We got up early but moved slowly. We had less than ten miles to go to get into town. We were approaching a decent-sized town for once: Tehachapi. We were all worn down, hurting, and disgusting. The salt from my sweat was crystallizing and building up, grinding into my skin and leaving nasty burns under my pack’s hip belt. Jailbreak’s feet were still very painful and his IT band was consistently tight. Bandaid’s knee was still tender. My ankles were so swollen that there was no narrowing between my calves and my feet. We needed to recover and were beyond excited at the thought of a soft bed without cats, a real shower and actual laundry with detergent, let alone air conditioning and town food.
We had just a little more climbing to do straight out of camp and then it was downhill all the way to Tehachapi Willow Springs Road, where we planned to hitch into town. It got hot quickly in the desert sun, almost making it feel as though town was a mirage far away on the horizon.
We came into another wind farm, this one with windmills of many shapes, sizes and ages.We marvelled at the engineering that went into them and how the technology had changed over the years. The trail came very close to some of the mills and made us feel quite small.
The heat had us hiding in whatever shade we could find, which was minimal at best. We found a large Joshua tree, one of the first of many we would encounter in the next hundred or so miles. Joshua trees are some of the strangest trees I have ever seen, with VERY sharp spines and odd fruits. They look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book and do not provide much shade but it was all we had.
Eventually we caught a glimpse of the road which renewed our energy and enthusiasm. We scurried down the remaining switchbacks, windmills towering above us, the sun reflecting off the hot ground. We were out of water when we reached the road but didn’t care- we were almost to town!
The guys have continuously poked fun at me for my ability to flag down a hitch almost immediately, but I never hear any complaints. When we got to the road, I changed out of my grubby, sweat stained, now-too-big hiking shirt into a mostly clean fitted tee, wiped the dirt smears from my face and ran my hands through my matted hair. I stepped onto the shoulder of the road, my pack sitting on the ground leaning against my legs, and put out my thumb. The guys stood in the dirt just off of the road about 50 feet behind me, likely out of direct sight of most drivers. Vehicles passed, we waited. I waved at cars going in the opposite direction and pleaded with my eyes with those going our way. Within ten minutes, a pickup truck u-turned to pick us up.
The first words out of the driver’s mouth were “Oh, you guys need a ride too?” as he pulled up on the shoulder and got a good look at Jailbreak and Bandaid in all their dirty, sweaty hiker glory. We all threw our packs in the bed of the truck and the guys climbed into the back seat while I took the front. We headed into town, not knowing quite where we were going but excited nonetheless.
Our driver led the conversation, telling us about how he isn’t sure about the legal validity of his current marriage (he hopes it isn’t valid) and describing in detail his last divorce. As we passed a military facility in the distance, he enthusiastically shared how he builds high-powered lasers and takes them up into the mountains to shoot at the military facility. Supposedly every time he does this, it rains within two days. According to our driver’s theories, the rain shows that the facility produces ozone and this proves that the government can control the weather. Oh yeah, and this guy is a middle school math teacher, influencing the next generation. I was grateful for the ride (and now the story), but was so thankful to have the guys with me and not be hitching by myself.
We got dropped off at a hotel and ditched our packs in the lobby. We got a room but it wouldn’t be ready for a couple of hours so we decided to wander for food. Hiker hunger had complete control of all of us by now. We walked to Petra’s, a Mediterranean restaurant and got a TON of food, most of which we shared, eating from each other’s plates despite the dirt covering all of us head to toe. Satiated albeit briefly, we walked to a Kmart where the we got some creature comforts- q-tips, disposable razors, a loofa, lotion, some snacks and the guys even got swim trunks for the hotel pool. We were going to feel like PEOPLE soon! Also, because we are just children in adult bodies, we all got Icees as well, despite the fact that we had just gorged ourselves on Mediterranean food. The brainfreeze did not stop us from getting refills.
Back at the hotel, our room was ready. We took impatient turns scrubbing off the many layers of caked-on grime and threw our rancid clothing into the hotel’s poor washing machine. Unlike at Hikertown, the guys now had swim trunks to wear while the laundry was being washed. I didn’t have anything new, so I improvised. Toga party anyone?
Jailbreak discovered that you should NOT leave Leukotape on a blister for an extended period of time. Leukotape is a super sticky hiker Godsend, perfect to put on hot spots and blisters because it won’t come loose, roll up, or wear off. Jailbreak had wrapped a painful toe when we were at Upper Shake campground (a week ago) and hadn’t touched it since. Now, removing it, he discovered that the tissue has begun to deteriorate in the heat and sweat- trenchfoot. He will almost definitely lose the nail and could potentially lose part of the toe… Time will tell! In the meantime, he is grateful to have Bandaid around with his 19 years of paramedic experience, despite the concerned looks and the jesting about now being a “Toe-ist”.
By the time we got our clothes were finished, our hiker hunger was back so we headed to a Thai restaurant that we had heard good reviews about. I was super excited for some good Thai food!
Between the three of us, we got 3 beers, 4 appetizers, 5 entrees and 2 desserts. Hiker hunger is REAL! The food was delicious and we waddled back to the hotel, briefly stuffed and satisfied. We decided to take advantage of the hotel’s pool and hot tub for a while and splashed like children and soaked our sore muscles.
We took advantage of having wifi and Netflix, but I was mostly just happy to be clean. Tomorrow we’re trying something new and tonight I have a big nest of pillows to sleep in. Life is good.
Trail magic: 0
Hiked with: Bandaid, Jailbreak
Camped with: Bandaid, Jailbreak