Hiking Through a Rainbow

May 6, 2018

The wind woke us at 4:30 a.m., whistling in the pre-dawn dark, shaking our tent like a mischievous puppy begging us to come out and play. Acquiescing to the inevitable, we packed and started walking. Our reward for this ridiculously early start was a gorgeous sunrise.

Wind turbines accent the morning glory of sunrise and clouds.

Once again flowers brought exquisite loveliness to our hike. As the sun took its first steps above the horizon, blooms glowed with unearthly flourescence, absorbing dawn ultraviolet light only to emit it in vibrant color. Forward progress slowed as I strove to capture some of this ephemeral splendor.

A hiker named Phoenix, from Switzerland, overtook me, long legs working to make short work of the miles.

“Good morning,” I greeted him. “Aren’t these flowers glorious? I feel as if I am hiking inside a rainbow.”

Phoenix paused, contemplating this visual imagery. “Yes, beautiful. But here there is the smell also. That makes here more nice than a rainbow.”

Walking through a rainbow of color

At 9:30 a.m., Jay and I reached Tehachapi Willow Springs Rd. Here there was a list of 40 trail angels who reportedly delight in ferrying dirty, smelly thru-hikers to their town.

The list also contained the phone number for the local bus. I called the bus, asking if it ran on a Sunday, and was informed that it would come by Hwy 58 at 1:30 p.m.

“Hwy 58 is not a regular stop for the bus,” the dispatch lady told me. “You’ll have to call and request a special stop if you are going to be there.”

Jay and I looked at each other – could we cover 8.2 miles in three and a half hours? We had already hiked 7.5 miles this morning. “Let’s give it a try!” We agreed.

And so we set out. No lollygagging, no ‘comfortable pace’, no stopping for flower pictures. Now was the time to see what our bodies could accomplish when pushed. Up and down hills, over grasslands, past wind turbines, we barely paused to drink, staying focused on this self-imposed goal. At 1:00 p.m., we triumphantly reached the overpass, a bridge in the middle of nowhere, existing only to let cars enter the highway from Cameron Canyon Rd, a seldom traveled country lane.

I called the bus station again, to be told that there was a problem with the bus, and it would not be arriving until 5:15 p.m. Oh my gosh! All that hurrying, and now we had four hours of waiting in hot sunshine on the side of a highway interchange. Hitch hiking from the bridge didn’t seem too practical, and hitch hiking on the highway itself was quite dangerous, not to mention probably illegal.

Jay noticed a sign attached to a fence, advertising yet another phone number for a trail angel. Without much hope, we called it. Within a few minutes, a text came back, “Your request has gone out to 40 trail angels.” All we could do was wait.

Jay wandered off to answer a call of nature in the privacy of some bushes. I sat on baking gravel beside our packs.

An old car pulled up, and two men with gray hair and long beards called out, “Do you need a ride to town?”

“Sure,” I called back. “Do you have room for me and my husband?”

The two men got out of the car and began rearranging a plethora of stuff in the back seat. “I think we can fit you both in,” one said.

Jay appeared at my side. “I just got a text,” he whispered to me. “It says ‘Dave’ is on his way here, and to not take any other rides. We can’t go with these guys.”

I gave Jay a panicked glance, then turned to the two helpful locals. “Uh, excuse me,” I began apologetically. “My husband just got a text that someone is coming from Tehachapi to pick us up. I guess we better wait for him. But thank you so very much for offering us a ride. It is incredibly kind of you!”

The two men good-naturedly stopped rearranging their belongings and climbed back inside their car. With calls of “happy hiking” and “thank you so much”, we parted. Once again Jay and I were alone on the empty road.

I was digging through my pack for a snack when another car pulled up, and a tall man called out, “Do you need a ride?” This trail angel had been helping hikers at Tehachapi Willow Springs Rd, and decided to swing by the highway before going home. Once again we explained about the text from ‘Dave’. “Are you sure he’ll arrive?” The man climbed out of his car. “I’ll just wait with you, to make sure.”

We chatted for about 10 minutes, until yet another car pulled off the highway. This time ‘Dave’ was inside, and we happily piled our packs in his trunk. I know I have said it often, but once again, I was truly amazed at the willingness of perfect strangers to help us with transportation.

