Mile 583.3 to 603.9 = 20.6 miles
I'm not going to tell you about my day, I'm going to tell you all about how this trail is not a joke, and how certain sections are not for beginners, end of discussion.
I joke that grant and I are two of the fat, old slow kids on trail, because we only do 20 mile days, and we like to drink beer, but really, we are well oiled machines at this point. We also had previous trekking experience before the start of the trail. We have upped our game considerably in the past 45 days, and approach each day's challenge calmly and confidently.
Tehachapi to Walker Pass is one of the most challenging, hot, dry, sometimes steep sections of the entire trail. After Landers camp spring, 7 miles past Robin Bird spring, the next water source is supposedly a mud seep where you must dig a hole and wait for a puddle to fill before scooping it into your water filter bag; and that is 26 hot miles away plus a mile off trail to find, that is unless you go to a scum covered cow trough 1.5 miles off trail with dead rats and birds floating in it, also with sketchy flow at best.
We know this because there is a "water report" - a freely available, well published, crowd sourced resource detailing where all of the possible trail water is and how good it is. Almost everybody knows about the water report and carries it with them, either on a smartphone or in paper form. It is also "easy" to deal with finding water because we are all strong hikers who have hiked 600 miles through the desert to get to this point.
There is a certain book/ movie out there that I loved, and has inspired many people, women in particular, to get outdoors and do something bold with their lives. Unfortunately, the author started her journey at this challenging section, so there are tons of people following her footsteps exactly. But this is one of the biggest droughts of California's history.
One lady in particular we met stands out, and is so upsetting I can't even begin to process my feelings. We met her at the end of the debacle, so didn't witness it all firsthand but this is her story:
She set out from Tehachapi having never even been hiking before (according to her, that is first hand conversation). Her husband dropped her off, and that was it. She is very overweight, and had bought all her stuff at big 5 including a bear canister. I don't mean to be a gear elitist, as their are many people who look down their noses at my off-the-shelf rei purchases, but you might imagine they sold her one of everything and the weight added up.
I don't know how far she made it before my friend got to her, but I believe it was about two days and 15-20 miles in. Her knees were destroyed and her pack felt so heavy that she decided to lighten the load by throwing all her food and cookset by the side of the trail and kept going.
I believe at this point other hikers had already given her water (putting their own lives in danger), but even if she had had the physical ability to carry the proper amount of water (at least 5-6 liters at her slow pace and for dry camping) she only had a 2 liter capacity and had already run out several times. She was encouraged by other hikers to turn around early on, but she wouldn't, and was even found considering wandering down an abandoned dirt road to try to get back to town. Other hikers again rescued her from herself telling her it didn't go anywhere, there was obviously no traffic, and no known water. I should mention she had never heard of the water report, had no maps, and her cell phone was dead after the first day, not that there was service after the first day anyways.
So she keeps going (!)
She must have made it to Golden oak spring, again without capacity to carry enough water. Past here is about when our friend found her. Here she was in no condition to safely go back or be alone, and he didnt want to hike backwards with her, but he knew another friends parents would be trail angeling ahead, so he fed her, gave her water, carried extra for her, and hiked her speed for two days to Robin Bird spring, amounting to something like 9 miles a day. At one point he tried carrying her pack for her, but gave up soon as it was ridiculous. She was so slow, that the last three miles he ran out of water and had to leave her for his own safety saying he would come back for her if she didn't make it by dark.
She made it out, got her ride, even got some pain meds for her knees. I assumed she was on a short first time trip and before I knew all the details laughed and said she had picked a pretty gnarly section for her first time hiking or backpacking, but when I asked her how far she had planned on going, she said she didn't know!!! Nothing she said made sense, so the best we can surmise is that she thought she would just keep hiking the trail towards Canada!
One of the "humorous" parts of the story is that somebody picked up her kitchen gear thinking a thru hiker had accidentally forgotten it, and carried it up to bird spring where she got it back!
OK, so anyways, I love that "Wild" has inspired people, women, that they can do something big, get outdoors, take care of themselves, but Cheryl Strayed was not this unprepared. She had been hiking and was physically fit, just hadn't been backpacking. Part of why her pack "monster" was so heavy is because she carried a ton of water. She had maps, a plan, and in those days did not have a thousand other hikers to bail her out, nor a smart phone and water report (point being it is much easier for us 15 years later). She was much better prepared and stronger than she makes herself out to be in the book and movie. I am sad that so many elitist pct hikers say negative things about her (guess they are sad they suck at writing) but unfortunately the so-called Wild effect is a real and potentially deadly phenomenon out here.
The other sad thing is that woman likely will never go hiking again. You tube videos are no substitution for experience (yes, she said that's how she learned about/trained for backpacking), and the way you learn is by starting small for f's sakes! Backpack three miles to a god damned lake! Have so much fun and let your body recover, then go from there. Don't start from Tehachapi during a drought in 90+ degree temps!!!
Look folks, hiking in the desert is no joke. You can easily die. Our friend and other hikers saved her life, and she might not even know it.
Thanks readers, this shite scares me, and worrying about myself is hard enough. Now everybody drink a beer, hike, and go jump in a lake.