25 Oct

PCT – Day 117 (25 Oct 18) – Night Hike

Miles 1955.7 – 1982.5 >>> 26.8 (43.1 km)

The morning was surprisingly chilly and we got cold hands packing up. As became normal procedure, Trouble left early and left me to pack up the camp. I usually caught her pretty quickly anyway, but at least for the one or two miles she was having the wind in her face and could enjoy the empty road.

Looking towards White Dome.

The moment we got a little higher up, the landscape turned very barren. It looked a bit like an ancient burn. But the tree trunks were also blown over and seemed to have been strewn around like matchsticks.

Barren land.

Despite the desolation of the landscape, it did have its own beauty. At least in my eyes. Trouble wasn’t too convinced and didn’t really enjoy herself. Maybe also because she felt hot again.

Only a few rugged sections.

It was mostly up and down today and it felt like were doing a lot of PUDding ([hiker lingo] PUD = pointless up and down). It was pretty awesome to see the grey granite Sierras in the far distant background. It always amazes me how far one can walk in just a few days.

The lone peak in the center left is Sherman Peak in Sequoia NF.

Due to our last water source being dry, we utilized the last of a small water cache to bottle up. Then decided that it would be a good idea to do some night hiking for a change to get some miles in that the stretch to Walker Pass and Lake Isabella would be a bit shorter.

Treading trail.

The setting sun gave us a first taste of what sunsets would be like for us in the desert. The colors were just gorgeous.

Gorgeous sunset colors.

We had dinner and hot apple cider on top of a mountain, before we shouldered our backpacks again and moved on.

Good night sun.

We enjoyed the last bit of daylight, as we were getting higher up. Amazingly it still wasn’t cold at all and it was really pleasant to hike.

Desert colors galore.

Once it was dark, we pulled out our newly acquired Petzl Tikkina headlights (purchased at Elevation Sierra Adventure in Lone Pine), and were pleasantly surprised that they were quite good for night hiking.

Last light of the day.

I love night hiking – on trails that I know. Hiking at night on trails that I don’t know always makes me feel that I’m missing out on the scenery and therefore I generally don’t do it.

I did enjoy the night hike today though. It was nice to look up at the trees and down into the dark abyss of the valley, to stumble over the loose rock, and to see the lights of the settlements in the valley come on and sparkle in the dark.

We only hiked for another four miles (6.5 km), before we decided that we’d done enough for the day. We found a flat platform at the mountain end of a gully going down the flank. It was directly next to the trail (something we’d usually avoid at all cost), but it wasn’t actually a bad place and we were happy to settle down and go to sleep.

26 Oct

PCT – Day 118 (26 Oct 18) – Cross Country

Miles 1982.5 – 2000.5 >>> 18.0 (29.0 km)

It was actually almost warm when we woke up. For the first time in a long time I packed up camp without my fingers turning into icicles. Nice.

View from our campsite.

We stopped for second breakfast and considered our options to get to Lake Isabella.

Looking west towards Canebrake.

It didn’t take us long to decide to do a bit unorthodox hiking. We actually left the trail and walked cross country, straight towards highway 178.

Beautiful Joshua trees.

It was really good fun to be off trail and joked around that the rescue helicopter was quick to have been dispatched, when a chopper flew wide circles around us.

Trouble not lost in the wilderness.

I just had to teach Trouble how to check for snakes while travelling cross country. Not that we encountered any, but you never know.

Even found some Juniper berries (on the right).

We made it down to the highway by 11.15 am. We didn’t put our thumbs out straight away, because there was nowhere for a car to pull over. So we did a bit of a road walk due west, towards Lake Isabella.

Isabella Walker Pass Road (State Route 178).

Even when we found a spot, nobody seemed willing to even slow down for us. So we hiked on even further. Eventually, we saw a car passing us, slowing down, and turning around. Me, being the eternal pessimist, was convinced that the turning around had nothing to do with us, but as usual, Trouble was right. It was Rebekah, who’d never stopped for hitchhikers before, but felt like we didn’t look like ax murderers. So in a split second decision she’d stopped, turned around, and offered us a ride into town. Thank you so much!

Trouble and Rebekah in the Vons car park.

She dropped us off at the car park of the local supermarket and we said goodbye. Thankfully, there was a Pizza Factory next door – so guess where we went first.

