The Trail Provides

June 7, 2017
Tehachapi to Mile 570
Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike: Day 33

Leftovers of German chocolate cake for breakfast paired with ordering lots of things online to be sent from Amazon to Kennedy Meadows in a single package. We quickly realized that we didn't send enough food ahead and that we wouldn't have time to send more, so Amazon was the best solution. I ordered bars, powdered coconut milk, oatmeal, nuts, and whatever else I could get shipped to me with Prime-like speed to the inaccessible outpost of Kennedy Meadows South.

In the process of packing up Alex discovered that his trekking poles were nowhere to be found. Eek! Lucky for him he had adorned his indistinguishable Black Diamond poles with hot pink duct tape, and a quick Facebook message to Coppertone found the poles in good company at his roadside outpost. We would easily be able to pick them up on our way back to trail.

We headed back to the UPS store to ship our wonderfully lightweight ULA packs home to my parents before embarking on an impossible mission to find Tyvek to use as a groundsheet for Phil's tent. It would have been helpful to know that Home Depot no longer sells Tyvek by the foot. I didn't know that. There was no way to get a by-the-foot piece of Tyvek shipped to Kennedy Meadows in time. There was one other shot-in-the-dark, the local hardware store. We walked over there with Sam in tow (he also needed a ground sheet) and were given the negatory. No Tyvek by the foot.

But wait!

This is a local shop, staffed and patronized by real people, not a Home Depot.

"Hey, Matt!" the clerk shouts down an aisle at a guy who looks like he knows exactly what he came to the store for and is eager to get back to business elsewhere.

The clerk heads down the aisle and talks to Matt, who turns out to be a general contractor in Tehachapi. Matt has generic-brand Tyvek (like I give a hoot about the brand name at this point. I'm desperate!) that he's using for his projects around town and, yeah, sure, he'll come back in an hour or so to drop off as much as we need. The trail provides! Matt calls Alex when he's heading back to the hardware store and gives us more than enough tarp material to supply Sam, Alex and I with what we need, totally gratis.

All chores finally finished, the trail family rallies to meet at the grassy park for some shady R&R. A few of us walk over to the burger shop and get another ostrich burger and we brainstorm how to get back to trail. As we're lying in the grass with packs all around, a car pulls over and asks if we need a ride back to trail. Yes, we do, but—sheeeeesh I hate to ask—can you do it in an hour when it's not the smack-dab in the middle of the hottest part of the day?

No problem.

An hour later an SUV shows up and picks up all eight or nine of us. She passes out buttons and stickers that read "Live a Good Story" and drops us off at Coppertone's roadside oasis where Alex's poles are resting leisurely against the side of the camper.

We sit for a bit at Coppertone's, and one by one each hiker from our family decides it's time to head out. The trail leads up, up, up, through a wind farm and over hills that stretch higher and higher. This particular stretch only lasts about nine miles, with half of it going up, up, up, and the next half down to the same height you started at. It wouldn't be the PCT if it wasn't a pointless up-and-down. Ya gotta go up to go down, right?!

I stopped at the top, exhausted by my now ultra-heavy pack, with heavy gear and a full food resupply. I am not loving this. There's a bench, and I sit and eat and eat to lighten the load. Then head down, down, down to a railroad track with a train flying by. Another hiker tells me that just before this section of track there is a loop that trains use to gain enough speed to cross the Sierra Nevada. I think, that's exactly what I'm doing, only I certainly feel more like I'm losing momentum right now. My entire hiker family and Alex ahead of me, and I'm exhausted.

We're now at the point on the trail where Cheryl Strayed begins her hike. The trail follows the highway and then up, up, up, and I really feel like this is finally the climb into the gateway to the Sierra. It is impossibly windy and an impossibly long climb, and the sun has set so everything is dark. I'm using my headlamp and getting tunnel vision. So, so tired. The switchbacks lend no coverage from the wind and no flat places to camp, so I keep hiking. Finally, there is a tiny alcove protected on three sides from the wind, which in this gale is next to nothing (but still better than actual nothing). I don't have the tent (it's ahead with Alex, wherever he is), but I don't think it would be possible to set it up in these winds anyway, so I lay down the Tyvek and crawl into my lovely, fluffy, zero-degree sleeping bag. It is everything to me right now. I pull the hood over my head and tighten it so just my mouth and nose are exposed. It is lovely, cozy, and I think I'll manage to fall asleep over the roar of the wind.

Tehachapi was a whirlwind of Sierra preparation, the last major outpost before we give ourselves to the mountains. Things kept going wrong and then magically, somehow, someone would throw us a bone and all would be well. No, I don't feel like I have any idea what I'm getting myself into, but I'm ready as I'll ever be, and that is ready enough to hike on.