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Wounds won’t heal the way you

want them to, they heal the

way they need to.

Dele Olanubi

  • Writer's pictureConnard Hogan

Trudging Along

Bottom line: Sometimes, all you can do is pick ‘em up, then put ‘em down!

10.16.23, Day 0, “Night of the Rumbling Beasts” -

Mark (Wrongway Mark, that is) and I headed for Tehachapi in preparation for our planned PCT hike between Tehachapi Pass/PCT trial junction and Kennedy Meadows, the driest section of the PCT ... as we were forewarned. Turned out that Bob (aka Dr. Bobo) had arrived at the designated motel rendezvous point ahead of us. From there the three of us headed off for a warm meal and chilled beer before our respective night's rests.

On the cheap, Dr. Bobo and I decided to cowboy camp, so we drove to Cameron Road in Sand Canyon, located in Tehachapi Pass, and chose a level spot alongside the railroad crossing. Bad move! We’d no sooner settled into our sleeping bags when a train approached the crossing, sounding it’s three warning blasts.

Run! Prim8 yelled, amidst the rumbling.

Geez Louise, that’s loud! Sounds like that thing is going to run us over, dude.

Thereafter, repeated every half-hour throughout the night, the lumbering beasts alternated their direction of travel, blasting their way as they went. Aside from attempting to adjust to the audible intrusion all night long, I couldn’t dismiss the idea that a train would run me over, though I knew better.

No! Prim8 complained, or at least it seemed that way, at every train’s approach.

Things can only get better, fella! We won’t be sleeping here again.

Perhaps, I dozed through an intrusion or two ... or just had started to ignore them. I don’t know … didn’t care. I just wanted some sleep.

Since Dr. Bobo would act as rendezvous support, aka trail angel, Wrongway and I could indulge in our hiking regimen, alleviating some overnights on the PCT, reducing the loads of water and food we’d carry, and divvied our hike into segments, alternating directions according to elevation loss and gain, into what seemed a veritable jigsaw puzzle of pieces.

And in my quest to resolve my previous, and recurrent, foot-blister problem, I planned to lubricate my feet—I’d purchased and brought several types to use—wear only one pair of well-fitted socks, and lace my boots tightly at the ankles. Fingers crossed!

Segment One - Landers Camp Road junction (608.9) southbound to Tehachapi Pass junction (566.4), two overnights:

10.17.23, Day 1, “Black Flies” -

Dr. Bobo dropped Wrongway and I at Landers Camp, from where we started our southbound trek. In the meantime, Dr. Bobo would explore potential rendezvous points via accessible roads using Wrongway's RAV4 and meet us at the Tehachapi Pass junction two days hence.

Cool breezes and partial shade provided by tall pines helped prevent profuse sweating as we hiked under clear skies. Innumerable black flies swarmed about our faces as we hiked, only temporarily dissuaded with a wave of a hand. Collectively, they were determined to seek every exposed orifice.

Ahh, Prim8 complained, when I swallowed an wayward fly.

Annoying, ain’t they, Prim8? I took another swipe with one hand to shoo a few away from my face. Why didn’t I think to bring my head net covering?

Both Landers Creek and Cottonwood Creek were flowing with clear water, but Wrongway and I carried a sufficient supply.

By 5:30PM, we arrived at Hamp Williams Pass (596.5), where we set up Wrongway’s tent, snacked, then Wrongway hung our food from a tree. At some point, middle of the night, I realized that my inflatable sleeping pad had gone flat. However, I detected no signs of on-coming foot-blisters. Yay!

No! Prim8 complained, as my body pressed against the ground, which felt like concrete.

Crap! We’ll just have to suffer. I’m too tired to get up to reinflate the pad. Or perhaps, it was laziness? Either way, I wasn’t getting up … be damned.

10.18.23, Day 2, “A Taste of Mud” -

My feet greased, socks snugly adjusted and boots laced tightly, we broke camp at 7:30AM.

Again, black flies swarmed about and pestered us as we moved along the trail until we crossed a ridge, where we enjoyed intermittent breezes, which kept the flies away. Following Wrongway, per usual, I saw him approaching me. He said something about checking the trail. And that perhaps, we’d missed a turn.