Arriving at the Best Western in Tehachapi, we gratefully took showers, washed clothes, and refueled our bodies. It had been 50 miles since our last shower, and 83 miles since we’d had dirt-free clothes. The luxury of cleanliness was not something we took for granted.

May 7, 2018

Zero day! The last time we spent a whole day in town was 225 miles ago, at Cajon Pass! Our goal today was to pick up forwarded mail at the post office, and resupply at a grocery store. The post office, on the edge of town, required a 1.6 mile hike across railroad tracks and back over Highway 58. Once there, a long line greeted us.

“I’ll wait outside,” Jay decided, generously offering to hold my empty pack while I joined the queue. By the time I had picked up our mail, three different people had offered us rides back across town!

Candice was ready to leave at the same time as us, so we piled into her car.

“This is so nice of you,” I told her. “I’m grateful to skip walking across the highway and railroad tracks again!”

“Yes, thank you very much,” Jay agreed. “It’s amazing how many people want to help hikers in this town.”

“My husband and I are having a contest to see who can give the most hikers a ride this season,” Candice laughed. “I’ll need to take your picture when I drop you at the grocery store, to prove the numbers I am claiming.”

Candice, Sarah, and Jay in the town of Tehachapi.

May 8, 2018

During breakfast at the hotel this morning, some other hikers shared the phone number of a trail angel willing to give rides from Tehachapi back to the trailhead. We called Daniel, and he graciously agreed to pick us up at 10:00 a.m., after he had dropped off another carload of hikers.

During the drive, we discovered that Daniel was Robert’s brother, and the owner of the extremely comfortable campsite where we had gorged on spaghetti two nights ago! What a wondrous world we live in!

Daniel, trail angel and awesome person!

I hated to say goodbye to such a nice person, but the call of the trail pulled us onward.

From Hwy 58, the trail headed uphill in a series of long switchbacks. Junipers and Joshua trees provided sporadic shade.

Someone turned this group of Joshua trees into a lovely rest area.

Near the top of the climb, jutting rocks accented the scenery.

Flowers continued to enchant.

After climbing over 2,000 feet in the course of 12.7 miles, I was glad to see evening shadows bringing the peace of a campsite. We camped under a live oak tree on the edge of a meadow, with a ridge of wind turbines just beyond. Once again an owl sounded a lullaby as I fell asleep.

In Which I Meet Two Followers

May 5, 2018

A living stick greeted me from atop my pack this morning.

There are over 3,000 species of stick insects, ranging in length from one half inch to 12 inches. I didn’t even know walking sticks could be white! This one was about 4 inches long.

We partook of breakfast in the shade of a juniper tree while a meadowlark serenaded the morning.

Juniper tree – easy to identify with the characteristic blue berries, which many birds eat.

Numerous Joshua trees dotted the landscape. This one sported fruit, the first I had seen, and stimulated my curiosity about this unusual plant. Wikipedia informed me that the leaves, fruit and flowers were used by the Cahuilla Native Americans, and early ranchers used the trunks and branches for fence posts and fuel. Also, it is theorized that the now extinct giant Shasta ground sloth was a key to the spread of the Joshua tree, as the leaves and fruits have been found in ground sloth dung. (Side note: The giant Shasta ground sloth went extinct 13,000 years ago. Dung has survived that long??? Hikers, remember this next time you are burying your waste. The desert preserves!)

We worked for our miles today, climbing 2,000 feet of elevation, then dropping down to a stream in Tylerhorse Canyon, then climbing another 2,000 feet to end on a mountain top. Fatigued muscles protested, but wildflowers carpeted the desert, birds sang much of the day, and grace and beauty abounded.


We reached Tylerhorse Canyon at lunch time, sharing the shade of a juniper tree with a bold scrub jay.

Scrub jays are known to have a very precise memory for food caches of seeds and berries.  I’m sure this one was disappointed when we didn’t share our lunch!

At the base of the canyon, we met two sets of volunteers from ACE (American Conservation Experience) which partners with the PCTA (Pacific Crest Trail Association). These young people will be repairing trails for six months as volunteers! All I can say is a very humble, “Thank you!”

