After traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles via plane, Los Angeles to Bakersfield via rental car, and, finally, Bakersfield to Tehachapi via bus, the last leg of the trip brought us from Tehachapi to the PCT trail crossing at Highway 58 with a lift from a local trail angel. We were once again standing among hundreds of windmills in the Mojave desert precisely where we had stood nearly 4 months earlier. We took off around 6:30 pm wanting to walk into the night to avoid the hot sun.
The sun set nearly an hour later, and we were quickly reminded that we’re not that into night hiking. We managed to walk about 8 miles before we made camp and quickly fell asleep. I awoke in the morning almost expecting the desert landscapes that surrounded me to melt away. But, they were real. We were really back in the hot, dry desert that couldn’t have be more different than the North Cascades that surrounded us just a few days before. Our next few days felt like we were hiking in a dream or a memory. Little occupied my mind. I walked on trying to entertain myself, pushing away thoughts of the clock and miles.
The 136 miles between Highway 58 and Kennedy Meadows are the driest of the entire PCT. Lucky us!! We broke down our hiking segments as distances between water sources:
Highway 58 – Golden Oaks Spring 17 Miles
Golden Oaks Spring – Robin Bird Spring 18 Miles
Robin Bird Spring – Landers Meadow Spring 6 Miles
Landers Meadow Spring – Walker Pass 43 Miles (!!)
Walker Pass – Chimney Creek Camp 29 Miles
Chimney Creek Camp – Kennedy Meadows 19 Miles
The PCT water report indicated that these sources *should be* reliable, and even though some were down to a drip, all came through for us. During hiker season, it is likely that there were water caches between the larger dry gaps, but particularly at this time of year, it was unwise to count on any caches being active. Between sources, we carried 1 liter per every 5 miles anticipated walking and decided to make no-cook dinners.
After 6 very long, dry, and windy days, we arrived at Kennedy Meadows, the gateway to the High Sierra. For thru-hikers, reaching KM is a momentous occasion where you celebrate completing the desert and potentially receive a gear change to prepare you for the highest altitudes on the trail. This time of year meant that KM was empty of the 50+ hikers that come through every day during May and June. In fact, we had the whole place basically to ourselves. We spent several hours eating food, cleaning up, and resupplying at the general store before we took off once more.