alot again to her! Without her help it would have been nearly impossible to hike that section!
So we fill up our bottles and continue to hike. Now the easy part is over and we have to climb the other side of the valley. It is kind of steep but we manage to climb that thing. So now the climb is over we think - but we are badly mistaken! It goes up up up again and suddenly an old friend is showing up again - a strong wind, like the one when we passed that windfarm after Hikertown! But well, at least the temperature feels ok with the wind.
In a few minutes the world cup football game (I refuse to call it soccer) between Brazil and Switzerland starts! I installed a VPN a few days ago so I am hoping to watch the game. But exactly at kick-off time the reception is gone!
What the hell! I now run the trail in expectation to get cell reception again and actually overlook the 1000 km marker!
Well at least Maya sees it and takes some pictures.
Unfortunately all the running is not helping at all - no signal until the end of the game. Later I read that they played 1:1 - that does not a help a lot to get over my frustration of not watching the game.
Anyway, the rest of the day we had again to climb a rather big mountain (we started to call them ‘fuckers’ - the why is pretty self explanatory) and set up our Big Agnes just one mile after reaching the summit.
It was a long, windy day including a long climbing part but finally we cuddle in our sleeping bags and I am still a bit angry about missing the game - the next game I will hopefully be able to watch as we should be in Kennedy Meadows by then! :)
Miles 592.9 to 612. Bushcamp to Bushcamp.
The alarm rings, it‘s 4 am. Dario is in his zombie mode and just can‘t seem to shake the sleep off himself. So as every morning I tell him what to do. „Take out your earplugs, put in yor contacts, start folding your airpad“ and so on. He doesn‘t seem to function on his own at 4 am. After about 10 minutes he is finally awake and we quickly pack up. We notice that Doctor Strange‘s tent is still there. Looks like he couldn‘t shake off his sleep at 2 am either.
The first hour we hike in the dark, with our headlights on. We are still walking through a grassy meadow area and I can feel the soft grass touching my legs on both sides of the trail. When the sun rises we take some nice pictures, alright, a lot of pictures, see below. ;-)
On our short breakfast break we notice that we might find water earlier than on mile 602, as we are almost down to nothing and Dario is really thirsty. And sure enough, we soon pass a house with a water tank next to it where we help ourselves to 2 litres and „camel up“ (jug down as much as we can right there). Only a couple minutes we reach another milestone: the 600 mile marker. Yaaaay, we‘ve just walked 600 miles, can you believe it??
After another hour we reach the Robin Bird Spring, the water source. We get some more water and take the opportunity to wash some panties and socks. Having only three pairs each per person we will have to wash them occasionally if we should decide to go through with our plan and make it to Kennedy Meadows in 7 days without another townstop. We hang the wet clothes up to dry on a pack and hike on.
After a pretty tough climb we soon find ourselves surrounded by beautiful pine trees. The ground is mossy and comfortable to walk on. But as time goes by we grow more and more tired (hello, we have been getting up at 4 am!) and finally want to reach our next destination, the Landers Meadow Spring Campground, 0.2 miles off trail. We blow up our airpads and take a nap underneath the tall pine trees. The wind is blowing and the temperature is great. Soon our nap is disturbed by a couple of motorcross drivers. WTH! We are both thinking. But no time to get mad, they are trail angels! And they bring us cinnamon rolls and we have a lovely time chatting with them. Turns out they are responsible for the two upcoming reliable water caches. Without these caches us hikers would be forced to carry water for a 42 mile desert stretch! Thank you so much for helping is out, it sure is a great relief knowing we won‘t have to carry around 25 liters for the next two days!
We finish our day with another 3 mile hike to our campsite overlooking the Sierra Nevada. Here she is, we can‘t wait to reach you in a couple of days! The campsite is surrounded by boulders, protected from the wind. It‘s still sunny and warm out and we enjoy the evening, cooking dinner, tending to our sore feet. We are again in bed by 7.30 pm, I could get used to that! But it does make sense, the alarm is gonna go off at 4 am again tomorrow and there is a big day ahead of us...
Miles 573.3 to 592.9. Bushcamp to Bushcamp.
I‘ve had the worst night. I probably wasn’t asleep for more than two hours. And at 4.30 the alarm goes off. What a great start of the day! It takes a couple of minutes until Dario wakes up from his coma. He always has the worst time getting up in the morning. Well, it‘s understandable because knowing that we spend the first half hour of the day taking down our tents and packing everything up in our packs isn‘t all too great.
Then we set off. At this early hour the scenery around us looks beautiful as the sun is about to rise. The trail leads up and down, through overgrown bushes and then along a dirt road. Eventually we decide to have our breakfast which we enjoy in a sunny spot. Bread with salami and cheese. Avocados, tomatoes. Nutella. The first day after town is always the best one because we still carry fresh food. Soon the bread and veggies will be gone and we are stuck with trailmix and snickers again. We also always try to eat the heaviest foods first for obvious reasons.
It starts getting hot, but luckily the trail isn‘t too steep in the morning. Soon we reach our targeted water source where a bear was seen just the other day. Not today though. Two other guys are already there taking a break and we quickly get and filter our water. 20 seconds after we leave the place Dario behind me suddenly starts yelling. I pull my headphone out and turn my head and see him pointing directly at some woods next to the trail I‘ve just passed. A rattlesnake! It‘s green. We’re in the Mojave. It might have actually been the Green Mojave rattlesnake, one of the most venomous snakes out here. Luckily it doesn‘t seem to be interested in us at all and slowly slides away into the woods.
It gets hotter and we are hiking fast just to reach a shaded area for a lunch and nap break asap as I am so tired today. We get lucky but I can‘t cool down and can‘t relax while Dario doesn‘t seem to be having these problems and is already snoring peacefully.
When we hike on we realize that we don‘t have much water left as we have been drinking it greedily due to the heat and will only reach the next water source the next day. We do have enough but just need to drink it responsibly. Which is so hard when it‘s this hot and mostly uphill and we are just so thirsty.
Finally we arrive at our tentsite. It is so lovely! A large meadow with lots of trees and cute tentsites! Doctor Strange, another hiker from Canada, is already there setting up his tent. He informs us that we won’t be seeing much of him because he’s gonna go to bed immediately and get up at 2 am.