No! Prim8 protested, as I watched Wrongway retracing our path.

Oh, wonderful! Suck it up, guy. We don’t have a choice.

Moments later, Wrongway motioned and we retraced our course for about 1/4 mile, until he realized we’d been on a newer section of trail which hadn’t been updated on his map app, further confused by the fact that the National Geographic published PCT maps which also didn’t reflect the newer section.

No, Prim8 protested.

Won’t do us any good to complain, Prim8.

So, once again, we headed southbound toward Golden Oaks Spring (583.3), where we arrived at 5PM. I filled my handy, sidekick, pint water bottle from the trickle of water pouring from the small plastic pipe, took a sip, figuring that would be safe.

Blaah, Prim8 said, face contorted.

Tastes like mud, don’t it? Maybe, we shouldn’t be drinking this without treating it first.

Perhaps, nearby resident cows were having their way at my potential expense! Wrongway, on the other hand, filled a 1.5 liter bottle and then filtered that into another bottle, miraculously turned the muddy, weird tasting fluid into quite decent spring water ... or so he said.

Camp set, food and water consumed, Wrongway hung our food in a tree, though we had our doubts that a bear would sniff us out on any nightly rounds, but who knew?

No, no! Prim8 bitched during the night, my sleeping pad gone flat again.

What’s wrong with that thing? Though I conducted a cursory examine, I spotted no rips or tears, nor heard a leak. At least, we didn’t get foot-blisters today, fella.

10.19.23, Day 3, “The Oven” -

Up and away at 6:50AM—anti-foot-blister regimen completed—before sunrise, and under clear sky, we trudged along as the trail ascended. Without the cover of trees at that point, and exposed to full sun, perspiration ran freely.

Hot, Prim8 complained.

I paused to wipe my forehead and catch a breath. Yep. You’ll get no guff from me about that, fella. I would’ve guessed the temperature to be 85-90 degrees, but regardless, I only cared about our rendezvous with Dr. Bobo at the Tehachapi Pass junction (566.4).

Approaching PCT junction with Tehachpi Pass/Highway 58 & Cameron Road exit.

Seemed an interminable distance, but Wrongway and I reached the rendezvous point at 4PM. I consumed about 2/3 of a beer, chilled in the cooler, before we headed to the Red House BBQ Restaurant in Tehachapi for dinner.

Wrongway wanted to spend the night in a motel in Mojave.

Yes, Prim8 demanded at Wrongway’s first mention.

Sounds good to me, fella. I’m tuckered.

After we’d checked into said MO . . L, according to the large neon sign in front, I showered, then dunked my sleeping pad into a partially-filled tub of water, attempting to locate the problem. But, no ... I couldn’t find a leak. There had to be one somewhere!

I’d hoped for a good night’s sleep, but a plague of hiccups dictated otherwise. And those hiccups continued throughout the night, my usual remedy failing! To boot, my upper legs ached. But, glory be, I detected no foot-blisters, and considered that perhaps, I’d discovered a solution to that nagging, painful issue. So, I decided I’d continue my AM foot routine each day before I sashayed down the trail.

No! No! Prim8 protested about one thing, then another.

Are we having fun, yet, Prim8?

Segment Two - Landers Camp Road trail junction (608.9) northbound to Dove Spring Canyon Road trail junction (621.9), no overnights:

10.20.23, Day 4, “Hiccups Galore” -

Wrongway and I parted with Dr. Bobo at Landers Camp Road junction at 10AM. Cool breezes helped prevent black flies from continuously molesting us, and our hike, descending downhill over the thirteen-mile course, went smoothly ... and quickly, it seemed.

We arrived at an intermediate rendezvous point with Dr. Bobo at the trail intersection with Kelso Valley Road where we encountered a large cache of 5-gallon water bottles.

Water cache for PCT Hikers at Kelso Valley Road trail junction.

After consuming sandwiches, courtesy of Dr. Bobo, we continued northbound, destined for Dove Spring Canyon Road intersection (621.9).

Utilizing our three-way make-shift communication network of two Garmin InReach Mini devices and cell phones, Cabo sent a message to Dr. Bobo, requesting a replenishment of a few items, including beer. I added Prilosec to our list, thinking that would at least settle my indigestion … and hopefully quash my hiccups.