After we were sated, we made our way over to the Kern Motel to check in for the night. We walked around and eventually found the manager, who told us we couldn’t check in yet. We were quite grateful for it, because the place looked pretty sketchy and the manager seemed a bit shady too. So we went over to the grocery store, loaded up on snacks and drinks for the night, and began the long, long, long one mile (1.6 km) walk to the Lake Isabella Motel across the highway.

Lake Isabella Motel.

As we were checking in, Baram arrived. He’s a Korean triple-crowner and was on a mission to make it a double triple crown, in honor of the 304 people that had drowned in the sinking of the Korean ferry MV Sewol in 2014. We’d met him a few times before on the trail and it was a happy reunion. The two hunters that had given him a ride into town were also staying at the Motel and offered to take us back to the trail the next day. Excellent.

The rest of the day was spent showering, procrastinating, and willfully lying in bed. Ahh.

27 Oct

PCT – Day 119 (27 Oct 18) – Lake Isabella

Miles 2000.5 – 2000.5 >>> 0.0 (0.0 km)

Our night was surprisingly good. However, our inner clock didn’t let us sleep in and we were out and about by seven.

Morning light over Lake Isabella.

Thankfully, Trouble had found a nearby diner that was open this early, so we walked across the highway to Dam Korner.

Damn good breakfast at Dam Korner.

The breakfast was excellent and we took our time and had plenty of coffee refills, before we went to the grocery store to resupply. Seems like that alone took away all our energy, for we decided to stop at Dam Korner for a second breakfast, even before we returned to the hotel to repack.

When we got back to the hotel to check out, we looked up Baram to see how our lift back to the trail was going. Apparently the two hunters were actually out hunting so either we’d wait for their return or we’d have to find our own transport back. Hmm, after a quick chat to the hotel owner, who allowed us to stay until two in the afternoon, we decided to wait. So we hung out in our rooms and by the pool and did some honest to god procrastinating.

The hunters still weren’t back by two, so we actually checked out of our rooms, but were allowed to store our bags in the office. This freed us to go back down to Dam Korner for another meal. This time Baram joined us for the fun.

It wasn’t until a quarter to five for Ruben and his hunting buddy to return. We helped unload Ruben’s truck and stored his guns in the hotel room. Then it was time for a quick photo shoot, before Ruben was kind enough to drive us out to Walker Pass Campground.

Baram with Ruben on the left and his hunting buddy on the right. He’s holding a poster with all 304 victims of the MV Sewol.

Ruben’s a really great guy and is thinking about hiking the PCT one day himself. So he asked us a ton of questions on the way out and we swapped phone numbers. He lives in Agua Dulce where we will be coming through later and we promised to look him up.

Awesome trail angel Ruben, after dropping us off at the campground.

At the campground were also Amanda and Frank her dog, who we’d met in Washington. It was great to see that they’d made it down here.

Thru-hikers socializing.

Trouble and I set up under a tree nearby and went to bed fairly quickly. Even though it had turned out to be an unexpected zero day, it had been quite enjoyable.

28 Oct

PCT – Day 120 (28 Oct 18) – Water Cache

Miles 2000.5 – 2026.9 >>> 26.4 (42.5 km)

It was relatively warm in the morning and we felt quite cozy and had a bit of a lie in. After coffee, breakfast, and packing up, we were on the trail a little after eight.

Morning view from Walker Pass Campground.

Thankfully there was actually a water cache located at one of the picnic benches and we could fill up even after our coffee. Thank you.

West of Scodie Mountains HP.

The trail was good and the weather was nice and warm – at least for me. Trouble found it way too hot and complained about being too sweaty.

Time for second breakfast.

We had second breakfast at the top of our first climb of the day and relaxed a little.

Shortly after the trail joined a rough dirt road for about five miles (8 km). Not exactly dream trail, but at least it wasn’t asphalt.

Hazy day.

Later in the afternoon, somewhere south of Skinner Peak, we got our first glimpse down into the large valley towards Red Rock Canyon State Park.

The desert floor.

Trouble was so thirsty that she almost ran out of water. I checked our Guthooks app and the cache was still six miles away, but at least appeared still to have water. So we made our way down there and, even though I offered Trouble some of my water, she wouldn’t touch it. When we arrived at the cache site, we couldn’t believe our eyes. So much water! Thank you so very much.

The water cache at Bird Spring Pass.

We had a bite to eat as well, but were keen to get a few more miles in.

Fading light.

As it was getting dark we seemed to have entered a cattle station. There were cow patties everywhere.

Beautiful sunset. Again.