Due to our water situation we will use water only to heat up some Indian curry dishes for dinner so that we will be able to drink it afterwards. Indian curry because it‘s the heaviest food we have left. But also the spiciest. It‘s so hot it leaves us even thirstier! After we are done with dinner we quickly get ready for bed and are fast asleep by 7.30pm, a new record!
Miles 566.4 to 573.3. Tehachapi to Bushcamp.
Even though we had originally planned to leave Tehachapi in the morning, we changed our mind last night. We have the comfy hotel room until noon, our friends are still in town and we still have some blogging to do. Also we figured that it would not be possible to get a ride to the trailhead before dawn, and if we started hiking at like 7am it would soon be too hot for the next mountain on our agenda.
So we spend the morning enjoying another delicious breakfast followed by some more hours of blogging. We haven‘t written any new posts in a while and therefore have a lot to catch up on. It feels good now to be up to date again. :-)
There are a lot of other hikers hanging out in the hotel lobby, enjoying the last hours of an airconditioned room before leaving again. A tough section lies ahead of us. The Mojave desert in all its glory. Hot, shadeless, dry. Water is a big deal as there are hardly any flowing sources and we need to carry 11 liters with us. We also decided to try and get to Kennedy Meadows, the beginning of the Sierras, in one go which means a food carry for 7 days. Needless to say, our packs are heavy. We will see how it goes.
At 3.40pm we leave town with a bunch of other hikers. Wizard and Thibaud stay behind to rest some more and will leave later in the day. As they haven‘t done the last 8 miles due to hitching from the previous highway they will also have to start at a different position tonight.
At the trailhead we hide some gallons of water for Wizard and Co. as they will only reach this position tomorrow and due to the lack of water, we offered to put some water there for them. Then we start hiking. The first mile is right next to the highway, pretty straightforward, but boring. Soon we start the climb up the mountain. We are only doing 7 miles today to reach the mountain peak and have an easy start tomorrow. The views are very beautiful and the golden hour soon begins to put everything in a gorgeous light. When we arrive at the campsite we quickly set up our tent and cook dinner. It looks like we have the site to ourselves tonight. I realize when lying in my sleeping bag that the ground is uneven. Hopefully I won‘t roll down sidewards all night long. But for now I am comfortable enough and Dario seems comfortable too as he is already snoring next to me. ;-)
Miles 0. Tehachapi (Zero Day)
Another amazing sleep in! Speedy said goodbye to us and left early at 6 am. It's unlikely we will see him again soon as he will now do bigger mile days. We understand it as he has indeed been adapting our pace when he could have gone much further. But we will still miss him heaps! We sleep some more, then have another delicious go at the hotel's breakfast buffet. Wizard and also Thibaud, whom we haven't seen since Big Bear Lake, are scheduled to arrive later in the afternoon, so we have the whole day to ourselves. We spend some more time blogging, doing some e-banking and ordering some items (e.g. the mandatory bear canisters) to be shipped to Kennedy Meadows, the starting point of the Sierra Nevada. Then while I organize our packs, Dario goes out to get a new gas canister. It turns out he has to walk like 2.5 miles in total, which doesn't agree with him at all. Poor guy, having to walk on a zero day is such a no-go!
When Wizard and Thibaud arrive we head over to Thai-hachapi (finally!) and have an amazing Thai dinner. It is sooo good! We then head straight back to the hotel and jump into the hot tub once again.
Dario and I feel really rested now and ready to leave Tehachapi tomorrow to do the final section of the Southern California desert. As amazing as the desert section was, we are really excited for the Sierras. We will most likely be doing much shorter mile days there because the terrain is quite challenging as we will be climbing approximately one mountain pass a day. We will no longer have to worry about carrying water, there will be plenty of water. Lakes, rivers, creeks, snow! It's gonna be so hard, but I feel that the desert has prepared us well. We are ready to take on the next challenge! However, the next 7-9 days will be quite challenging as well. the Mojave desert is just merciless, there is hardly any shade. But the next destination is Kennedy Meadows and for us and everyone else it's the biggest one so far. It will mean the end of a 702 mile hike through the desert and the beginning of the infamous und pristine Sierra Nevada.
Miles 0. Tehachapi (Zero Day)
Yay, we got to sleep in today! Best feeling in the world. At 8 am we go down to the breakfast place and eat as much as we can from the delicious breakfast buffet. It is amazing to have so much food variety! Eggs, sausages, waffles, fruit, joghurt, muesli, fresh coffee and orange juice. Yummy! It definitely is all about food when we are in town!
Soon after breakfast we order a Lyft car and drive to the savemart to resupply. It takes us the usual hour to get all the stuff we need. Our Lyft driver Belinda who drove us there told us to call her again when we were ready for our ride back to the hotel and that she would turn the Lyft app back on as there are not many drivers around. She had never heard of the PCT, but wondered about all these hikers in town every spring. She was like "how do you manage to do this on your own?", and I told her among other things that we would get help from so-called trail angels who do all kinds of stuff for us out of the goodness of their hearts. So when we call her she tells us that there is no need for us to order her through the app, that she will just give us a ride for free because she wants to be a trail angel for us. How kind are the people here, it just blows my mind!
We spend the afternoon blogging, napping, chilling in the pool and hot tub area, watch Friends in our hotel room and rest our feet and legs as much as possible. In the evening we make our way to the Redhouse BBQ Restaurant where supposedly all the locals hang out and order some fantastic Tacos Al Pastor and much more. The entire dinner costs us 29$ and is delicious! Hiker midnight is now approaching fast, we are already so tired, time for bed, and another sleep in tomorrow! I love double zeroes!
Miles 549.7 to 566.4. Bushcamp to Tehachapi.
Today we will reach Tehachapi! So we get up early and leave Speedy who is still sleeping in his tent. He will catch up with us in a few hours anyway, as he is more running than actually hiking. I sometimes call him “Le Chamois” - the mountain goat.
The trail leads us through yet another wind farm, supposedly one of the biggest ones in the US. We have breakfast next to the farm and shortly after there is Speedy already catching up. With his typical “hellooooouu” he greets us and has his second breakfast with us.
From here the terrain is fairly easy, as it is all slowly downwards. After passing another 100 wind turbines we reach the valley were there is a water cache waiting for us. We fill up another 4 liters in total and have a little chat with other hikers of whom a big part are hitching into Tehachapi from the road right next to the water cache. But we already decided to get to the next hitching spot 8 miles ahead (so as not having to do the 8 miles after our zero days in Tehachapi), so we have to start again. The heat is now terrible. We can only walk for an hour more or less and then escape under one of the bushes to have lunch and find some shade.