Dr. Bobo had already established himself at our planned rendezvous point campsite, cooler restocked, when Wrongway and I arrived at 5PM. A large cache of 5-gallon water bottles, perhaps forty or so, stood ready to parch the thirst of dehydrated hikers, but Wrongway and I had our own rolling buffet, including drink, at the ready, thanks to Dr. Bobo. I coulda had tequila, but didn't want to dehydrate myself needlessly. However, beer seemed permissible. Wasn’t it?

Dr. Bobo's pop-up bar at Dove Spring Canyon Road & PCT junction.

Dr. Bobo gave us the rundown of his resupply mission earlier in the day. Then, he informed me, “I couldn’t get Prilosec, but did get some Pepcid AC.”

“That’ll do,” I said. I’ll give a try, anyway. I downed a Pepcid tab. Fingers crossed, help is on the way, Prim8.

Though that tab seemed to help regarding my stomach problems for the time being, I considered it too early to make a final determination. I’d noticed my appetite had decreased over the past few days, which I chalked up to my sudden, intense physical exertion, though I’d shifted my diet from cooked meals to that of jerky, dried fruit, nuts, and meat and mozzarella sticks. But who knew why, exactly? Prim8 nor I had sway over what my stomach did … or did not do with what I put into it. As long as it did its job without causing me grief, I’d be satisfied with it.

Wrongway and I set up his tent, ate and discussed logistics of our next segment with Dr. Bobo.

Somewhere in the mix, a southbound hiker paused to chat with Wrongway. I didn’t catch their entire conversation, but afterward Wrongway told me, “He gave me the trail name, ‘Cabo,’” explaining that moniker had been inspired by Cabo de Homos emblazoned on Wrongway’s cap … and not from Cabo San Lucas. “I hate Cabo San Lukas,” Wrongway … er Cabo said. (Henceforth, Wrongway’s trail moniker will be Cabo.)

As had been the previous nights, the evening air grew chilly after sunset. And my hiccups had continued intermittently throughout the day and the night, with occasional brief periods of cessation.

Had that Pepcid tab helped? Apparently, the jury was still out!Boiled down, it was just another problem I’d need to contend with somehow.

Segment Three - Dove Spring Canyon Road junction (621.9) northbound to Walker Pass/Hwy 178 (652.0), one overnight:

10/21/23, Day 5, “One Hot Hump” -

Cabo (formerly known as Wrongway) and I left camp at 8AM. We had little to no shade as we hiked up and over two high points, then past Yellow Jacket Spring trail junction (637.0) before settling on a relatively flat cowboy campsite among the trees and some thirty yards off the trail. We’d wanted to shorten the following day’s leg to Walker Pass. Along the way we replenished our water reserves at Bird Spring Pass, where another large water cache of 5-gallon bottles waited.

Cabo and I looked to the patch of clear sky between the tree cover, chatted about and watched satellites passing overhead, for about a half-hour until I turned onto my side in hopes of sleep.

Aww, Prim8 said, hiccups restarted and lower legs aching as we settled in for the night.

Oh, great! Stiff upper lip and all that, Prim8. We’ll get through this.

Stop, Prim8 demanded, as my hiccups continued.

Dang it! I’m afraid we have no control over that, guy.

10.22.23, Day 6, “Take Me Home … Down Rutted Roads” -

Everything slightly damp, Cabo and I broke camp at 7AM. Fog, aka low clouds, hugged the ridges to our east, pushed by the wind. We encountered no flies. The trail, not ideal for hiking, followed a rutted, rocky dirt road we approached McIvers Cabin.

The trail follows a rutted road near McIvers Cabin.

Cooled by breezes, the sky had cleared when we reached the abandoned cabin (2/10 mile off the trail from 643.8).

The well-used, weather-worn, one-room McIvers Cabin.

We paused for food and water.

Cabo collects water from McIvers Spring.

When we continued on, Prim8 began incessantly griping about achy legs.

Prim8 pauses for a breath on the trail.

Dr. Bobo awaited us at the Walker Pass/Hwy 178 turnout. From there, the three of us headed to Inyokern to gas up M’s RAV4, then to the Indian Wells micro-brewery.

