The terrain be a changin’!

There has been a noticeable shift in the environment over the last week or so.  We went from leaving Tehachapi at night to cross the notoriously hot aqua duct walk to meandering through pine forests.  I was actually meandering for some of the trail!  I even had the joy of learning that the Jefferson Pine tree has butterscotch-smelling bark (no joke and no exaggeration – it really, really smells like butterscotch!).  I had some of my favourite trail so far around Mile Points 583-595 as it was about 10 miles of just beautiful, non-desert like terrain.  There were neat boulder formations, cliff rock faces, tons of trees, and – through a burn area – there was wildflowers and not the dreaded poodle dog bush!  The trail also seems to have become a bit more moderate as the climbs don’t seem quite as steep and nicely graded.

But, alas, the desert shall not allow us to escape without reminding us of her might!  We (Firefox and I) camped at Mile Point 622 the other night and it was windy!  Holy smokes, it may have been the windiest night thus far and that includes the camping done during wind turbine farms!  I was legitimately concerned my tent would not survive the night and I even opted to skip cooking dinner – at a picnic table – so I could just sit in the tent in order to weigh it down (I enjoyed a lovely buffet of granola, M&Ms, and Clif Bars…mmmm…).  At least my tent was secure (and it did survive but I had a horrible night’s sleep as the wind just did not die down!).  Of course, waking up after a very poor night’s rest with a hungry belly resulted in my day not starting out very well and me nearly having a full-on melt down.  It’s common, for sure, to be reduced to tears for no particular reason, but this near-melt down was preventable as it was triggered by the fact I had run out of fuel.  Given my non-sleep, I had really looked forward to getting up in the morning and making myself coffee and eating my Moroccan stew from the night before.  It was not to be – when I was finally able to actually light the stove (in the ongoing, very strong winds),  I was merely able to get the water up to luke warm and barely heat part of the stew before the stove sputtered and officially ran out of fuel.  I essentially had cold stew with warm-ish coffee.  The preventable part of this story?  I had a full fuel canister in the car with Mom but I had neglected to double check the fuel level prior to leaving her in Tehachapi.  Not a common mistake for me, I’m usually quite meticulous about those types of details and that was sort of the last straw…Firefox came over to see if I was ready to leave and the tears began to fall.  I missed Adam, I’m sick of the desert, sick of water carries, and all I wanted that morning was to eat a picnic table!

But crying wouldn’t get me any further out of the desert so I took a deep breath, shouldered my pack, and was committed to hiking the CRAP out of the trail that day!  It’s truly why I love being outdoors exercising (and I’ve mentioned this in early blog postings) as it’s so hard to stay mad or upset while being active outside.  Being exposed to your natural surroundings just makes those negative feelings disappear.  And so I hiked…for about 2 miles where there was surprise trail angel named Cat who was set-up in the desert and we were offered water and a cold pop!  Already, the day was looking up!  I mean that both literally and figuratively as we had some big climbing ahead of us that day.  But the heat wasn’t terrible, the desert choosing to be kind to us that day, and the climbs were well graded.

And then it happened again:  at Mile Point 631 Sweet Moonpie’s parents had set up a little trail angel excursion for the morning and there they were with oranges, grapes, water, and peanut butter-filled pretzels (yup!  That’s a real thing, they’re awesome!).  Not only did they give me a lovely mental boost for the day but I was able to get sugared up for our next climb which was in sandy, exposed desert terrain AND it meant we could skip the 7/10 mile off trail hike to the next water source as we simply topped up our water to get us through to Walker Pass.  The climb was absolutely fantastic and we managed to outrun our second storm on this stretch (thunder included!).  As we popped over the ridge, we immediately found ourselves back in rocky and treed terrain and ended up in a lovely sheltered area where I did have a great night’s sleep.  It’s amazing how the emotions can do a complete 180 spin out here!

The following morning found me motivated to get to Walker Pass, to Mom, so I had a quick breakfast of bars and granola and then Firefox and I were on our way!  About 11 miles away, we were determined to meet Mom by 11:00 so that we could enjoy lunch in town.   There’s a little challenge out here called “10 x 10” and it means completing 10 miles by 10 am.  I have nearly completed it once (on my way into Big Bear, I did “10 x 10:20”) and the night before we had talked about the possibility of doing it again.  Unfortunately, as we hiked, both of us forgot to check the time and mileage but we are pretty sure we did end up completing it…or at least very close to completing it!  We were definitely on track to make our 11am goal but *surprise!*, guess who came wandering up the trail about one mile out with a little backpack cooler full of rootbeer and Gatorade?!  (Give up?  It was Mom!)  

The three of us moseyed down the trail to the car and Firefox and I got out town food lunch in Ridgecrest, have been busy doing zero-day chores (laundry, food, reorganize…) and, in a few days, we will find ourselves hiking into the Sierras!

I’ve even done a bit of gear switching up.  I’ve been carrying 2 x 30 oz fuel canisters for my Whisperlite stove as there was just so little reliable information on how far apart white gas actually was for the stove.  For anyone interested, it’s plentiful!  I could have definitely gotten by with 1 x 20 oz canister!  I’m sending one of my bottles home along with my 4 L bladder (no more big water carries!), I’ve swapped out my 2 L pot for one that’s about 1.25 L, and I had a revolutionary experience with my dry sack and sleeping bag that had me switch out that compression sack.  I’ve been complaining and blaming my poor sleeping bag for not compressing down when, in actuality, it’s been my compression sack.  I have it in a super, uber dry sack (one meant for water sports) and it never even occurred to me to try a different one.  Firefox had an extra one she was going to send home so we decided to see if my bag would fit and, therefore, shrink it down and take up less room…yup, it worked!  And I fell pretty dumb about never figuring that out!  Since I tend to think in candy-volume now, it means I have the extra space for the bag of brownie brittle stuff I bought, which obviously makes me very happy.

I anticipate I will be able to get one more blog post in at Kennedy Meadows (a couple more days) but then I may be offline for over a week so please don’t worry if you don’t hear from me!

Thanks again for reading and if you’re the photo type, please follow me on Instagram (active_women) or share your adventure with me at #activewomencanada.

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