After lunch we have another 5 miles to do and finally reach the highway, from where we get a hitch into Tehachapi.
We booked a room in the Best Western Surestay and quickly are doing our laundry, clean our equipment and then have a wonderful shower.
For dinner we want to check out the Thai Hachapi, probably the most famous Thai restaurant on the whole PCT. But it is 0.8 miles to walk from our hotel, which is nothing in terms of hiking but way to far when you are in town. I know it sounds absurd, but no hiker is going to be happy about doing extra miles off trail.
So we decide to just go to the Sushi place next door and have some amazing food there.
First thing we do when we are back in our hotel is jump into the hot tub and get our feet some well deserved relaxation! Oh wow, what a feeling after these tough last days of hiking!
Miles 533 to 549.7. Cowboy camp to Bushcamp.
We slept surprisingly well. I mean, really surprisingly. When we arrived late last night I never would have thought that I would even be able to sleep for a minute. But that 31 year old body really needed some rest apparently. I slept like a baby. The wind was howling, it was freezing cold, we didn't have any sort of protection, I never slept this exposed ever. But yeah, definitely a good sleep, though too short.
The wind is still going strong in the morning, so we quickly pack our stuff and get going again. It's only two more miles to the next water source, but we don't really stop there because we are still carrying plenty. Hot Mojave desert, we thought. We will drink water like horses, we thought. But it is cold because of the wind (we are even wearing our down hoodies) and we hardly drink any water. Speedy is quickly ahead, as usual. Dario and I slowly make our way up through the hundreds of windmills. I have never experienced wind like this before. It is almost impossible to stay on trail, the wind keeps pushing me sidewards, really preventing me from staying on trail. It is now going uphill and I am really struggling, I even start to cry. Even the saliva of my loud sobbing won't stay put. It leaves through my open mouth and disappears. It's almost funny. But I am still crying. The wind takes up all my energy, I don't know how I can keep going like this. Luckily we find a bush where we can take our breakfast break. I calm down a little and feel stronger after having some food in my stomach. More energised we climb the next couple of mountains and finally reach our targeted water source for lunch. Speedy has already been waiting under the most amazing, shade-providing tree for at least 2 hours, but he is in no rush. After getting the water at the little creek and filtering it we set up our tent's footprint, get out our sleeping pads and take a long nap. Life is good again.
Three hours later we decide to tackle the next mountain. It is now 4 pm, no longer windy, but still really hot. We only have another 8 miles to go until our campsite so we know we can take it slow. We climb the mountain slowly, but steadily. The miles hardly pass and it is hard to stay focused. The desert floor already looks so far away. We are tired and a little dispirited. This heat can just be really hard on you. And then, we cannot believe it, we see umbrellas. People. TRAIL MAGIC. When you expect it the least. But need it the most. Sure enough, Dan and his wife are still there at 7pm, they just refilled their precious trail magic cache with fresh fruits (strawberries!!!), muffins, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls and donuts, and of course water. In the middle of nowhere! We are absolutely amazed and completely speechless. We thank them like a million times, then proceed to eat some Donuts, apples, oranges and strawberries. Knowing that the campsite is only like 0.5 miles away, we already feel so much better.
We leave this wonderful magical place and soon arrive at the campsite where Speedy and a couple of other hikers already set up camp. We quickly set up tent (by now we are so fast at this!), get cooking and eat dinner cuddled up in our sleeping bags. Only one more day till Tehachapi. Tehachapi - a town which sounded always so close to the Sierras! Tomorrow we will be there!
Miles 517.6 to 533.0. Hikertown to Cowboy Camp.
Today is the day we finally see the LA aqueduct - a section we were eager to see since we planned to hike the PCT! The plan is to head out at approx 5 pm to avoid the famous blistering Mojave desert heat.
But first let’s have a decent breakfast. Since there is no opportunity to buy some food or to go to a restaurant within Hikertown, we need to go to the next gas station, which also offers a MiniMarket and a small restaurant. The only problem is that the mentioned gas station is about 5 miles away. And since it is off trail we will for sure not walk that!
Luckily Richard, the owner of Hikertown provides a really old, big, white-rusty van which the hikers can use without having to ask his permission. So Speedy, Wizard, Maya and I take the van and Wizard offers herself as driver. It is a short ride through the dusty desert and feeling of freedom overwhelms me as we are all listening to some local country music. It feels like being on holidays right now.
Soon we reach the gas station, have some amazing breakfast burritos and buy some cheese there as we have run out of it during the hike to Hikertown and have come to the conclusion that life is better with cheese in the backpack. However, we are talking American cheese here...
Back in Hikertown we wash all our clothes and hang them out to dry the sun. Wizard is hoping to get a ride from Richard to LA to change her newly bought shoes (which caused her some terrible foot pain and blisters) and change them to another brand, like Altras. Unfortunately Richard is busy today - so no ride for her today. But he agrees to take her to LA tomorrow, so she decides to stay in Hikertown for at least another day.
In the afternoon we pack all our stuff together and I start to feel very hungry again. I finally manage to convince Maya to give the gas station another visit and have a burger there before we head out again towards the aqueduct. But the van is not here anymore, some other hikers must have taken it to go there too. After a short time an elderly lady, who hikes to PCT together with her teenage son, comes back with the van. As we go to get the car key from her, she tells us in a kind of cheeky way that there is almost no gas left in the car and she is not sure if we can make it to the gas station with the remaining gas. That she'd actually already had a hard time herself to drive all the way back here with almost no gas left…
“Seriously!”, we both think. I mean all hikers can use the van for free and some of them are not even willing to put in some gas?! That is not correct at all. There is no fuel at Hiker Heaven at all, so how the hell does she think one is able to fill up the van again? It still makes me angry, she could at least have refuelled the car for 5 bucks, so that it would be enough to drive back to the gas station. Anyways, we decide to try to hitch to the gas station as to not having to get stuck in an out-of-gas situation. But that does not work. So after all we take the van. The driving feels weird as the van is constantly stuttering. I drive really slow to make it to the gas station. And indeed we make it! We park the van in front of one of the fuel dispensers, go inside the market, take our burgers, Maya is eating away at an ice cream and we spend 10 bucks to fill up the van again. But wait, we have to change to the other fuel dispenser as the van’s gas cap is located on the other side. So no problem. I sit in the car and turn the key to turn around the car. The engine is stuttering... nothing happens. I try again... just stuttering. I try it again and again but without any success. Damn it, out of fuel! I am afraid that now the battery will soon be completely discharged… I realize that there is now only one option: we need to put the car into neutral position, Maya needs to sit in front of the steering wheel and I have to pull the car by my hands about 10 meters backwards and then another 10 meters forwards to reach the correct fuel dispenser.