Fair warning for parents at the Indian Wells Brewery, Inyokern, CA!

Yum! Prim8 swooned over my bacon-burger and micro-brewed beer.

Tastes like heaven, doesn’t it, fella?!

Returning to purgatory, at least for me, anyway, the three of us drove to an 8,080-foot campsite along a dirt road connector between Chimney Basin Road and Long Valley Road. After we’d set up our tents, and strategically positioned the RAV4 as a windbreak, of sorts, we grabbed food from Dr. Bobo’s cooler. Gusting wind and lower temperatures made milling about downright unpleasant.

Cold, Prim8 complained. Get warm in the car.

I agree. “Let’s sit in the car,” I said to Cabo and Dr. Bobo.

We occupied the empty seats in M’s RAV4, while our collective gear and food claimed the remainder of interior space. We imbibed in shares of medicinal alcohol, and chatted about plans and whatnot before retiring to our sleeping bags.

Segment Four - Chimney Basin Road trail junction (689.1) northbound to Kennedy Meadows (702.2), no overnight:

10.23.23, Day 7, “Moving Right Along” -

Cabo and I started our hike in cool air, with light to no breeze at 8AM. Headed generally downhill on this segment, we hiked quickly under clear sky and along a tributary of the So. Fork Kern River, and finished at 2:17PM.

Segment Five - Chimney Basin Road trail junction (689.1) southbound to Chimney Basin Road trail junction (687.4), no overnight:

10.23.23, Day 7, “Downhill Glide” -

After we’d driven back to our 8,080-foot campsite, Cabo and I hiked the short downhill section (between mile markers 689.1 and 687.4), where the trail crossed the road and which would shorten our following day’s hike. We hoofed that distance in short order, about 45 minutes.

Segment Six - Chimney Basin Road trail junction (687.4) southbound to Canebrake Road trail junction (680.9 and near Chimney Creek Campground), no overnight:

10.24.23, Day 8, “Getting Tried” -

Cabo and I started our day’s downhill leg in pleasant conditions with some breeze ... and sans flies. At that point, we both felt we needed a “lay day.”

We met Dr. Bobo at the road junction near Chimney Creek Campground at 10:50AM, then drove to the campground where we sorted and moved our gear to M’s RAV4. Dr. Bobo remained at the Chimney Creek Campground, while Cabo and I hightailed it to Ridgecrest and settled on rooms at the Motel Six.

10.25.23, Day 9, “R & R” -

Cabo and I, after a good night’s rest, went to breakfast at Kristy’s.

The previous evening’s weather forecast indicated that an Alaskan storm was moving in, and would dump up to five inches of snow in the Sierras. Surely, temperatures would drop. Cabo and I discussed weather developments, and with the probability of precipitation quite low south of Kennedy Meadow, we decided to continue our trekking, though only after acquiring thermal gear at the local Big 5.

Then, we toured the China Lake Museum Foundation, where we learned about weapons testing and development at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. Had to include some change of pace!

After we’d resorted our gear in M’s car, we rendezvoused with Dr. Bobo at Chimney Creek Campground. Once again, Cabo and I shifted our necessary sleeping and hiking food and gear for the next three days into Dr. Bobo’s car. We left M’s RAV4 at Chimney Creek Campground and headed to Walker Pass Campground for the night.

As sunset approached, clouds increased in the So. Fork Valley, and westward of us, as well as above the ridge line to our east.

Panoramic photo of the sunset from Walker Pass Campground.

After we’d set up our tents, we sat in Dr. Bobo’s car, chatted, discussed hike plans and imbibed doses of medicinal alcohol. Though later by previous evenings’ accounts, we’d hit our sleeping bags by 9:30PM.

A cold wind gusted throughout the night, I guesstimated to speeds between 45-50 mph. A case of indigestion plagued me, as well.

No, no, Prim8 whined.

Too late, now, bud. Perhaps, I should've had that Vodka Mary before we came to bed! After I’d pondered my ailment awhile, I took an antacid Pepcid.

Though still facing the indecision about getting up to pee—eventually, that decision would be beyond my rational mind to control, I knew—but feeling sleepy, though unable to fall asleep, and wondering the time, I made a command decision.