We both saw desert pocket mice and a little later I also saw a bunny rabbit hopping alongside me. It was clear that we would have to set up somewhere here, but we weren’t too keen on having mice rummaging though our stuff at night. Even if they are really cute.

Under the Joshua trees.

In the end there was no choice. The wind had picked up and was gusting. We found a little shelter under a grove of Joshua trees and I set up camp. For once, I also tied up my food bag and hung it in between two branches of the Joshua tree next to us. Just hoping that it will hold up in this wind.

29 Oct

PCT – Day 121 (29 Oct 18) – Racing Clouds

Miles 2026.9 – 2049.9 >>> 23.0 (37.0 km)

It was still very windy when we woke up, but it eased off during the morning. It was quite noticeable that it was getting later in the year, because sunrise was happening later and later. This morning was at 7:12 am, so by a quarter to seven, it still felt like we woke up in the middle of the night.

6:47 am and the sun’s not up yet.

We made it on to the trail by about eight and continued our track through the cattle ranch.

Morning in the desert.

We hiked through some gorgeous scenery with a lot of Joshua trees peppered around the countryside.

Trouble hiking through Joshua tree country.

At around noon we came to a water cache that was almost dry. We stopped, camelled up, and once we’d filled up our bottles, there were still a few liters left. It wouldn’t have felt nice to take the last.

Water cache at Kelso Valley Road. Thanks so much.

The rest of the afternoon was uphill. We were going back up to 6,500 – 7,000 feet (2,000 – 2,100 m). It was quite remarkable how the landscape changed again, once we were a bit higher up. Suddenly we were not in the desert anymore. There were pine trees and deciduous trees and it felt almost like we were going back to the Sierras.

There’s trees again.

We ran into a northbound section hiker named Tea Man, who we chatted to for quite a while to exchange trail gossip and water status. Then it was time to move on. It was getting cold … and clammy. It felt weird that there was so much moisture in the air. It was actually a bit foggy.

It’s getting a bit overcast and foggy.

The wind picked up as well and the higher we got, the more blustery and freezing it got. The picture below shows a cloud hanging on the right side of the mountain. Well, in real life, it wasn’t hanging there at all. The clouds were actually racing down the mountain side at an amazing speed. I’ve never seen anything like it. It looked really spectacular.

Racing clouds.

The temperature dropped even further and we decided that it was best to find a sheltered spot somewhere soon. It was hard to find anything even remotely even up there, but eventually I managed to find a somewhat level spot next to a giant fallen tree trunk. We set up camp and quickly huddled together for warmth. I barely managed to boil some water for our apple cider, before I actually ran out of gas. No coffee tomorrow. Oh god.

30 Oct

PCT – Day 122 (30 Oct 18) – Morning Fog

Miles 2049.9 – 2074.0 >>> 24.1 (38.8 km)

The morning was cold, but the wind had died down. Since I’d run out of gas the night before there was no coffee for me this morning. Trouble mixed hers with some hot chocolate powder and drank it cold. I passed on that. Despite the lack of caffeine, we were on the trail before eight. Trouble left me to pack up, as usual these days, but I caught up with her pretty quickly.

The morning was absolutely amazing. We had ground fog everywhere and the sun’s rays shone through with amazing patterns of god rays.

Early morning fog.

Occasionally the sky would cloud over and immediately the landscape looked a lot more foreboding and mystical.

Fall forest without the sun.

Our first stop was the Robin Bird Spring to top up our water supply. When we arrived we were greeted by a muddy puddle, full of hoof prints and cow patties. The pipe coming out of the ground looked nasty as well and neither one of us wanted to take water from this mess. At first, Trouble wanted to move, but I decided to jump the fence and get water from the cow free side of the fence. It took a bit of digging in the dirt, but eventually I had semi clean water trickling into our bottles. Still filtered it though.

The Robin Bird Spring.

In recompense for the nasty water source, we continued to have the spectacular light show through the fog. It was still cold though, especially because the air had so much moisture.

Spectacular light show.
Mystical tree scene.

The weather began to clear up by nine o’clock.

Clouds lifting off the ground.

We continued to walk through deciduous forest that was draped in the most beautiful fall colors.

Nice colors.

By about ten we came out of the forest and could enjoy more open views.

Looking into the valley.

By noon we were back in the desert and it was warm again.

Wind turbines everywhere.

Our wilderness experience was a little spoiled by the thousands of wind turbines strewn around the country side. But hey, I guess it’s better than an oil refinery, right?

Civilization everywhere.