So Maya, in one hand holding her ice cream, is now sitting in the driver's seat while I push as hard as I can. And indeed, the plan works! It is a hard piece of work, but me make it, fill up the car and try to get the engine running again. It works on the first try! Haha, we feel so lucky right now and laugh very loudly! What a story! The car could as well have gone out of fuel in the middle of nowhere!
So now we drive all the way back as fast as possible, eat our burgers and get ready to leave Hikertown together with Speedy. We hike for about 15 minutes as we already reach the open part of the aqueduct. Speedy insists to take some freedom of the ass pictures again, so he and I take off our clothes and do some hilarious pictures only wearing our packs.
Soon we reach the tubed part of the aqueduct. The tube is huge and it feels somehow strange knowing that thousands of liters of water per second are passing by underneath us, while nature here is, oh so dry. But it is actually fun to walk on the tube and we take some awesome pictures in the evening light.
We agree that Speedy should go ahead as he is so fast and find us a good camping spot. It is now about 7 pm and the temperatures begin to feel more pleasant. But there are still 10 miles to go and we begin to install our headlamps. Soon the last glimpse of light has disappeared and we walk in complete silence and dark in the middle of the Mojave desert.
After several hours of hiking during the night, Speedy texts us that the planned tentsite is way too windy and he has found a better one only 200 meters ahead of him. Approx. one hour later we reach his spot and find him lying in his sleeping bag only, behind a bush, seeking shelter from the strong wind that is also blowing here. We decide to cowboy camp as well and fall asleep soon despite the howling wind.
Miles 493.4 to 517.6. From Upper Shake Campground to Hikertown
Wizard and the two of us get up at 4.30 am to get a headstart on Speedy. It is only starting to get light out while we pack our stuff together and get going. We are in a hilly area and every now and then can see all the way down to the Mojave desert floor beneath us. The hiking is easy here, the temperature just perfect. Soon Dario falls back when he leaves the trail to dig his morning hole and shortly after Wizard needs to rest her foot as it is already starting to really hurt again. She got new shoes in at REI while in Hiker Heaven and they just don't seen to be the right fit for her. Hopefully she can make it down to Hikertown where we will somehow be able to get her other shoes.
Anyway, while I walk on by myself I am aware that I am surrounded by nobody, that I am completely alone. And I am loving it! Don't get me wrong, I love hiking with our trail family and it feels great to have Dario walk by my side (or rather behind me on this 30cm wide trail) most of the time, but this moment right here is just perfect. I get to see the world wake up and around every new hill the desert underneath us seems to unfold and grow larger and larger. A landscape so vast and beautiful, but so hot and unforgiving too. I can't wait to get down there.
The place we will camp tonight is called Hikertown and I have already heard a lot about this place. Some call it weird, others are amazed by it. The facts are, the place was built by a wealthy man who used to be a Disney executive. He had bought the property and shortly after noticed many filthy people wandering around the place. Yes, the PCT was passing right by his property. But he didn't know that. He thought they must be homeless and soon started to offer his help when it was explained to him that in fact they were PCT hikers, not hobos. This got him really excited and he started to figure out what this group of people needed and craved the most while in civilization. And he converted his property into Hikertown, a real western looking place where hikers can sleep in cabins or in tents, can do laundry and take showers.
Today we will reach the 500 mile marker. This is a big deal. It will mean we have walked more than 800 km! We really want to reach this milestone together and therefore decided the day before to take a breakfast break at 499.5 and walk the last 0.5 miles together as soon as everyone will have caught up. I get there first, followed by Dario and Wizard shortly after. Good for us, Speedy hasn't caught up yet, which means we get to have a longer break. :-) Dario gives Wizard his camp shoes because Wizard really can't walk in her shoes anymore.
When Speedy has caught up and we all finish stuffing our faces with oatmeal, fruit bars, bread with cheese and nutella, we start walking again and soon reach the first 500 mile marker. There are always a few of those because apparently it is difficult to tell exactly where the 500th mile actually is. In fact, the official marker is only located at mile 501.8, which makes no sense at all, but we still decide to keep going until there for our photo session. And we do take a lot of photos and end up staying for nearly 45 minutes. This might no have been the best idea because it is already getting really hot and the rest of the morning we will have to walk uphill.
Soon everyone is in front of us because I just can't go fast in this heat. I do take a lot of pictures though and don't feel in a hurry at all. Eventually we meet Speedy at the next water source where we also decided earlier to have lunch. This will be the highest point, from now on it's all downhill to the desert floor. Strange enough we arrive before Wizard does which is weird because she was ahead of us the whole time. Turns out, she missed the turn to the water source and kept going, only to realize her mistake after 0.5 miles, when she turned around again. This really affects her mood which is understandable. It meant like a 25min detour in this crazy heat, first walking down steeply only to climb it all again. With her feet hurting like hell.
We take a long lunch break, followed by a long nap. Then walk down 0.2 miles to the water source way below us to get water for both Wizard and us. After all the water is filtered we strap on our packs and start the steep descent. We are both feeling refreshed and excited, only 9 more miles. But boy, they turn out to be quite hard. After 3 miles Wizard decides she can't go on anymore, her feet are just in too much pain. Luckily there is a road there from where she will try to hitch to Hikertown. Speedy is already long gone and Dario and I are dragging ourselves up and down more mountains. It is so hot but we can now see Hikertown in the distance and now we don't have much longer to go. The sun is now slowly starting to sink, there is a cool breeze. Our bodies are tired though, we can already feel this 24 mile day which will be the day with the most miles hiked to date.
And then finally we leave the mountains and walk down a long, straight, paved road. It is really windy! The sun has already set, we are surrounded by pure beauty that is hard to explain. Wizard and Speedy are already waiting at Hikertown. Speedy, our champion, had enough time to get a ride to a store/restaurant where he got burgers, fries, beers and wine for us. We quickly set up our tents which proves quite difficult in the wind. Wizard and I have a quick shower. After a cozy dinner we retreat back into our tents to sleep a sound sleep. Sleeping is the best when you know that you can sleep in. And that will be the case tomorrow as we will only head out in the late afternoon for the notorious crossing of the LA aqueduct in the Mojave desert.