I’ll get up and ready for the day’s hike, Prim8, if it’s after 5:30AM. I checked my cell phone. 1:30AM? Oh, crap!

I got up, anyway, needing to pee, regardless, then updated my trail notes, and awaited Mr. Sandman’s return, hopefully sooner rather than later. A nearly-full moon illuminated the valley landscape to our west, while the breeze continued to shove clouds over the ridges to the east.

An hour later, perhaps, I slid into my sleeping bag again, indigestion eased and trail notes updated, to get some additional rest.

Segment Seven - Walker Pass (652.0) northbound to Canebrake Road trail junction (680.9) near Chimney Creek Campground), one overnight (maybe two ... or three?):

10.26.23, Day 10, “The Big Hump” -

We arose around 7AM, ate and broke camp.

When I checked with Cabo and Dr. Bobo, they suggested that overnight wind speeds had been between 10-35 mph.

Nah, no way. Where had they been? Okay, so maybe winds gusts hadn’t reached 50mph, but were surely higher than 25 mph, regardless, nothing you’d want to face bare-butt.

Dr. Bobo dropped Cabo and I at Walker Pass, where we bid him goodbye and a safe drive home. Then, we turned our attention on ascending the first elevation gain of 3K feet, something I’d been dreading for several days, then a second of 1K feet, both standing between us and M’s RAV4 at Chimney Creek Campground.

Wind gusts up to 30mph, I guessed, kept us cool, reduced our sweating, and consumption of water. All the better, since that meant hauling less water in our packs. Bottom line? Less weight! The eastern sky remained cloud covered, while we proceeded at a steady pace of about two mph.

Author poses on the PCT with China Lake (and a portion

of the Mojave Desert) in the distant background.

Cabo pauses to overlook a portion of terrain in the So. Fork Kern River region.

Reassured of good water at Spanish Needle Creek by a southbound hiker, we declined the detour to Joshua Tree Spring trail (a quarter-mile hike off the PCT to the spring itself), and continued along the trail to a suitable flat campsite. We settled on a level spot at a saddle some half-mile farther along the PCT (approx mile marker 664.3).

Though cool and tolerable in the shade at our arrival, the temperature dropped as sunset neared, necessitating a retreat to our sleeping bags while dressed in full gear, sans boots, of course.

Warm. Good, Prim8 swooned, legs snug in the sleeping bag.

Yeah, you can thank me for the foresight to purchase long-john pants in Ridgecrest.

During my frequent, though uncounted, stirrings throughout the night, my sleeping pad gone flat … again, and I noticed the nearly full moon illuminated the landscape and the air had turned frigid.

10/27/23, Day 11, "A Final Kick" -

At 7AM, when we arose, Cabo’s tent screens were saturated with water, and a thin layer of frost covered the surroundings, including our packs.

Frost covers Cabo's pack.

Both Cabo and I knew we’d endured freezing temperature during the night. We departed the campsite at 7:50AM, as we discussed extending our day’s hiking distance, hoping to avoid another frigid night camped on the trail.

Yeah, Prim8 urged.

We’ll just have to “play things by ear,” fella, and see how far we can comfortably go.

A little low on water, we were relieved to see that, in fact, there was a good flow of water in Spanish Needle Creek which we crossed three times. At one crossing we added a liter or so of water to our loads.

As it ‘twas, we plodded along. A southbound hiker mentioned the previous night’s temperature had dropped to 27 degrees. Whether the temperature at our campsite had dipped that low didn't matter to me.

Cold, Prim8 observed.

Yeah, guy, freezing is freezing. We’d experienced thirty-two degrees, at least, and that was all I’d needed to know!

Our hope increased with each step taken, and the 17-mile trek completed by 3:45PM, we made the PCT junction with Canebrake Road (680.9) near M’s car at Chimney Creek Campground, without undue problem.

Yay! Prim8 celebrated.

Agreed. We’ve avoided another cold night on the PCT.

Everything loaded into M’s RAV4, we headed home. I arrived home at 10:15PM, thoroughly pooped and in need of a shower and soft mattress. (PS: I still hadn’t resolved my leaky sleeping pad issue. But you can bet I’ll do so before our next PCT hike! On the other hand, I hadn’t developed a foot blister on this trip, so I’d successfully avoided that trail misery.)


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