Opening the tent door in the morning was strange – it was very cloudy and cold outside, you don’t expect that from the desert. After a quick breakfast Dave dropped us off at the trailhead around 7:30, we hugged and said goodbye and then set off.
We were now officially entering the Sierra Nevada mountain range! The sky was a bit clearer here in the hills but the wind was MUCH stronger and very chilly. We had ahead of us 17 miles of hills until the next water source, so we each carried 3L of water and our bags were incredibly heavy as we had once again bought too much food!
The day started with a 2,5 kilometer of flat section and then 7 kilometers of uphill, 800m ascent. The winds got insane as soon as we started to get higher up: we walked like we were drunk, trying to stay upright and not fall over the hillside. There was this one exposed section, sort of like a mountain pass, where we bent down and ran in order to be more stable and get fast to the relative cover of the next hill.
After we were nearly up the trail followed the ridgeline for quite some time, but for some reason the wind there was not as bad as it had been during the ascent. After 9 kilometers we found a more or less wind-shaded & sunny flat spot by the trail and decided to have a lunch – we needed to lighten our packs!
After the rest we had 16,6 kilometers to go. The trail joined a dirt road for some time and we ascended 500 more meters. We hiked through another wind park and noticed the area having turned green around us, many big trees shaded us from the wind and made this section actually very enjoyable to walk. We also observed how the big clouds that rolled from Tehachapi over to the Mojave desert simply vanished within minutes – what a crazy thing!
We reached the Golden Oaks Spring pretty early – around 15 – so we just set up camp and chilled in the tent and worked on our blog for some hours until we finally got hungry. Luckily the area was surrounded by trees and quite ok regarding the wind but the nearby windmills were pretty noisy. The wind didn’t die down, either, and kept blasting throughout the night.
After dinner we decided that we wouldn’t put an alarm for the next day as we wanted to be lazy and were in no hurry to start early, so that’s what we did.
The plan for the day was to hike to the Robin Bird Spring, which was 19 miles (30km) away. The ascent was going to be a bit less than the previous day but still over a 1000 meters. We woke up around seven, lazily had breakfast and packed up. It was still windy and pretty chilly so our fingers were very cold as we packed up our things and filtered water.
We walked through a wind farm, the wind kept blasting and soon enough, as we ascended into this beautiful pine forest, we were walking in a cloud. We didn’t have any views of the surrounding hills and the forest was mysterious in the fog – as if a movie scene or a fairytale. We had a very short lunchbreak on a rock at a more or less wind protected spot but got cold pretty fast so we had to keep moving.
After the lunch – as if the cold wasn’t enough – the moisture of the cloud started to condensate and we were walking in a mist-drizzle. We put on the raincovers of our packs and kept going, getting a bit disoriented at times because we were going up & down and around the hills but didn’t have the view to see where we were.
We met another hiker resting his feet about 3,6 miles before the Spring – he said that he, too, is headed there. So we said we’d see him later and then kept pushing, soon joining a dirt road that was to be the last uphill of the day. Here we passed the 600 mile marker!
After a long and cold day we finally reached the spring at around 18 and quickly set up our tent so we could get warm again. After cleaning and changing clothes we just spent 20 minutes in our sleeping bags to fully warm up. Only then were we ready to go and freeze our fingers in order to filter some water for cooking the dinner. Soon enough the hiker we’d met before also arrived but as it was so cold there was no chilling out to be had – he also just set up camp and went to his tent.
The usual evening was in order: eating dinner & then watching some pre-downloaded documentary on my iPhone. I know that sounds a bit Kardashian but that’s how we roll (other people listen to music or an audiobook while hiking). We decided again not to put an alarm and have a full night’s sleep.
We again woke up at 7 and the first thing we did was to check the sky: there was a little bit of blue but mainly still clouds. The good news was, however, that the wind had stopped! So we had our breakfast and hoped for a nice weather day once again.
I went to filter some more water after I had finished packing my bag and saw that another hiker had arrived last night – it was Calculus, the same guy we had had dinner with in Tehachapi. Calculus is a pretty cool guy – he used to work for a state representative before starting the trail and because he is starting his Masters degree this autumn he HAS TO hike at least 22 miles every day. And he also plans to run for the office some day so who knows – maybe we know someone who’ll be a big deal one day. Anyway – Calculus says that the trail solves all problems and that if we got all the leaders of the big countries to hike a week on the PCT then they’d solve all the issues.
As he was still packing his things when we left we just said we’d catch up later. We started to hike but pretty soon got out of the cloud and had the first views we’d seen in two days! Even some sun started to warm us up so pretty soon we had to stop and take our warmer clothes off. I was so happy that we’d have a nice hiking day!
The trail continued in this beautiful pine forest (kind of always reminds me of home) but soon after filling in our water at Lander’s Creek the area became barren – there were burned trees everywhere and thus also the cold wind sometimes bothered us a bit. At least it wasn’t as bad as the previous days.
This barren landscape continued for a while and the big boulders scattered around again made it look like a movie set. Once we had reached the peak of the morning’s ascent we stopped for a long lunchbreak. We put out all of our sleeping gear and the tent, too, as the condensation from the previous night had made them moist. We enjoyed the warmth for about one and a half hour before hiking onwards. Calculus also passed us here but because his brother was doing a dayhike with him we didn’t chat for long.
We continued downhill and soon passed Calculus’s brother, who was heading back to his car, and Calculus himself. We didn’t chat for long again but then met up later on at a water cache at the Kelso road. We got to talking and decided we were all going for the same campsite, still 13 kilometers ahead (making it a 23 mile day for us). We filled in enough water to survive on until the noon next day and got going.
A 500m ascent was ahead but it went very fast as we stayed together and chatted about politics, veganism and travelling the whole time. Once we got higher, however, the trail started to follow the hillsides and the cold wind returned once again. The wind grew stronger as miles flew past and we started to get worried that the campsite we had planned to go to would have no wind protection as it was sort of at a mountain pass. We put our jackets on and tried to stay warm but the campsite situation seemed hopeless. Tired already, we walked around the last bend and arrived at the planned site – somehow, magically, the lay of the land combined with the trees and bushes protected the area pretty well and so we quickly set up our tent. We also made sure to fasten all the guylines and set huge rocks on the stakes to keep them in should the winds rise at night.
Sadly we didn’t have any energy to chill and chat more with Calculus and it was still pretty cold and breezy, so we said good night, cooked our dinner and went to sleep.