Miles 478.2 to 493.4. From Casa de Luna to Bushcamp (Upper Shake Campground)
Even though the plan was to get up early, we absolutely don‘t feel like it and just keep snoozing until Speedy and Wizard also decide to get up for the Casa de Luna Pancakes breakfast. The pancakes are delicious and we just kind of hang around, not really in a hiking mood. The guys start painting rocks, which is a thing at Casa de Luna where all rocks are painted and placed in their beautiful manzanita forest.
After Dario is finally done with his piece of art for Speedy we get going. We need to hitch from Green Valley back to the trailhead. For the first 15 minutes nobody stops. We see it as kind of fate that we are still here and Dario really wants to have a second breakfast at the coffee shop next to where we hitch. Luckily (or unlucky for Dario) a guy going the other way decides to turn around and give us a ride. So sweet!
Back on trail the guys are soon ahead, running up the mountain, while Wizard and I take it more slowly. Her feet hurt and uphill isn‘t my strength anyway. Soon the guys stop for lunch where we all reunite. Dario and I soon leave again and later in the evening are the first to arrive at the campsite. Before Speedy!! That‘s a first! While we all cook dinner we are joined by Thi, a Vietnamese American, who offers us some Tequila. We share stories together and eat our ramen noodles, rice dishes and mashed potatoes. It gets cold quickly and we soon hop into our sleeping bags. Off to Hikertown tomorrow, this is where we will reach the Mojave Desert!
Miles (454.5 Fire closure: 10 miles hitch) 464 to 478.2. Hiker Heaven (Agua Dulce) to Casa de Luna (Green Valley)
Today starts in a car. Yes right, in a car. This is because there is now a fire closure caused by the wildfire we witnessed from KOA.
So we drive up for 10 miles with Christian, the Swiss guy and Paige, a Canadian girl.
After a ride of approx. 30 minutes (detour of the road) we reach the trailhead again and all four of us have breakfast together.
With our stomachs full we continue to hike. It is all up up up in the beginning. After reaching the top we see the valley down there, which we are going to pass. It is so green, that's probably why it is called the Green Valley.
We pass a lot of trees now and after another 2.5 hours decide to have lunch under one of those trees in the shade.
We talk about Speedy and Wizard and imagine how far behind us they may possibly be as the mentioned Speedy Gregales suddenly shows up.
So cool to meet him again! We have lunch together and head out after spending some time. The path now is easy, it is all more or less flat or downhills.
Soon we reach the highway and someone gives us a ride into town and drives us to the entrance of the so called Casa de Luna.
Case de Luna is a really cool place! When we arrive they tell us that free dinner will be served soon, but that we have to wear one of the Hawaiian or one of the African tribe shirts.
We decide to go for the African tribe shirts and head out to hit the local gas station (yes, we are still wearing the shirts) to buy some beers, wine and chips.
For dinner Terry, the owner of Casa de Luna and her helpers prepare a Taco Salad, which is soo good! We have a nice talk with other hikers and set up camp in Terry’s backyard - a place that looks like a gigantic maze made of old trees and bushes. And everywhere, on the ground, in the trees and in the bushes you can find painted rocks, which the hikers who have stayed here within the last 4 or 5 years have painted. Some of them are actual artworks!
We still expect Wizard to arrive, but she will take another 2 hours because she took a very long lunch.
So we are wondering how she could ever find us in this maze, since it is almost dark by now as Maya comes up with a brilliant idea: On every junction in the maze we draw a big W, for Wizard, on the sandy ground and guide her through the maze this way.
And indeed, it works after Speedy texts her to follow the Ws.
So at approx 10pm we are all reunited after all and can welcome Wizard with some dinner we took for her and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon!
Miles 0 (Zero Day). Hiker Heaven (Agua Dulce)
We slept in until 7 today, but I have to admit I was already awake earlier. Hiker Heaven is a busy place. Full of hikers, dogs, horses and chicken. Yes, chicken. And they run around freely in the backyard where all the hikers are camping. And they just love hanging around us, and even visiting the inside of the tents when the owner is not "at home". Poor Sirio, he left his tent open and now some of his stuff is covered in chicken sh**. But back to the morning. A zero day always feels really great. Knowing that we have 24 hours to rest is awesome even though we are aware of all the things we need to get done in the next 24 hours. The most important one being new shoes as are first pairs are now officially worn through after 454 miles. We gather a couple of people (Doc (who we caught up with because he had issues with his smallest toe) and Sirio actually) who also need to go shopping and then order an Uber to go to the next REI (like a super huge Transa in Switzerland). Turns out, the next REI is in Los Angeles and actually like 10 minutes from Kuki's house, my dad's cousin, who we stayed with before taking the train down to San Diego.
Our UBER driver is very fascinated by the PCT and asks a lot of questions during the 40-minute ride. She drops us off at REI where we find out that it doesn't open for another 20 minutes and therefore walk across the street to get some fresh juices which taste delicious. Then our shopping in REI can begin, we get new shoes, new bite valves for our water bladder, a new shirt for me, another power bank and some other stuff. Afterwards we do our resupply in the supermarket next door, followed by a stop at the ATM to withdraw some cash and then finally a bite to eat for lunch. We were looking forward to go to In-N-Out Burger but turns out there isn't one close-by. So we end up at the Chick-Fil-A, a religious fast food chain. Welcome to 'Murica. We still can't let go of the idea of an In-N-Out Burger and so, when we order a Lyft driver to go back to Agua Dulce, we ask her to stop at In-N-Out Burger and take some burgers to go.
When we get back to Agua Dulce Wizard and Speedy are still hanging around. Due to the fire that broke out yesterday, the PCT north of Agua Dulce is now closed for the foreseeable future and Hiker Heaven offers rides past the fire closure. By the time we get back from LA they have also figured out an alternate route and so Wizard and Speedy contemplate walking this alternate which is 2 miles longer than the actual PCT. We discuss our options and decide that they should do the alternate and we would hitch past the fire closure the next morning and catch up with them this way. Somehow Dario and I are very good at convincing them to always stay longer and they end up joining us for drinks while we are having dinner at the Mexican place in town. It seems like the whole town is having dinner there on a regular week's night and the atmosphere is great. We start chatting to a family sitting across from our table and they invite us for another round of Margaritas. So Speedy and Wizard are a little drunk when they leave town to hike 14 (!!!) miles at 7pm. The family we met is so sweet, and they keep telling us how inspired they are by the likes of us and how they love it that our generation more and more turns their back on society and does their own thing. It seems to them that our values are more about relationships, travelling, nature and working to really live rather than the other way round. Their speech gave me goosebumps, and it was really beautiful to hear that.
