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.
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.”
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.”
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!
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.
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.