Hikertown (PCT Halfmile 517.6) to Gamble Spring Canyon (mile 545.2)
(27.6 miles, +3,200/-1,600 feet).
Time for more PCT! I originally thought I could sneak in a 4 day trip from Tehachapi Pass to Walker Pass, but a big storm just came through and dumped snow all the way down to 4,000 feet.
80+ miles in 4 days in the snow with 10 hours of daylight? Hmmmmm, no.
So instead I thought I would finish off Section E from where I left off at Hikertown to Tehachapi Pass. It’s 48 miles, but the first third is an extremely flat walk across the Mojave Desert along the Los Angeles aqueduct, so it seemed doable.
The main challenge was water. There’s only one natural source at the halfway point in Tylerhorse Canyon, and sometimes it goes dry. I was probably too late for water caches to be stocked for Sobos, so I really needed that source to provide.
According to reports on Guthook from last month, it was sometimes dry and sometimes running. I thought that the recent storm would recharge the little canyon stream, so I decided to just go for it.
I left San Diego a little before 4am and made it to the trailhead for a spectacular sunrise.
This is usually the part of the trail where everyone complains about the heat and the wind. But today was the calm and even a little cold. I set out across high desert ranches with frosty sages and grasslands everywhere I turned.
After a mile or two I made it to the aqueduct.
After another mile or two, the aqueduct goes underground and heads straight across the valley for a very long time.
I tried walking on top of the pipe for a while, but the bumps on the seams are pretty pointy and not very comfortable. I tried matching my pace to the length of the sections, and that also didn’t work great, so I just walked next to the pipe on a makeshift trail or on the dirt road that followed the whole way.
At the low point of the valley, the pipe sits on some concrete pilings to allow water in a wash to go under.
There was the usual urban trash around, though I did find a shotgun shell lying next to a hair dye kit scattered all over as though it had been used right here.
Oddly enough when I looked behind me at exactly this point, there was an extraordinarily beautiful tree in the wash.
As I resumed walking, the trail slowly ascended through a thick Joshua Tree forest.
There wasn’t too much wildlife around, but there were lots of black beetles.
Eventually the aqueduct turns east and the PCT keeps right on following it for miles and miles. Every so often there is a concrete platform where workers can access it underground. I sat on one for lunch and listened to the water whooshing underneath as I reflected on my peanut butter sandwich.
By 1pm I reached the end of the aqueduct and started ascending through the Manzana Wind Farm.
By about 2pm I finally started climbing up into the Tehachapi Mountains.
Much to my relief there was water in Tylerhorse Canyon. Someone had built a nice collection dam that held enough water to fill my bottles up to my maximum capacity of 3.5 liters.
I had originally planned to camp at the water source in Tylerhorse Canyon, but I got there early. It only took me 9 hours to do 24 miles because of the easy terrain. And my calves were really feeling it! But I had about one to two hours of daylight left and the next canyon was only three miles away so I decided to press on.
Just as the sun was setting I turned a corner and there was Gamble Spring Canyon!
After more than 27 miles I was not content to find just any site. I wanted cell service, which I thought might be impossible because the canyon gets very narrow towards the valley. But sure enough, after walking down slope for about 5 minutes my phone showed those three letters that tech addicts love: LTE!
I pitched my tent, ate dinner, and texted my lovely wife.
A perfect way to end a perfect day.