First Week in the Desert

[If you read my previous post prior to the pictures getting uploaded, feel free to go back and view that post first.]

Expansive view of the desert rolling out in front of me
Into the desert, dry, but spectacular

The last time I was in Tehachapi, California was nearly 40 years ago when I volunteered for a month as a university sophomore with the United Farm Workers Labor Union (remember those nation-wide grape boycotts at all our grocery stores?) where stayed in a bunkhouse at La Paz- Cesar Chavez’s home and the union’s headquarters at the time. As of 2018, that same location is now the Cesar Chavez National Monument and celebrates Chavez’s life as well as the UFW’s work during that time. One distinct memory I have of my stay there was watching the film “Chariots of Fire” in the home of a married couple who were part of the UFW’s full time staff. I also got to experience my first (and only- so far!) train-hopping adventure. I jumped on to a moving freight near La Paz and rode it for quite a while (to Bakersfield, I think?) and then hopped off and hitched back to La Paz. I had been reading Kerouac at the time and it felt like part of the adventure. So did the subsequent hitch I got from a pair of organic farmers with a mountain of dried figs in the back of their pickup that they insisted I help myself to! I look back on those days and realize that the spirit of the wanderer has been with me for a long time.

Joshua trees everywhere here
Desert, but mountainous
Desert love on the trail
Water caches like this one with hundreds of gallons are maintained by industrious local trail angels…thank you!
Early morning mist on the desert floor from above
More bare looking mountains in my future

Today I’m sitting comfortably in the Kern Country Public Library branch in Tehachapi, having just completed my laundry after making quick work of a decent sized stack of pancakes- my ongoing obsession during this hike. I’m staying here with Barbara and Richard, two retired farmers (apple orchards and cider) who’ve lived in this area most of their lives. After they ceased their cider operations, they converted their old cider processing out-building into a “hiker hut” where I’m staying, with a living/sleeping area, kitchen, full bathroom complete with towels, soaps and shampoos, the use of their bicycles and so on. Its like a mini oasis from the desert heat and they are extremely gracious hosts.

Religious irony: gaudy billboard plastered on the trail in the very temple of nature. “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” (Joni Mitchell)
Someone was having a bad day whey this concrete was poured
Passing by and through a huge (30,000 acres+) windfarm

My initial foray into desert hiking was back in 2019 in New Mexico when I thru-hiked the Continental Divide Trail. That experience was a shock to my system- the absence of trees (and therefore shade) as well as complete lack of water made for some nervous and unfamiliar days. I eventually got the hang of it, but was apprehensive this time around whether I’d feel the same. As it turns out, I’ve completely enjoyed the California desert scene and though I’m only a week in, its been absolutely beautiful. My pack is heavier by virtue of the extra water that must be carried (this morning I did the final 15 miles of a nearly 30 mile waterless section), but the daytime heat is comfortably followed by cool- but not cold- evenings that are as quite as can be except when sleeping near windfarms. I’ve not been up close to modern windmills before so it came as a surprise that they make a sound similar to aircraft passing overheard. That was my sleep-time white noise last night.

My campsite last night, 15 miles north of Tehachapi

At this point I’ve now completed about 2100 miles of the PCT and have about 550 miles remaining. That’s still a lot of miles to go, but I’m starting to feel like I can see the end of this hike, whew! Fingers crossed that I continue to enjoy the hike, make good progress, stay (relatively) injury-free and eventually tag that Mexican border and heave the big sigh of “done!” Until then, all the best to you and yours and thanks for your ongoing interest in my hikes. Love, Max

PS: Be sure to check out my Youtube channel for my latest video uploads! The latest videos begin with #35.

2 Responses to “First Week in the Desert

  • Christoph König
    2 years ago

    Hi MaxHeap,

    we are back from the US for four weeks now, the usual chaos after a longer holiday has decreased and so we find time to send you greetings. – We are the four Germans with the “fancy Hippie-Van” who took your for a ride in Chester, do you remember?
    Since we met you we have read a lot on your homepage and enjoy the impressions you share with your followers. Thank you for your photos and “articles”.
    For your last section through the desert we wish you all the best, we are sure you will make it !!!
    Our family had great three weeks in California and due to very good weather conditions and fortunately no problems with wildfires we could enjoy great hikes nearly every day. Our route with the Hippie-Campervan took us from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, Lassen National Parc, King’s Canyon, Sequoia NP, Walker Pass, Mammouth Lakes, Yosemite NP and back to SF.
    Maybe you remember that we visited Oregon and the south of Washington in 2019. So our youngest son who set next to you in the Hippie-Bus (our oldest son Simon had to take care of our dog in Germany this year while we were on holiday…) is already a little bit familiar with some of the regions the PCT passes through because he plans to hike this trail starting in April 2023 after he will have finished school; as we met you he dind’t dare to tell of his plans…
    Maybe you have time to answer. – I assume that our E-Mail adress will be visible for you. If not let us know in your comments… Maybe one day you will come to Europe or Germany; in this case let us know…, maybe you will find the time to visit us! We live at the river Mosel in the west of Germany.
    Looking forward to hear from you,

    best wishes
    Regine (my wife), Stephan (who plans the PCT), Martin (who sat next to me in the front of the van) and Christoph (the driver & writer)

    • Wow! Thank you so much for the kind remarks and yes, I absolutely remember you all and the great chat we had while riding back to the trailhead. That’s so exciting to hear about your son’s plans to hike the PCT next year. Yes, I can see your email address and will send you an email so you have mine and we can stay in touch! I’ve got around 520 miles remaining and hope to wrap up by the end of October or early November. Thanks again for your gracious help and for the interest in my blog and hike. All the best! Max

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