After dinner we start walking home to Hiker Heaven with some other hikers, but are quickly picked up by a lovely lady. People out here are so amazing it just blows my mind every time. Also Hiker Heaven for example - they do our laundry and make sure we have clothes to wear while our clothes are being washed, give us a place to camp, provide free showers and real toilets, organize rides, hold our resupply packages, ship off our resupply packages. They ask for a small donation so that they can keep doing what they are doing for more years to come. But it is also the feeling they give us. They care about each and every one of us and want to get to know the hikers individually. Sometimes up to 50 hikers sleep in their backyard. I have never experienced this kind of selfless generosity towards strangers before and it's very humbling.
Miles 436.1 to 454.5. North Fork Ranger Station to Agua Dulce (Hiker Heaven).
We decide to start early, as we want to reach Hiker Heaven to meet up with our friends Speedy, Wizard, Kim and Lynn. It is also the last day that Kim and Lynn will be on the PCT as tomorrow they will leave the PCT and go back to South Korea in a couple of days. As they are moving to Berlin this summer they are not able to hike the whole PCT this season. But Berlin - how awesome for them, but so sad for us at the moment not to see them again on the PCT. But at least Berlin is fairly close to Switzerland and always worth a visit. So we will visit them for sure at some time in the future!
It is only 8 miles today until the KOA (Kampgrounds of America), an open campground offering a swimming pool and a small store to get some groceries.
So we hurry up and do the 8 miles in just under 4 hours. The KOA is just awesome! Lots of trees that provide shade, people we know everywhere, showers and the best of all - the above mentioned pool! 20$ poorer, we can now benefit from all the amenities that the KOA has to offer..
So at first we have a shower to get rid of all the dirt. And now off to the pool!
Apparently we are the only hikers jumping in the pool so far. And oh woooow...what a feeling! After several days of heat, sweat, lack of water and an enormous amount of dirt the water feels like being in paradise!
We both don’t want to get out of this pond of joy anymore! But after spending an hour in it, we decide to have lunch and chill out in the shade. I also have a short nap, enjoying the cool shade and nice breeze here.
When I wake up after a half hour nap I can’t find Maya, but then finally see here back in the pool talking to some hikers who finally made it into the pool after all.
But what’s that in the background on the sky?! It looks like a mushroom kind of cloud, similar like after a nuclear explosion. And the colors! There is black, grey, brown and even a kind of reddish. I realize that I look directly at the result of a wildfire that started just recently! Oh my god - it looks like it is very close from here. I inform Maya and we start to ask others if they know anything about it, but no news so far.
We realize that Naomi texted us, worried if the wildfire which they also observed, had started at KOA?! She further informs us that at Hiker Heaven, only 10 miles away from KOA, they are thinking of evacuating all the hikers, since they don’t know in which direction the fire will spread out. We tell her that we are all fine and find out that the fire has to be north of Hiker Heaven.
So everything is fine, but we are not sure if it is wise to hike the 10 miles to Hiker Heaven because the direction of the wind might suddenly change and turn the fire in our direction.
Naomi tells us that she will get the necessary information at Hiker Heaven and convinces us to do the 10 remaining miles. It is so hard to leave this nice place, but we finally pack our stuff and off we go again.
The section starts with a fairly big climbing part which is not so easily doable in this heat. But after this, the rest is ok. At one point we pass a lenghty tunnel, followed by the famous Vasquez Rocks formation which served as a movie set in several big movies like Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, etc.
Shortly after leaving the Rocks we enter the town of Agua Dulce. It is now almost dark, but it is also a nice summer evening, still warm, but not hot. After a mile or so of road walking we pass the town center where we meet Christian, the Swiss guy we met a couple of times before and Mugshot, a sweet, bit older American lady from LA again at a pizza place.
We join them for a drink and manage to get a hitch to Hiker Heaven where we finally meet with all our friends. And they organized pizza, pasta, salad, coke, beer and a bottle of wine for us!! Truly an amazing welcome which matches the place’s name Hiker Heaven!
We all eat and drink together, have a nice chat and then find a place in the backyard to pull our tent. What a day with ups and downs, but it was definitely worth to hike the last 10 miles to this amazing place.
Miles 415.1 to 436.1. Bushcamp to North Fork Ranger Station
We get up quite early because - surprise - another long day is ahead of us. With the town of Agua Dulce and the trail angels' house Hiker Heaven in the near future we really want to make good time and reach it as soon as possible. We are already getting excited about being reunited with our friends and of course food, drinks, laundry and shower.
When we exit the tent there is the most beautiful sunrise awaiting us. This all-time fantastic weather really makes it easy(ier) to get up this early in the morning. By 5.30 am we are ready to go. The first part today is a rather steep downhill hike to the Mill Creek Fire Station where we can get water at a running spigot. We are the first ones to get there this morning and have the place all to ourselves. After we fill up our bottles and filter the water, we make fresh coffee and eat breakfast and then even give our hair a good rinse because, well, it's disgusting. Never mind the rest of our unshowered bodies. But by then other people are showing up and we have to finish our shower party.
Of course, after a steep descent there is always a steep ascent. In the bright sun - as pretty much always too. Luckily it doesn't take too long. It is really hot today, already at 7.30 am! And unfortunately there isn't a lot of shade to take breaks in, so we are just dragging ourselves along and when it gets closer to lunch time we start looking for a place shady enough to stop at. Which is nearly impossible. So we keep hiking up, up, up the hills until finally we find some shade. By that time I am exhausted and not feeling well and just annoyed with the whole situation. My bad mood rubs off on Dario and we both start arguing over nothing really. After lunch he uses his anger to climb yet another mountain and makes it in record time while I am still just limping along, frustrated and angry, at nothing really. When I finally reach the top of the mountain, Dario is waiting for me and we make up. We also run into Sirio, another Swiss hiker of whom we will also see much more in the upcoming days.
