The Monster Under the Oak Trees

June 4, 2017
Aqueduct Faucet to Tylerhorse Canyon
Tylerhorse Canyon to Mile 549 Bar & Grill
Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike: Day 30

Woke up at the crack of dawn to make a break for Tylerhorse Canyon and a day of resting and sleeping before the push to Tehachapi. I wrenched myself out of the bed-cum-sleeping bag after just two hours of sleep, finding motivation in knowing that the sun would only make the climb more brutal. 

Passing mammoth windmills and humanoid Joshua trees whilst delirious, I wove my way through the wind farm hoping the sun cresting the horizon would not mean an onslaught of biting flies. Alex caught me at mile three of seven and we made espresso—I doubt I'd have made it all seven miles without coffee and his encouragement.

The path quickly started increasing in grade and, as it opened up before the canyon, felt like hiking up the vertical face of a mountain.

Coming over the last uphill before the canyon, our eyes went into hunting mode, scanning up and down the creek for shade that would hold out through the next eight hours of the sun's movement and was big enough to shelter the hot-on-our-heels members of our trail family. Alex spotted it first—a sprawling, entangled pair of oak trees overhanging the creek with plenty of flat ground for tents (essential given the current biting fly population). We herded our trail family over, one by one, as they zombie-walked down the canyon switchbacks. It was a glorious paradise in which our exhausted bodies and minds took refuge.

An hour of forgiving sleep descended upon us and then...
The masses of thru-hikers did the same. We awoke to a newly born city of hiker trash. Forty sleep-deprived, hot, delirious, always hungry hikers swarming our oasis. It would have been a sweet moment of hiker camaraderie had it not been for the few ruthlessly loud voices shouting across the void of ten feet, waking the entire camp (or preventing sleep and destroying any future hope for it). Most of our hikers shared the desire for post-aqueduct rest. The exception came in the form of a one Nature Monster (proudly declaring her trail name for all to hear).

I don't know what it is about hikers setting up shop on top of my tent, but for the second time on-trail, a hiker decided that my tent made a good resting spot. I was lucky enough for that hiker to be Nature Monster. I've been using the trail to practice the avoidance of shit-talking, but bear with me for a moment and afford me some leniency. With a machine of a mouth that runs on hot air, she stayed gassed-up for no less than three hours. Between flirting with the dirty trail fellows and expanding on her exploits or whatever godforsaken garbage she was spouting (it's hard to pay attention to what someone is saying when you're blinded with rage by the impeccable timing of the universe for putting this particular person in this particular place at this particular time), she ran her mouth like the world depended on it. I overcame my Minnesota-niceness to ask three separate times if "she wouldn't mind keeping it down, a lot of people are tired from the aqueduct night-hike and trying to sleep". Holy shit, the self control it took to phrase my request objectively rather than telling her, for the third time, not to just shut the fuck up, was everything I could muster. It didn't matter, blah blah blah. After several hours of ruthless blather, she must have eventually worn herself out. And there was peace across the land.

After the antagonist proved herself immune to requests for silence, I took to exploring the creek banks. I did laundry, hanging my dirty clothes on a leafless bush next to someone's long-forgotten thong.

Will, Dutch, Skittle, Phil, Sherpa, Wolfbird and Tofu show up. Will reads maps and sits with us, he's the one on trail that everyone knows is gorgeous, down-to-earth, well-traveled, and well-spoken, so we don't talk about it. Because it's common knowledge and obvious. I work with Flame, Sonya, and the rest of my trail family to make use of our restless afternoon and set up lodging in Tehachapi.

Finally, the sun shows us mercy and we break camp around 6pm. The switchbacks out of the canyon offer a perfect view of the oak tree, where hikers are rustling about and mentally preparing for another long night hike.

Hiking out of Tylerhorse takes us up dunes (read: hiking uphill in sand, even less fun than it sounds), then all the way down to the desert floor. The trail register shows Cake, Rise, Shine, and Dana are one day ahead. I'm not sure if the trail descends to the desert floor just for this trail register, but I can't find any other reason for going straight down before climbing straight back up, so I'm going to throw out a suggestion that this specific trail register should be moved. Or put on a large pole so I can still find out where Cake and the sisters are without 3,000 feet of completely pointless elevation change.

The climb up the Last Hill Before Tehachapi (there is always a 'last hill' before getting into a town, this is a prank we like to repeatedly play on ourselves) offers high winds and not much of a trail to hike along. It's shallow and unnerving. Once at the top I started cruising, determined to get a good night hike in, until I saw sparkling headlamps. Some of them are sitting in...chairs? Yes! Sonya is sitting in a chair, cooking dinner! Flame is standing next to some baskets! TRAIL MAGIC! Fresh peaches and dollar-store imitation Oreos. It's the Mile 549 Bar and Grill! Campsites galore, so we stayed. Camped with Sam. Set up the tent in hurricane-force wind. All stakes ripped up the instant the tent door was zipped, so we cowboy camped.  

 Throngs of tents littering the creek bed at the end of the 17-mile aqueduct hike

Throngs of tents littering the creek bed at the end of the 17-mile aqueduct hike

 The aqueduct ends inside a windmill farm; the climb out of the farm takes hikers along maintenance access roads and trails right next to hundreds of these giant turbines.

The aqueduct ends inside a windmill farm; the climb out of the farm takes hikers along maintenance access roads and trails right next to hundreds of these giant turbines.

 The lone oak tree in Tylerhorse Canyon. Photo Credit: Mariah Guay

The lone oak tree in Tylerhorse Canyon. Photo Credit: Mariah Guay