We decided to hike into the night to get a few more miles in. The sunset was beautiful.

Fading light.

Eventually the trail followed a rough 4WD track, with plenty of loose dirt on rocks. A surface that Trouble absolutely hated, because the tread of her sandals couldn’t cope with it. She was just slipping and sliding all over the place.

Eventually she was over it and asked me to find a campsite. As usual, I was a bit too picky in my choice and walked past a few that tired Trouble found to be sufficiently good. Eventually she called me back to a camp site that had been used by 4WD campers. There was a fire pit with rubbish and burnt tin cans. Usually a big no-no for us, but Trouble was really over it and we set up. It was already freezing cold and we could tell that the night would get even colder. Not that I mind. My sleeping bag is amazing. Just the prospect of getting up in the morning … Oh well.

31 Oct

PCT – Day 123 (31 Oct 18) – Tehachapi

Miles 2074.0 – 2086.2 >>> 12.2 (19.6 km)

As expected, it was absolutely freezing in the morning. I packed up and followed Trouble down the dirt road. It was a lot easier for her in the daytime apparently.

Following the 4WD track.

By about ten, we made it to the other side of the mountain and could see down into the valley where we could see the Mojave Air & Space Port (this is where Virgin Galactic operates out of).

The Mojave Air & Space Port on the right.

Trouble saw a tarantula on her way down the hill. I was being stupid and didn’t bother to walk back up to her to have a look. I thought I’d easily see another later on on the trail. Well, guess what: I was wrong.

Anyway, Trouble contacted the coordinator of the Tehachapi trail angel group (how cool’s that!) and he replied shortly after that there would be Rachel waiting for us at the trailhead of the Cameron Canyon Road, where it crosses the Barstow-Bakersfield Highway 58.

The trailhead’s in sight.

And what do you know, the moment I came over the crest, I could see a car parked there with the trunk open and a lady waiting next to it. We waited for Trouble to arrive and then Rachel drove us into town. Thanks a million.

We were in town by half past twelve. Perfect time for lunch. So Rachel dropped us off at Henry’s Cafe on Trucker Road. What a great place. Some of the friendliest staff I’ve come across on this trip, and the food was excellent as well.

Eggs Benedict for a change.

We went to the Albertsons grocery store after that and resupplied. Another trail angel approached us there and gave us his number in case we needed to be driven anywhere. How nice. We still had a few other things to do (I got myself a cheap buzz cutter from the Dollar General to give myself a haircut at the hotel).

When eventually we were walking into town proper, yet another trail angel pulled over in front of us on West Tehachapi Boulevard across from Walgreens and offered us a ride into town. Incredible. Thank you Tehachapi.

We booked into the Santa Fe Motel on W Tehachapi Blvd. It was surprisingly quiet. We’d expected Armageddon, because it’s Halloween after all. But it was all very civilized and almost sedate.

We went to the nearby Burger Spot for dinner. The view out the window was very photogenic, but the burger I got was probably the worst I’ve every had. Mind you, I still ate it all and licked my fingers afterwards.

The Burger Spot with terrible food.

In the end we returned back to our hotel room and pigged out on our snacks we’d got from the grocery store. Then it was bed time.

01 Nov

PCT – Day 124 (01 Nov 18) – Mile 549

Miles 2086.2 – 2103.6 >>> 17.4 (28.0 km)

We woke up around seven and were pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have to wait for restaurants to open. Primo Burgers on East F Street opened at six, so we went straight over there.

Primo Burgers on the far left.

It wasn’t the best breakfast we’ve had, but it filled the holes in our stomachs. On our way back to the motel, I looked at Kohnen’s Country Bakery, just across from our Motel, and asked Trouble if she was up for seconds already. Since it was a German bakery, she agreed immediately. We got some sweet pastries and a large cup of pretty decent coffee and sat down in the backroom and chatted away for a while.

Kohnen’s Country Bakery.

Then it was back to the hotel to check out. Weirdly, check out was at ten, rather than the usual eleven.

Since we were still hungry, we decided to walk back out to Henry’s Cafe for a “proper” breakfast.

Jim, the trail angel who’d given us a ride into town the day before had given us his phone number and we’d arranged for him to help us with a few errands and a trip back to the trail. After we’d finished our breakfast at Henry’s, we’d still had time to kill, so we walked over to Starbucks and had yet another coffee. Later Jim arrived and took us out to the post office, where Trouble received a care package from home and I forwarded my bounce box.

