The Long Haul
The stretch from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows was the longest and hottest part we’ve gone through so far. We are glad we trucked through it, many people hitched around, but we were well rewarded for our hard work and perseverance. Although we know better than to rely on water cash’s, and we didn’t, we were lucky enough to hit them when there was still plenty of water in a stretch that was over 30 miles from one solid source to another.
We planned on taking about 8 days to get from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows. That means 8 days worth of food for three people plus up to 6 liters each in the driest spots of the trail. We realized pretty quickly that this was going to be too much weight for us to carry and Dion’s pack to handle. Lucky for us we met this group of 3 guys, ‘The Canadian’s’ who are slack packing the next few hundred miles and they offered to drop off some food for us at three days in a Kelso Valley Road and Walker Pass two days after that. This seemed like a great option versus carrying all that weight so we went for it and gave them our food.
Three days in and we arrive at Kelso Valley Road- the first drop spot, no food. Buddy and I looked up and down this desolate half dirt road, under all the bushes, inside the huge water cache boxes but found nothing. We were almost out of food, not completely, but we certainly wouldn’t make it another two days to Walker Pass where we could hitch into Lake Isabella to resupply. I looked around at where we were at mile 615.8 on Kelso Valley Road on Guthook’s app on my iPad and saw we couldn’t be further from a main road in this area. Dion set up our tent so we could get out of the sun, we grabbed a gallon jug from the water cache and sat down to think. My first thought was to panic, press the SPOT device and be rescued. Thankfully Dion was the voice of reason in this situation and as he was talking me down off the edge a car pulled up. Not even ten minutes were spent worrying here in a spot that is now known to us as a spot that can take a day or two for people to hitch from. A rancher and his wife pulled up and asked if we needed anything, life savers. It turned out to be their wedding anniversary and they were headed down into town, isn’t it so funny how things just seem to work out when you really need them to most.
We resupplied down in Lake Isabella and while walking around the store we ran into a woman named Stephanie who is a trail angel of sorts up even further in the middle of nowhere about 10 miles back from where we hitched out from. She offered to take us back with her, we stayed at her place and she dropped us back off at the trail right where we left off the next morning. The trail provides.
The next stretch from Lake Isabella to Walker Pass was done completely at night and when we arrived at the Walker Pass campground the next day, our second resupply bag from The Canadians was there tied to a pole waiting for us. This was Saturday, the day before fathers day, and we had been talking to some other hikers who were going to hitch down into town which of corse made our mouths water for non-trail food and an afternoon off. We decided to celebrate Fathers Day that day and easily caught a ride down to the KOA just outside of Lake Isabella where we lounged by and in the pool all afternoon before heading back to the trail around sunset. This was a great afternoon spent celebrating an amazing man who has been an incredible father to Buddy for the last 5 years.
From Walker Pass to Kennedy Meadows was the worst yet for water and heat. We traveled mostly by early morning sun and at night by the beams of our headlamps. A few of the more reliable springs that were listed as ‘flowing 1 liter per minute’ in the water report were completely dry, on one occasion someone gave us an extra liter to ensure we made it safely to the next source. We never came close to dehydration, but we were exhausted from worrying about weather the water would be there or not.
The last day into Kennedy Meadows was so exciting! We know that this marks the end of the desert, we will climb up higher in elevation so it won’t be so hot, it’s what we’ve been walking toward the last 700 miles! In the last two miles before you hit the road into Kennedy Meadows you see more water than you could have possibly imagined there would be. If we didn’t know they make amazing burgers in town, we would have stopped for a swim, but as always we were motivated by grilled beef to just hurry up and get there.
Thanks to all the angels in the desert who stock the water caches. I know that this is a topic of much debate on the trail this year but when the water is there it is just such a treat and a huge relief. We understand why the caches are being frowned upon, we have heard too many times that people only carry enough to get them to the cache and if it’s empty they will ‘figure it out.’ No, you won’t figure it out, you will be extremely thirsty and put yourself or the others who drain their supply to make sure you make it out safely into danger. It’s a hard issue and one that can easily be debated from both sides. From Buddy Backpacker and Crew, thank you to the angels who stocked the caches this year you saved a few people from extremely dangerous situations and we appreciate what you so selflessly do!