Tonight's goal is the North Fork Ranger Station where, rumor has it, Hot Dogs and Sodas are waiting for us. This is a huge motivation booster and we practically run down the next mountain. For 15 minutes. Then I realize that today I am just not in a good place. But I pull myself together to do the last 6 or so miles and we finally make it to the Ranger Station around 6.30 pm. Another long day and 21 miles, but sure enough, the best reward is waiting for us. Fresh drinks, fruit, a lovely campsite where some hikers (hi again Sirio, and soon after hello there again Christian, our two Swiss guys) have already set up camp for the night - aaand Hot Dogs! I offer Ranger Ron, the caretaker there, to help him with the Hot Dogs and so he tells me to come to the Ranger's house with him where there will be "a treat waiting for me". Yes, it does sound kind of creepy, but I don't care because by then I am hopeful that I might get to use the bathroom and wash my oh so filthy hands. Thankfully I am right, he actually lets me use his bathroom to wash my hands and I even take some time to wash my really dirty face. It's those little things that become so special when living in the wild.
After the Hot Dog dinner and one, two (in Dario's case 6!!! cokes) we happily get into our tent and fall asleep instantly.
395.2 to 415.1. Cooper Canyon Camp to Bushcamp
We slept really well under the stars without our rain fly on. But it was also quite a long day yesterday, no wonder we slept like champions. We leave camp before Melanie who is still snuggled up in her sleeping bag and soon are on trail again. It is another beautiful day out here, so quiet and peaceful. I really like the mornings best when it feels like the world is still waking up, birds start chirping, butterflies flying and hello there - a deer crosses the trail like 15 metres in front of us. After about two hours we reach the 400 mile marker. Wow, what a feeling to know that we've just walked 400 miles (=643 km). Shortly after we take our breakfast break and take the opportunity for a pooping break as well as it seems that we are far ahead (or behind) other people and will not be disturbed. Sure enough, as soon as we have both each found the perfect bush to do our business the first people show up! Why does this keep happening! On trail you don't see other hikers for hours on end, but as soon as you decide to go hide behind some bush with your trowel and toilet paper people will show up. Murphy's law in action once again! Well, shit happens. Literally. Anyway, moving on.
The trail leads us through a beautiful area today, it is not too steep and time goes by while I listen to a podcast. We time our lunch break with the Sulphur Springs Trail Camp thinking that most hikers will probably stop here even though it is not directly located on trail. But since there's water here and picnic tables we just assume that this camp will be the destination of many hikers. But surprise, we've got the camp to ourselves! After we get the water and filter it we lay down on the picnic table benches in the shade and have the best time relaxing and elevating our legs. We then make lunch and are both hesitating to start going again because it's just too perfect! But of course, we have to! So we pack up and start hiking again around 3 pm, since we have about 9.5 miles to go until we reach our targeted campsite.
New views come up, which we always love and I for one am in great shape and loving it. Dario on the other hand is really tired today and keeps asking how much further we have to go. We contemplate stopping earlier but then we end up going all the way to the chosen campsite, which is absolutely fantastic. The views are incredible, it's still not too late and we are proud of having done another 20 miler today. Dinner consists of another two Knorr meals (Taco Rice and Spanish Rice), while watching a beautiful sunset.
Miles 376.9 to 395.2. Bushcamp to Cooper Canyon Camp.
Today we get up very early, the clocks shows 4 am when we get ourselves out of our sleeping bags. After our daily routine of 45 minutes of packing we are all set and hit the trail again. It is still dark and we have to use our headlamps. The day before we planned to reach the top of Mount Baden Powell at sunrise, which happens to be at exactly 5.39 am. It is only a little more than a mile to the summit, but as it is a kind of steep way up there, we still have to hurry up a little to make it in time. We arrive 5 minutes before the sunrise! What a view! Absolutely amazing! And here comes the sunrise! Even more spectacular now! We take some pictures with an American flag (but mostly without the American flag), spend some time at the summit until we almost feel numb from the cold wind and then continue our hike for another 3 miles where we eventually have breakfast.
After breakfast there is already the next mountain to climb - Mount Williamson. It is getting hot now and the climbing is not easy. But finally we make it and decide to have a small lunch at the top.
The downhill part is fairly easy but now we reach a closed section of the PCT. Apparently an endangered yellow frog lives there- that means a detour road walk for 2.5 miles until the road crosses the PCT again. I put my earplugs on and start walking faster than the others as I don’t really like road walking. Unfortunately I miss the junction where I should have turned right when suddenly a car stops next to me. The lady inside asks me if I am not supposed to meet a woman about a half a mile back as she heard her yelling for someone loudly. “Is your name Randalf? Because that’s the name she was screaming?” Haha no, but I imagine that there wouldn’t be just any confused woman screaming around in the middle of nowhere and I quickly figure who this woman must be. So I turn around and find angry Maya still looking for me and screaming my name (not Randalf).
So after reuniting we keep walking on the road when we pass a nice campground and suddenly hear a voice saying: “You guys want some beers and sodas?” HELL YES WE DO!
Turns out that a couple of very cool LA friends do some trail magic here! Awesome!! The initiator of this trail magic is Katie who has been celebrating her birthday every year on this campground with her friends and always does trail magic for the hikers the weekend they are coming here! We are overwhelmed when we hear that. But it gets better. They even prepare tacos and nachos for us! Wow, best trail magic ever! Thank you so much Katie and friends for doing this for us. At some point Katie asks us what food we crave the most on trial. Someone says watermelon. And like a wizard Katie does her magic and tataaa - suddenly there is a whole watermelon on the table. Unbelievable! We all eat eat as much as we can and are so thankful.
But we still have to do another 2 miles until reaching our campsite. So we say thank you so much again and goodbye and start to hike again. It is only two miles but we all can feel the beers and feel like the hiking goes on forever. But eventually we are there at our campsite, set up our tents, hurry down to the creek to wash ourselves as well as we can and then cuddle up inside our sleeping bags, tired but happy, and asleep in a few seconds.
