I found that ultimately if you truly pour your heart into what you believe in — even if it makes you vulnerable — amazing things can and will happen. – Emma Watson
It takes huge discipline to save three Clif Bars until the last day of six out on this section, but am I ever glad I held out because they taste so good with the last of my water used for coffee. I get a late start, and I needed the rest, my whirring fans and nearly full moon as companions. I love the chill of the morning, being all alone in my dusty site, the quiet of my own thoughts.
The trail winds up and up, over towards one set of windmills on a hill and then towards another. The mountains are drab tan and green, a kind of sameness creeping in here as one pine crowds everyone else out. I walk to the final water source called golden oaks spring and glad to see it’s smack dab in the middle of the trail as I told Spark last night, who likely arrived as it was getting dark. It’s possible to camp here, but it’s crowded and smelly. I’m glad I chose beneath-the-windmills last night.
The spring is piped with water at a trickle. It takes two solid minutes to fill a liter bottle, but the alternative would be to collect from the trough, a plant-filled biology experiment of algae and ooze, skimmers working the surface. No, moving water is better even at a trickle and tastes delicious once filtered. I have a liter as Bambi and his mom come close, his eyes huge staring at me over an upturned snout. Johnny-one-note trills his one note from a nearby tree as a squirrel drops a few acorn bombs.
My ‘dirty water’ bags have holes, but still manage the job. It will be over a week before Richard sends new ones. I think about where I am right now emotionally. I cried through most of Washington, then did a lot of
yelling in Oregon. In California, I’m laughing – a lot. Things just feel funny, or maybe the more apt word is preposterous. Preposterous that I am out here walking, getting pelted with acorns, dirt covering every inch of skin, rationing water like it’s gold and loving all of it.
OK, maybe not going up to get down, but most of it anyway. At least I don’t feel like I have no identity anymore. I most certainly do, and part of it is “hiker.” But also wife, daughter, sister, friend, voice artist – whoa! Voice artist? Uh-huh. That’s me! At the moment, my voice is coaxing my body along as a dirt road becomes the trail, though there’s hardly any dirt left, boulders and slippery piles of pebbles slow my pace giving new meaning to “rocky road.” The wind picks up setting the ponderosa to whisper level. I can’t imagine how anyone manages this section in summer.
I see a road leading beautifully down a valley toward the desert and civilization, but the road veers sharply away as if a rebuke, shooting straight up. It’s one of those ascents where you can only see far enough to think you’ve hit the top, only to realize you couldn’t really see all that well as the road turns again revealing another steep ascent. I dig in my poles and set my breathing. There’s nothing to see but rocky road and dust-covered scrubby pines and oak hemming me in.
Up and up, around and up but, of course, finally the top looking out to rows of windmills above perfectly flat for miles, roads reaching to the horizon. I work my way across the top, a bit of up, then down and up, caution signs warning me when I’ll cross a motorbike trail, though no one is out today but me. I have a conversation with these endless mountains.
I don’t want to go up.
You have to go up.
I’m sick of going up.
You have to go up.
Why do I have to go up to just go back down?
Do you want to hike the PCT?
I guess I have to go up.
That’s the spirit!
Once I crest and know it’s all downhill, I take a break for lunch. I set down my sit pad and something sneaks underneath. Lifting it reveals a horny toad about two inches long. His hooded eyes swivel slowly to look over at mine as I move in for a picture. He’s absolutely still wearing his camouflage, but when he wants to move, it’s fast, right back under the pad. I slowly uncover him so I can sit to eat and he sticks around for my entire meal, just hanging in the sun on a gorgeous day. I move a little to clean up and he skitters again, hiding beneath my poles. Cute little guy made my day.
As I continue, lizards cross in front of my feet almost as if trying to get my attention after Horny got so much. Joshua Trees are back as I descend. Massive turbine shadows dance on the mountain ahead, which is the other side of this huge canyon, a path for a major highway and railroad tracks. The huge trucks are just toys from here as I zigzag endlessly down my side of the canyon to reach it. I love arriving into towns from a long trail. There’s almost no preparing slipping back in. It’s hot in here as the wind dies, but October is ideal to be outside in central California.
As I get closer, I see a green sign and realize that is my “exit.” Sometimes the trail is not romantic or beautiful. Sometimes it’s a trail between two barbed wire fences next to the interstate. But I can’t help singing “I got a name” as I walk, singing my song loud, ‘if it gets me nowhere, I go there proud!’ I raise my arms out on that line and a car honks a few times knowing I’m walking the PCT. Then twelve souped-up Model T’s race by and I reach the trail register.
I sign ‘Singet,’ the date and ‘yay!’ like Maria would before checking the list of trail angels to see if someone might pick me up and take me into town as hitching is forbidden on the highway. My first call is to Ann who picks up right away and says she’ll be here in thirty minutes. More ‘yay!’ as I find shade behind a sign and call Richard to plan his trip out for the grand finish.
Ann is retired and moved here to help her dad. She loves it and will actually hike tomorrow, but helps me get organized for the next leg. We stop at Dollar General – a hiker’s dream for resupply – and have a laugh at the sheer number of calories I eat. Then she drives me to the Santa Fe Motel, which has seen better days but it right in the heart of town. I am so grateful for trail angels, not just for helping me with the ride, but for the connection with a cool person.
I get a much needed shower, then check out this cool town filled with shops and restaurants and a train museum, the horns’ blast making me happy. It’s Apple Festival and I’m a bit late as the vendors begin to close, though do manage to buy one delicious apple fritter before having a gyro at Petra. The moon is on the verge of full and the air feels perfect, so I take a walk through the train signal garden and past Bliss design. It’s just the mini-break needed before desert and the Los Angeles aqueduct ahead.