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.

Only 28 Miles…

April 21, 2018

I staggered away from Cajon Pass with nine pounds of liquid in my backpack – four liters of water and a pint of sweet tea! According to the map, the next reliable water was 28 miles away, at Grassy Hollow Visitors Center, just past the turn off for the town of Wrightwood, CA.

Usually, a liter of water will last me five to six miles. But today, the sun beat upon our heads as the trail followed ridge after ridge without a smidgen of shade. I drank two liters in the first five miles.

Fortunately, at Swarthout Canyon, trail angels kept a water cache filled with gallon jugs of water. Jay and I gratefully filled our empty liters, then sat in the shade of a California sycamore tree for an hour as the heat of the day passed. We talked with another PCT hiker named Papa Bear. The three of us were amazed to learn that our homes in Nevada are only ten miles apart!

One thousand feet higher and several miles later we set up camp on the shoulder of a mountain. The sun glowed orange fire, spreading its glory across the evening sky. I knew I was blessed to be out here at such a time.

April 22, 2018

Golden beams of light woke us as the sun lingered on the horizon, scattering colors across the landscape.

A spotted towhee sat on a branch, his feathers glowing in the sunlight. His head tilted towards the sky, and he let out a call, “tweeeeeeee!”

Later, as we were hiking, a northern flicker took wing from the top of a giant pine, gliding across a cleft between two mountain sides. The red shafts of its wing feathers glowed orange in the morning light.

At lunch, I shared my pint of sweet tea with Jay. Such a treat on a hot day! Our packs were getting lighter as we drank the pounds of water we’d been carrying.

We hiked for much of the day through an old burn. Burned pineapples dotted the landscape. Wait, what??? No, these were the bodies of yucca plants, with leaves singed off, only a tuft poking from each top.

Burned pineapples? No, just singed yucca!

In one cleft, many large trees had been burned from trunk to tree top. New growth was sprouting along the branches, giving each limb a slight fuzzy green covering.

Burned trees showing new growth along branches.

Jay and I were curious, what kind of tree were these? We examined the new pine needles, but were no wiser.

“If only we could see a cone, that would tell us!” I exclaimed in frustration. With charred ground underfoot, a pine cone seemed unlikely.

We kept hiking, and came around another corner, finding more of the same trees, slightly less burned. Eagerly I scanned the ground, and felt as if I had won the lottery when I spied an unburned cone! Jay and I looked at it, seeing the distinctive feature of exserted trident-shaped bracts, or “mouse tails”, disappearing into each cone scale. “Douglas fir!” Jay exclaimed. He looked it up, and found that this area grows a variety called bigcone Douglas-fir. We were amazed and delighted to have the mystery solved.

April 23, 2018

Today was a town day. We reached Hwy 2 at 7:30 a.m. The first car to pass stopped to give us a ride! Kyle, an enthusiastic hiker, kindly dropped us at the grocery store in downtown Wrightwood, CA. After repeatedly thanking him, we eagerly went inside to buy breakfast.

The town of Wrightwood was one of the best organized hiker towns I’d ever seen. The grocery store had umbrella-shaded tables at which hikers could eat and organize their resupplies. Next to the tables were charging stations for phones and other electronics. Just down the street, the hardware store was a cross between an outdoor equipment store and a place to buy tools, paint, etc. Behind the store was a back deck where hikers could sit and chat. The checkout counter had a list of a dozen locals who would host hikers for a night. We talked to a few hikers and some locals. We considered trying to stay the night with a host family, but finally decided to keep hiking.

Next to the hardware store was the post office. Jay and I picked up new shoes we had ordered on line, then headed back to the grocery store.

We bought food for the next section of our hike, then bought lunch from the deli inside the store. Many people stopped to talk, and it was quite a while before we were ready to leave.

Just as we were saying goodbye and heading towards the street, two men who had been quietly eating lunch called out, “Heading back to the trail? If you have 15 minutes to spare, we can take you when we finish eating.”

Jay and I didn’t need a second invitation! We happily sat down again, and got to know our new trail angels. Brad and Steve were very friendly, and kept us laughing with jokes about hiking. When Jay told them that we were such slow hikers, we had been passed by a worm while hiking the Appalachian Trail, Brad responded thoughtfully, “It’s all in your perspective. You know what the snail said when he boarded the turtle’s back?”

“I don’t have a clue!” I confessed.

“Wheeeee!” Brad grinned. And, still laughing, we climbed into their car for a ride back to the PCT.


Thank you so very much, Brad and Steve!