Tehachapi Pass

Gamble Spring Canyon (PCT Halfmile 545.2) to Tehachapi Pass (mile 566.5)
(21.3 miles, +3,400/-4,200 feet).

After my monster day yesterday I thought today would be easy.

Just 21 miles to Tehachapi Pass?  Ha!

I was so wrong.

As it turns out, there was a lot more snow than I was expecting.  I thought maybe there would be 2 or 3 miles of it.

Try 10!

And I was trying to get the last bus back to Lancaster before dark, so I didn’t even have what few hours there are in a December day.

So, if anything, today was an even bigger day than yesterday, especially with my calves screaming at me for a stretch at every fence post I passed.

I did have one thing in my favor: last night was probably the best sleep I have ever gotten in a tent.  It was quiet and the air was perfectly calm, just the right humidity.  It was a perfect temperature for snuggling in a sleeping bag, somewhere maybe ten degrees north of freezing.  It was a moonless night.  And somehow I didn’t even hear jets passing high overhead.  It was as if a supernatural being had created a vast sensory deprivation chamber tuned perfectly to lull me to sleep.

I drifted off around 7:30pm and didn’t wake up until 3:30am!  And after a quick pee I went right back to sleep for another two hours.

And I would need every minute of that beauty sleep.

By 6am I was packed up and on trail.

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Time to go!

By 6:30am there was a rosy pink sunrise over snowy Mount Baden-Powell and the Angeles Crest.

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Another bit of the PCT in the distance there
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Looking back on Gamble Spring Canyon
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Looking ahead to Covington Moutain

By 7am I hit my first real snow.  Only 2-3 inches at first, it had a thin crusty layer that would not support my weight (making the microspikes I brought useless!).  With each step, I sunk in a little and it started to slow my pace.

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Start of the snow

But I was still in very high spirits.  The contrast of snow and sand was stunning.

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A beautiful transition
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The hillsides varied in shades of snow

Above 5500 feet the snow started getting deeper.  My feet were sinking 5 inches with each step.

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Snowy PCT

I had not planned on working up such a sweat, so I was thrilled to stumble on some quite unexpected trail magic.

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Whose name got scratched out?
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Trash cans, hiker boxes, food, and water
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Emergency provisions

After gulping down a magic water bottle, I continued my trudge.  The snow got deeper.  But boy was it worth it!

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Coyote tracks
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Holy cow!
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A pine above 6000 feet
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Old school
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The Tehachapis
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Mount Covington

I thought the going would get a little easier after I topped out at 6200 feet above sea level.  In particular, there is a steep part where the trail drops down to 5500 feet, and that seemed to be where the snow started this morning.

But I soon figured out that the north facing slopes held snow all the way down to 4500 feet.  And the PCT was basically winding in and out of canyons facing north.  And that meant I had snow almost all the way down to Willow Springs Road.

I tried to pick  up the pace, but that’s tough to do in calf-deep snow.

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Making my way down
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The winter sun
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Looking back on my footprints
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The gorgeous Tehachapis
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Snowy shadow selfie
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Done with the snow yet?
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D’oh!

I sat for a long break at the first dry spot on trail.   I felt hopeful it would get easier, but I also felt wistful because it was so beautiful and I didn’t want to rush it.

Even the Oak Creek Wind Farm was pretty in the snow.

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Turbines above
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Turbines below
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Looking back towards Mount Covington
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Is that the end of the snow?
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Nope
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Spectacular Oak Creek Canyon
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Yes, this is the last snowy hillside

By 11:30am I was back down in the Joshua Trees on dry trail.

It’s really lovely to have these extreme experiences.  I would never have appreciated the last two miles to Tehachapi Willow Springs Road as much if I had not worked so hard to get here!

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Much appreciated dry trail
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Oak Creek

There was a lovely picnic bench awaiting me at Tehachapi Willow Springs Road when I finally finished the first 13 miles.  I had just barely managed to eke out 2 miles an hour, and that was trying my absolute darnedest.

I took a long lunch.  My calves were happy.

I did some math and realized I needed to go faster than my normal pace to finish out the day in time for the bus.  So I put on some great climbing music and away I went.

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Looking back on Mount Covington
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An unnecessarily nice bridge

The wind farm was sort of ho-hum, but I was focused on making good time and soon I had some nice no-wind-farm views.

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A ridge above Tehachapi Pass — oops there’s a wind farm there too!

I had about an hour to do the last three miles, but it was all downhill and then flat so I made it!

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Mission accomplished

I called Kern Transit to request a stop, and just then a very loud train rolled by.  The woman on the other end of the line seemed totally unfazed by the state of our conversation.

Maybe this is what conversations with my children will be like when I’m 80…..

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