16.7 miles (549.7 to 566.4)
Hikers pass my tent at 10:30pm. They sound like my 34-mile-day crew. Too bad I couldn’t night hike with them. I immediately fall back asleep. My alarm wakes me too soon at 3:45. Do I have to? Yeah, I really do. In a few hours, it’s going to be crazy hot. I need to get off this mountain and into town. I pack and leave by the light of my headlamp.
This morning, I’m slow. My blisters make each step awkward. I can’t get my legs into a steady pace. I make lots of goofy mistakes, like forgetting to put my hat away when I take out my umbrella. I’m not really getting anywhere, and while I’m flopping about the temperature is rising. This has to stop. I put in my earbuds and go.
With music directing my pace, the ridiculousness vanishes. My trail legs are back, and they make quick work of the miles. They carry me through a wind farm, down through the hot morning to Tehachapi Willow Springs Road. There’s a small water cache here. I’m still doing ok with the last of the eight liters I carried from Tylerhorse yesterday, so I cross the road and boogie through another (the same?) wind farm as the temperature continues to rise. I keep my music on repeat, the same album that got me to Hikertown. I’m making good time.
I seem to be the only one who didn’t get off the trail at Tehachapi Willow Springs Road. I don’t see another hiker from there to Highway 58. That’s ok. I keep my headphones in and cruise.
At the top of the climb, before a 3.3-mile descent to the highway, I stop in the thin shade of a juniper to eat lunch and call Tehachapi trail angels for a ride. Joy will pick me up in an hour and fifteen minutes, which should give me plenty of time to finish the 3.3 miles. I fly down the hill. Actually, I run. The trail isn’t slippery or rocky, and rather than fight gravity I let my body run when the slope is right.
The trail joins a paved road, which I follow to the place where the PCT crosses Highway 58. In Guthook’s app, this is where the Southern California section ends and the Sierra section begins. As I walk along the freeway toward the crossing, the magnitude of this accomplishment fills my eyes with tears. From Mexico, I’ve hiked out of Southern California. I’m really doing this. I’m a real thru hiker.
And I’m even more badass than I thought: I’m half an hour early. There’s no shade, so I open my umbrella. I plop down in the dirt – and immediately jump up. Hot! The ground is too hot to sit on. I look at my thermometer. 104 degrees at 1pm.
Right on time, Joy arrives. She takes me to her house. I shower and change into her daughter’s clean shirt and shorts, then we head over to her friends JD and Liz’s home for a Father’s Day barbecue. JD and Liz are also trail angels. I take a nap on one of their guest beds. I sign their PCT book. They treat me to a dinner of smoked tri-tip and sides. I arrived on the right night.
Tomorrow, Dad and Uncle Pete (Scarecrow) will arrive with my resupply box. Dad spent the last four days with his sister Martha. His foot is healing, but slowly; he won’t be able to return to the trail with me right away.
I might not return to the trail right away, either. Excessive heat is forecast to continue all week, and I don’t want to put my health in excessive danger. Also, my feet have erupted in blisters, probably due to long days in intense heat (really old shoes may have contributed as well). It would be nice to heal these blisters before setting out again. Plus, I haven’t had a day off in 200 miles. Two hundred miles without a zero! But I finished strong, in a heat wave, literally running down the trail. I’m going to be ok.
*More photos on Instagram.