If the PCT had an "Adopt-A-Section", I might just choose this section. Lots of hikers hate this section, but I'm finding it very pleasant--today was a sunny mild day, and I stopped a bit early when my right shin suddenly bothered me.
- Date: Thursday April 16, 2015
- Miles hiked: 12.45 PCT
- Miles covered: 596.46 to 608.91
- Weather Report: Low 34, High 68. Light breeze most of the day, with temps in the 50s during the morning and the 60s in the afternoon
- Wildlife seen: A hummingbird with a white throat, tawny breast, and green back taking a bath in the streamlet coming out of Robin Bird Spring.
- Mood of the day: Feeling fit, until the last part of the day. Great weather for a long walk.
Well, the breeze kicked up again overnight, so yet again I lingered in the tent until I decided around 8:30 that it was time to go... and then dawdled some more. I didn't get on the trail until 9, but I did look through a lot of pictures.
The trail today is pretty mellow, fluttering around 5500 and 6500 feet elevation, and the weather is mild as well. This is the first real warmish day since leaving Tehachapi, and the landscape continued to surprise me. I thought all this section was going to be dry and ugly--it's an area bounded by the cities of Bakersfield, Lake Isabella, Inyokern, Mojave, and Tehachapi, and those cities aren't known for being located in a pleasant cool forest.
I had one major stop today, to refill water at Robin Bird Spring, I'd figure I'd take away three liters to get me to Landers Camp, where I'd get a bit more to get onto Willow Spring. Robin Bird Spring wasn't flowing very well, it took me about 20 minutes just to filter those three liters of water, and as I was leaving another thru-hiker, Sweeper, showed up. We chatted a bit; he was out of water and very happy to see the spring.
The trail rose in elevation a bit, then descended; sometimes it was in black oak/pondorosa/jefferry pine forest with a grassy carpet underneath, other times the manzanita and sagebrush were more dominating. With temperatures in the mid 60s I switched into warm-weather hiking mode: just a long sleeve shirt, unbuttoned to the belly button for the air to circulate, and my shrinking furry belly leading the way. I'd be self-conscious about it if I were on a trail with people, but generally on the PCT I see just one other person a day, or often no one at all. I like hiking like this; my shirt doesn't really get very sweaty which is nice.
After feeling very strong and fit and just great all day, reeling in the miles, around 3:30pm my right shin suddenly started 'cramping'. I put that in quotes because it was an odd and very painful feeling; not quite a cramp and not quite intense soreness. I saw that Landers Camp had a spring described as "fabulously flowing", and hobbled into the deserted campsite to take some naproxen and evaluate my two options: push on, or stay.
I could push on, maybe get another three miles. It's 43 miles to Highway 178. That would mean two 20 mile days (plus a bit extra for a necessary water stop at off-trail Willow Spring) to get into Lake Isabella on Saturday night. Stay the night, hitch back to the trailhead on Sunday (37 mile hitch, a bit much), get into Kennedy Meadows on Tuesday.
Or I could just call it a day; it's now 4:20 and I could do 15/15/13 days, get into Lake Isabella on Sunday afternoon, do shopping, and take the Kern County transit bus on Monday. I have just enough food to pull tis off, and I figured that I'm really in no huge rush to get into the Sierra. I shouldn't really push it with this occasionally nagging sore shin thingy (it's not runner's shin splints, but feels somewhat similar though more sore than achy.) Besides, if I delay then maybe more snow will melt in the Sierra, if there's any left this year.
I decided to call it a day, though part of me really wanted to go on and get at least three more miles in. Sweeper showed up and filtered some water, and we both scooted off to a campsite a bit aways from Landers Camp. Landers Camp looked appealing with its campfire rings, some even with firewood ready to go, but there were beer bottle caps here and there and broken glass most everywhere, so we camped up in some boulders up the hill. It's unusual for me to camp with someone, and I've gotten past the "I'm lonely" stage and am pretty content being by myself out here camping. We talked a bit about resupply strategies past Kennedy Meadows, then both turned just after 8.