Miles 369.3 to 376.9. Wrightwood to Bushcamp
We wake up around 6am when Wizard is getting ready to leave and say our goodbyes to her. She has been hiking very fast lately and we hope we can catch up with her and see her again soon. But for now we are still in need of some rest, so once she has left we go back to sleep immediately. Around 2 hours we finally manage to get up, have a shower and go out for breakfast in the Evergreen Cafe around the corner. It looks like your typical American diner with green furniture booths, a lot of signs and posters on the wall and overall very cozy. I go for their Eggs Benedict with additional avocado and Dario orders his typical omelet filled with, well, bascially everything. It is absolutely delicious! Soon it is time to go back to the hotel room to organise our stuff and pack up. The watermelon we bought yesterday is still lying there, I can‘t believe we forgot to eat it! We will have watermelon cravings again so soon I am sure of it! Before we decide what to do with it (I am toying with the idea of cutting it up and bringing it along, but it is just soo heavy) we hear a „sali zäme“ from outside. There is another Swiss guy here! We meet Christian, who, funny enough, is in our PCT Swiss Team Whatsapp group, but we haven‘t met him personally yet. He started 6 days after us and has made it this far already, crazy! We like him immediately and give him our watermelon which he seems very happy about. It turns out we will see more of him in the weeks to come.
We then go on to the main road where Melanie is already waiting for us and start extending our thumbs to hitch. After a couple of minutes a lady in an RV stops for us and invites us to take us to the trailhead in her camper. That‘s a first! It‘s a fun ride sitting at the table of her camper and driving up the hilly road. Once we get out of the camper, we say our goodbyes and make our way up the first mountain. We are climbing Mount Baden-Powell today. Baden-Powell was the founder of the Scouts and I have already read a lot about this mountain and the notorious climb. It turns out not to be too bad, but for some reason I feel really sick all the way up and am very relieved when we reach our tentsite for the night. We earlier decided to set up camp a mile before the summit to see the sunrise from the top, so we are only doing 7 miles today and go to bed early to wake up at 4am the next day.
Miles 0 (Zero-Day). Wrightwood.
We sleep in today until approx 8 am,which is fairly late in regards to our new hiking life.
The first thing the four of us do today is finish Maya’s birthday cake in bed. What a breakfast of champions (ok, the lambrusco is missing :P)
After that we decide to have a real breakfast and go to the local bakery to eat the famous breakfast burritos. The burritos they make are huge and so delicious.
As in every town we need to do our resupply. To do that we hit the local grocery store, where we meet several other hikers in front of the store, hanging around in the shade and charging their electronic devices.
By now we kind of have it figured out what we like to eat on trail and what we don’t like. So one would think we should be very fast in doing our resupply. But no, it still takes us up to one hour to get everything! Somehow I still don’t get the American “system” of where to find which kind of food in whatever isle. And also the gigantic amount of choice and variety of products is not really helpful.
But somehow we manage to get everything we need (and some things we will definitely not need like a big watermelon), leave the store and buy some toe socks and stuff sacks in the nearby outfittery.
Now it is time to do the remaining laundry. What sounded like a perfect offer for the room we got (free laundry) turned out the be a) a selfservice and b) the smallest washing machine I have ever encountered in my life. The size of the machine is that tiny, that one could only do like 4 pieces of clothing per load. In addition to that, one washing load of 6 minutes is never ever enough to get the filthy hiker clothes clean again - in average it takes me 5 times for one load to get clean again… and now repeat that like 5 times! The whole washing procedure results in 4 tedious hours in the rather small backyard next to my beloved washing machine.
At some point Speedy shows up to say goodbye since he is leaving to hit the trail again and agrees to wait for us in Hiker Heaven to see each other again in a couple of days.
In the evening Maya, Wizard and I go get some pasta for take away, as well as wine and beer. We meet Melanie, the German girl, again who has also made it to town. She joins us while we wait for our orders to be ready and decides to hike out with us the next day. The three of us then go home and end up watching Jurassic Park during dinner. And a truly easy day off trail (except the laundry part) comes to an end.
Miles 356.7 to 369.3. Bushcamp to Wrightwood.
It‘s my birthday today, yaaay! And we will arrive in Wrightwood today where our friends are waiting, double-yaaay!
The night was rather short because we only arrived at our tentsite at 10.30pm (quite late for our thruhiking standards), but the excitement to be in town today has us getting up quite easily. We walk the remaining 13 miles, half of which are still uphill, the other half dramatically downhill. We can hardly contain our excitement when we finally arrive at mile 369.3 from where we can hitch into town.
We are picked up instantly by an elderly couple (turns out they are both 92 years old!) out on an afternoon drive in the area, without even having to lift a finger. They go on telling us about the area and Wrightwood and want to know everything about our hike. When we arrive in town they make a detour to show us their house and then the rest of town, which is very cute. But when you have been walking through the desert for like 5 days and haven‘t showered during that time, you just really want to arrive, take a long shower followed by a long bath, start washing all the filthy clothes and eat a delicious fresh meal. So we are beyond happy when we finally arrive at the guesthouse Wizard and Speedy had booked for the four of us and get to shower!
The others aren‘t in the room yet, so I am on the phone to my mum when they get there. They throw around balloons in the room and jump into bed with me. Finally we are reunited! Wizard takes out the wine and pour us all a glass or two. It‘s 1pm, we are clean, wine in our hands, life is good! We spend the afternoon eating lunch, doing laundry (well, Wizard and Speedy are doing most of our laundry, thank you guys!!), popping blisters (one of mine had filled up with dirt and looked disgusting - see below) and just chilling in our hotel room. Around 7.30pm we walk over to the Mexican Restaurant and start the night with 5cent-Margaritas. Wizard brought a birthday balloon with her and we just keep getting spoiled! The food is delicious and when we are done the staff comes over and sings a birthday song and they put a sombrero on my head and feed me ice cream. By that time HongKong 4, four friends from Hong Kong, have stopped by and they come back to our room with us where Dario has a birthday chocolate cake ready. They try to put 31 candles on it and it looks so funny because the candles just start dripping instantly with all the wax. We all laugh so hard about the whole situation.
I feel incredibly lucky to be spending my trail birthday partially on trail and partially in town with all these amazing souls. When thruhiking you really don‘t need much to feel real happiness. I love living outside, being surrounded by nature all the time, carrying our home in our packs. We never know which day it is, we get up with the sun in the morning, go to bed when the sun goes down and take breaks whenever we feel that our bodies need it.
The biggest excitement comes from flowing water sources, trail magic and town stops. A hot shower becomes the greatest luxury and fresh food in town the biggest reward. The last month hasn‘t been easy, in fact, it’s been really hard at times, but it‘s the little things that motivate us, keep us going and bring us real and genuine happiness. Yes, I am feeling really lucky today on my 31st birthday.