Louisa and Brady kindly pose for my camera.
Arthur, Zack, and Kinsey pause to graciously answer my questions.

The climb out of Tylerhorse Canyon, in the heat of the afternoon, began to take its toll. I found myself counting the switchbacks, and feeling extremely grateful that the trail did have switchbacks, instead of going straight up!

Along with counting each time the trail turned upon itself, I had to keep stopping for moments of beauty. Flowers continued to delight!


We reached our final mountain top just at dinner time. My weary legs rejoiced when I came upon a charming campsite/hiker home with folding chairs, plank counters, garbage can, and a water cache. A welcome sign from Daniel, Robert, and Patti instructed hikers to “Have a drink!”


Jay and I sat down, marveling at all this luxury, including a beautiful view!  I had just put a tin of sardines upon the chair beside me, when a truck pulled up.

Bounding out of the vehicle, a bearded man startled us with the question, “You must be Sarah and Jay. You’re not planning to eat those sardines for dinner, are you?”

How did he know our names? What was going on?

It turned out that Robert and Patti lived on this mountain, and made a habit of sharing their dinner with lucky PCT hikers at Daniel’s campsite. They also followed a few PCT blogs each year, and had chosen mine as one to follow! As they unloaded still steaming spaghetti and utensils from their truck, they told us they had been expecting us today, based upon our progress so far. I was overwhelmed with amazement and gratitude to this generous couple! After a long though beautiful day, this impromptu feast and fascinating conversation made the tough miles seem a distant memory!

“This is my mother’s recipe,” Robert explained as he spooned heavenly smelling sauce from a giant pot. “I’m from a large family, and my mother always made a huge batch. My siblings and I have tried cutting the recipe in half, but it only tastes right when it’s made with her proportions.”

As we ate (and swooned over the delectable spaghetti), Robert and Patti gave us a short historical perspective about the land through which we’d been hiking.

“We’ve been hiking past a great many windmills,” Jay observed.

“Oh yes, those ‘wind turbines,’ as my granddaughter scrupulously calls them, have been big business. Some years ago, quite a few of my neighbors leased options on their land to the wind turbine companies. Nothing ever got built up here. If the companies had asked, we could have told them that the winds are too variable on this mountain top. They never asked, though.” Robert laughed.

Patti and Robert told us about the fires, one in 2007, another in 2012. “You should have seen the dense pinyon pines up here,” Robert reminiscenced. “We harvested pinyon nuts every year. Some of those trees were 300 years old. The fire destroyed everything, including our house. We rebuilt, with the help of our family.”

I mentioned the ACE volunteers I had seen at the bottom of Tylerhorse Canyon.

“Oh, good, I’m glad to hear that section is being repaired! I’ve told the PCTA about it more than once,” Robert smiled.

“What happened? It’s pretty sketchy down there.” I leaned forward in anticipation of another story.

“Last August there was a flash flood. We got seven inches of rain in one hour here at home! You can imagine the amount of run off the canyon collected! There was a LOT of water sluicing through that constricted channel. Hikers told us they couldn’t even find the trail down there. It’s good to have it restored.”

We sat and ate and talked and ate some more. Time flew as evening shadows lengthened. I didn’t want this magical visit to end!

“Will you be camping here tonight?” Robert finally asked.

“It looks like we still have an hour of daylight. We should probably walk a bit further, just to give our stomachs time to digest.” Jay patted his midriff gingerly. “I was hoping there might be a small campsite down the mountain a ways.”

Robert glanced doubtfully at Patti. “It gets pretty steep once you drop off the top.” He thought a moment, then his face brightened. “Actually, about halfway down, there is a bit of meadow where the ridge extends out a ways. There might be a piece of flat ground for you.”

“Perfect!” Jay exclaimed.

Regretfully, we gave Patti and Robert hugs, took a quick picture, and watched them drive away before shouldering our packs. What an incredible encounter!

Patti and Robert – trail angels!

As we hiked through the last of the evening, spotted towhees called from trees and bushes. For the first time, I connected the sound of the squeaky-door-hinge-call to the towhee. Birds have so many sounds! It’s hard to keep them straight. I also saw three rabbits slipping into the brush as we passed. This mountain held an abundance of life!