border to Walker Pass (650 miles)
Aqua Dulce 26th
May The owner of the town grocery 'Chuck' chatted away to us as
we steadily worked our way through his supplies of junk food. We found
that a trail angel (someone that helps hikers) Donna lived
here and Donna kindly allowed us to stay in a trailer beside her house
on the outskirts of town. The trailer had 2 bedrooms, a TV, bathroom,
telephone and washing machine- everything a hiker could want! Throughout
the day a gathering of hikers took place as others arrived to stay.
It is strange that when we hiked on the trail we saw almost no one
else yet there were others out there perhaps a day or two behind
or ahead of us on the trail.
compared stories from the trail with; Brian Sweet, Tahoma and Janelle,
Tim with the beard, Hikin Mike and John the Pilgrim. It has become
a tradition amongst long distance hikers to adopt a 'trail name' and
soon discussion turned to what we could be called. Martina's obsession
with sheep and us coming from Scotland meant that the moniker 'Dolly'
was suggested- and stuck (Dolly being a sheep and the first mammal
to be cloned from an adult cell at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh
in Scotland). I was proud that Brian Sweet added I could be 'Hound
Dog' for my trail finding abilities in bad weather. Hound Dog and
Dolly it was then! Donna helped us all again by driving us all
in to a local 'all you can eat' diner which was like heaven to us.
left Aqua Dulce and Donna's reluctantly the next day at 4pm to hike
on our own in the relatively cooler evening. We made it up onto a
viewful ridge top after 8 miles with heavy rucksacks where we could
look back south to the hazy smog of Los Angeles. We progressed on
doing a steady 20 + miles per day enjoying the incredibly lavish spring
flower displays and looking forward to climbing high into the Sierra
Nevada mountains to the north.
One danger we watched out for in addition
was the plant Poison Oak - a brush against this could give
a debilitating rash and we were keen on avoiding it if possible. I
followed the simple rhyme that I had been told 'Leaves of three,
let 'em be!' - which meant that I studiously avoided anything
that could remotely have three leaves but I was probably safe.
We broke out into song when we passed
an imaginery 500 mile line- the Proclaimers song '500 miles' could
be heard echoing around the valley as we strode on. We felt that if
we could walk 500 miles then surely 2,600 miles for the whole trail
Although it was searingly hot during
the day, we still experienced frost at night when we camped high.
This was to change though as we descended down to around 3,500feet
to cross the edge of the Mojave desert. We noticed four horse riders
cantering through a colourful poppy filled valley in a scene right
out of a Western movie before we crossed the famous San Andreas
fault. Martina was disappointed that we didn't get any earth
had a brief lunchtime stopover at the house of Jack Fair-
another trail angel who lives right on the desert edge.
It was here that we heard more news that this winter had
been one with particularly heavy snow falls- this had been
attributed to the 'El Nino' weather pattern. We had
encountered much snow on San Jacinto mountain and patches
elsewhere but our next stretch in the Sierra Nevada mountains
of Central California would be at continually higher altitudes
from 8,000 feet to 13,000 feet for 300-400 miles.
from local park rangers was saying that there would be unusually
deep snow here, perhaps lingering well into July and we
began to doubt that we could push through under these deep
snow conditions and maintain a 20 mile or so daily
rate to make it between resupply towns. Brian Sweet had
left a note saying that he was to collect cross country
skis and attempt the Sierra with those. Others were to take
a break and wait out until the snow melted.
to contemplate another option which was to break our journey
before the Sierra and restart again on the Canadian border
and walk south back to the break point. This wouldn't be
as satisfactory in terms of splitting the hike into two-
but it would provide us with easier travel in the less continuously
high country of the Washington Cascades (which hadn't experienced
the same high winter snow levels). It would also transport
us into a new, different, lush temperate forest terrain
which was quite attractive after so much semi-desert. This
splitting of the hike, even had a name amongst thru-hikers,
The temperature at 2pm was a mere
25 C on the floor of the Mojave - cool here for the 30th
May- and both of us felt in form as we made good mileage. Joshua
trees were all around and slightly comic roadrunner birds dashed about.
We also noticed a snake wrapped around a branch of a bush above the
trail- this shocked us as, up 'til then, we had our eyes glued to
the ground looking for snakes- now we had to look everywhere it seemed!
The evening camp gave us a glorious crystal clear display of stars
and with coyotes howling into the night it was a special spot for
We set of hiking early at 7am to
the lowest part of the Mojave and by evening we were up at 6,000feet
and able to camp in the shade of trees again. Next day we descended
a broad ridge system with many wind turbines to a major road crossing
between the towns of Mojave and Tehachapi- and the latter was our
intended resupply stop.