From there it was back to the trail. Jim actually dropped us off at the Tehachapi Willow Springs Road trailhead, rather than the highway, but we didn’t mind.

Just above Oak Creek Road.

The hike was reasonably boring for most of the afternoon, since we were mostly looking out at wind mills. It was still nice to be back on the road though.

Beautiful dried wildflowers.

We only stopped briefly for a water drinking stop. I’d actually found some awesome drinks mix powders at the Dollar General in Tehachapi and I was mixing myself a fake Pina Colada. Trouble was thoroughly grossed out (she hates the taste of sugar substitutes), but I was having a blast with it.

Beautiful afternoon light.

Trouble did take a gamble with her water supply and we’d decided to walk out to a water cache that Tea Man, the hiker we’d met three days earlier, had said was still stocked.

Well, I was pretty amazed when I not only found a water cache with over seven gallons (25 liters) of water, but also chairs, a parasol, and a “bar” arrangement with food box and trail register. We’d arrived at Mile 549 (counted in NOBO direction), a permanent trail angel station maintained by Robert, a local who lives near by. Thanks so much for this awesomeness.

Hanging out at Mile 549.

We decided to set up camp right there, so that we could fill up our water bottles in the morning. It was beautiful and we really enjoyed the amenities.

An unusual campsite for my tent.

And the sunset was just amazing. To top it off, the temperatures were quite balmy and for once we weren’t freezing. Happy days.

Gorgeous sunset from our campsite.
02 Nov

PCT – Day 125 (02 Nov 18) – LA Aqueduct

Miles 2103.6 – 2127.4 >>> 23.8 (38.3 km)

We were up surprisingly early and had time to watch the entire sunrise. It was magnificent. Especially because we didn’t have to wrap ourselves deep into our sleeping bags to enjoy it. It was actually warm.

Sunrise at Mile 549.

Since we were up early, we took our time to do coffee and breakfast. We also camelled up before we hit the trail by about 7:30 am. It was really nice to start the day by watching the sun rise.

Sunrise over the Mojave.

We were on our way to hike down into the western end of Antelope Valley, where part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct is running through. It’s also peppered with wind mills that are operated by Avangrid Renewables.

Looking down into Antelope Valley.

It warmed up quite nicely during the morning. Something that I enjoyed and Trouble hated. I felt pretty good and thought I could take a shortcut down a steep section of trail. Well, apparently not. A loose rock gave way under my foot and I fell flat on my back and scratched up my left leg on a rough concrete like rock. No deep cuts, but it was smarting for days.

What you get for cutting the trail.

Soon we joined a dirt road that led us down to the wind farm.

Looking towards Neenach.

It felt a bit weird walking through the wind farm. After four months of wilderness hiking, man made objects are just weird.

Entering the wind farm.

Trouble was pretty exhausted from the heat and we stopped under a bush for a break and to have a drink of water (she hated me for sitting in the sun and enjoying it like a lizard).

Trouble being annoyed with me hat I’m taking pictures of her.

We didn’t linger though, for we wanted to make it to the Cottonwood Creek bridge and faucet and fill up with water there. We’d heard that the faucet was turned off already, but that there was a water cache in place anyway. And indeed there was. The awesome people from Hiker Town had set up a big barrel full of good fresh water. Trouble and I drank our entire water supply and refilled from the barrel. We also took a few minutes to have a bite to eat.

The Cottonwood Creek faucet.

The bridge over the creek is also the beginning of the famous LA Aqueduct section of the PCT. For northbounders, this is alleged to be the hottest part of their entire hike. Especially because there’s no shade to be had. For us southbounders it’s not really hot (well Trouble might argue with me there), but rather boring. It’s just hiking along a long dirt road next to the concrete cover of the aqueduct.

Dirt road left. LA Aqueduct on the right.

We took another break by the side of the road and Trouble crawled under a small shrub to get a bit out of the sun. Just when we got back up and continued our walk, a white pick up truck approached and stopped next to us. A young girl (maybe seven years old or so) leaned out and held out an ice cold can of Arizona iced tea. She was pretty shy about it and had obviously been encouraged by her dad who was driving. What a wonderful gesture. We thanked them profusely and enjoyed an ice cold drink as they were driving away. Thank you.

The trail only became more interesting as it was getting late in the afternoon and the sun began setting.

Late afternoon over the aqueduct.

We were hiking through one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever experienced in my life. And that’s not hyperbole. The colors were just a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

Looking south east with some amazing colors in the clouds.

In front of us to the West was magnificence about to happen.

Pretty standard so far.
Getting better.
Jaw on floor. Incredible.

The sunset was just incredible. The entire sky looked like it was on fire or made of glowing hot lava. Pretty astonishing.

The entire spectacle lasted only fro about fifteen minutes, but they made the entire day for me.

We hiked into the dark. It was pretty cold again and windy. Eventually we set up camp just behind the Holiday Avenue turn off on the other side of the road in the ditch. It was pretty flat and it was on loose dirt, so quite comfortable.

Another great day. Thank you.

03 Nov

PCT – Day 126 (03 Nov 18) – Hiker Town

Miles 2127.4 – 2143.8 >>> 16.4 (26.4 km)

Trouble was up before me and actually had to poke to get me moving. No idea why I slept in, but it was nice.

Along the LA Aqueduct.

We made it on to trail only a little before eight (yes, coffee comes first). An hour later we could actually see the little settlement called Neenach lying in front of us. The concrete slabs of the aqueduct had turned into a giant, rusty pipe, that emerged out of the desert like one of the worms in Frank Herbert’s Dune (you may call me Muad’Dib).

Neenach ahead …
… and a giant metal worm slithering alongside us.

At around ten we made it to one of the PCT’s famous trail angel locations: Hiker Town. Apparently helping hikers since the nineties. The owner Richard, used to be a set builder in Hollywood and built up the little cabins on his property for hikers to stay at. He’s also the friendly soul who’s keeping the water cache at Cottonwood Creek going when the faucet’s turned off.

Approaching Hiker Town.

As per usual in recent years, the PCT’s been flooded with nincompoops that don’t even know how to behave themselves, when they are being offered a service for free, out of the goodness of their hearts. Therefore, similar to other places like Casa de Luna and Hiker Haven, there’s talk about shutting it down permanently.

Trouble being overjoyed being in Hiker Town.

When we arrived there was nobody there. We did find a hand written note from Bob, the caretaker to feel free to use the shower and to wait till he was back, if we wanted to stay. Well, we didn’t actually want to stay, but we were keen on getting a ride into “town” for some food.

We walked out to the main road and tried our luck at hitch hiking. A few minutes after we’d set up shop, a large truck pulled over on the hard shoulder in front of us and at first we thought we might be lucky and get our second ride in an eighteen wheeler, but as it turned out, the truck had broken down and was waiting for a repair crew.

Well, we actually had enough time to wait for the repair crew to arrive, repair the truck, leave, and for the truck to move on as well (without giving us a ride). Nobody would stop for us. We waited for well over an hour. We were already talking about giving up and to just continue hiking, when Bob returned in his pick up truck and saw us standing on the side of the road. He immediately agreed to drive us down to the Neenach Cafe & Market so that we could get a bite to eat.

So he dropped us off and promised to be back an hour later to take us back to the trail.

Good food

The food was awesome and the guys working the cafe really nice. An hour later, Bob returned and took us back to Hiker Town, where we filled up our water bottles, before we went back on to trail by two.

Let’s not deviate then, shall we?

The moment we were back up in the hills, we came across a very cute dog, followed by three horse riders that were PCTA trail maintainers. We had a longer chat with them and thanked them for their work. Thanks again!

Looking back towards Neenach.

Sometime later I saw a hiker far ahead of me. The color scheme of his clothing and backpack immediately reminded me of Patch, the young Czech fellow we first met in Washington. Trouble had even given him his trail name, and we were both excited by the prospect of running into him again. We’d seem him last at the end of August in Etna.

Antelope Valley.

It was indeed Patch. He was having a break and we caught up to him. It was great running into him again. We realized that we had very similar finish date deadlines, since he’d made the mistake of pre-booking his flights out as well, and knew we’d be running into each other again down the trail.

Patch wanted to have an extended break and then night hike, so we left him behind and kept going.

Stunning sunset colors … again.

Initially we’d wanted to set up camp somewhere near the Pine Canyon road trailheads, but soon realized that they were full of weekend campers (it’s Saturday). At the western traihead was even a car and trailer parked where a group were evidently having a beer drinking party, with music and everything. We decided to keep moving.

Cotton candy sunset.

We found something after only 1.2 miles (2 km) up the hill though. It was a flat patch of dirt that had been used as a camp site before. It was directly next to the trail, but we didn’t care. It was a good spot and we didn’t expect too many hikers to come past anyway (apart from Patch).

Campsite with a view.

We had dinner and our obligatory apple cider and were soon in bed.