Started: 09:30 @ MM 558.5 – Tehachapi, Willow Springs Rd (Elevation 4,139ft)
Finished: 11:40 @ MM 566.4 – Tehachapi, Highway 58 (Elevation 3,844ft)
So Tehachapi turned out to be a really neat trail town. My positive experience was due, in no small part, to the kindness and generosity of an amazing Trail Angel by the name of Dalton. When I arrived in Tehachapi a fellow thru-hiker gave me Dalton’s number. I am generally a pretty self-reliant type of person and definitely not in the habit of asking complete strangers for favours. However, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I just picked up the phone and called. I asked Dalton if he would be willing to drop myself and Butterfly back out on the trail, so that we could slack pack an 8 mile section to the east of town. Dalton was happy to help and arranged to pick us up from the Best Western after breakfast.
Dalton dropped us at Willow Springs Road (where I’d hitched into town from the previous day). Butterfly and I set off for the next road crossing at Highway 58 and Dalton said he would pick us up there in a few hours. With little more than 2L of water, our packs were ridiculously light and we made great time. The air was cool, and for once the wind was behaving. We hiked together and talked for the entire 8 mile wind farm traverse. Butterfly was not only great company but also an electrical engineer. What he didn’t know about wind farms would fit comfortably on the back of a postage stamp. Before I knew it the Highway appeared below us and the 8 miles was done. We reached the overpass and, with precision of a Swiss timepiece, Dalton was there to collect us.
On the drive back to town Dalton openly discussed his same sex marriage to his partner David and the challenges of being openly gay in a surprisingly conservative part of California. He also talked about his early life in the Deep South and I quickly came to admire, not only his openness, but also his courage. It took real conviction for him to remain true to himself and his sexual identity, particularly growing up in a part of America that traditionally has a low tolerance of such liberal lifestyles. I really liked Dalton!Before dropping us back at the hotel, he offered to drive me to the bigger, edge of town grocery stores so that I could shop for my resupply. The next section of trail was tricky and I hadn’t completely decided upon my strategy. This was no problem for Dalton, we would pop back around 4 o’clock! Again he was there bang on time, took me to three separate stores and even came in the big grocery store with me to help me find stuff … What an Angel !!Back at the BW the Colorado Hiker Flash were in something of a clusterfuck with their resupply strategy for the Sierras. There was much talk of snow shoes and ice axes and to be honest, it was making me feel a little squirrely. What we needed was a good sushi feast … and so it came to pass that I spent the rest of the evening shoving raw fish in my pie hole and trying to blow my face off with the wasabi.The next morning The Flash were gone, they’d left for the trail at what felt like the middle of the night. I didn’t envy them the early morning winds and arctic temperatures. I, by contrast, enjoyed a leisurely morning, a hearty breakfast and waited patiently for UPS to deliver my new kicks. At this point I must say a very, very big thank you to Hobbit and Tinkerbell who so generously offered to cover the cost of my new footwear and keep me on the trail. Thank you guys, you rock!Once I was re-shod I went walkabout. I couldn’t afford a third night of luxury in the BW so I planned to spend my final night with the rest of the Hiker Trash at the airport. The City of Tehachapi very kindly allowed thru-hikers to camp on grassy corner of the airport in return for a nominal $5 donation. There were lots of familiar faces and none more so than my old buddy Chance. We had parted company back in Cajon Pass and apart from a brief rendezvous at Hiker Heaven, I hadn’t seen him since. It transpired that the Hungry Horse had turned into a Crazy Horse, hiking 28, 30 and 34 miles in a day! Needless to say he was now paying the price and had been in Tehachapi for almost a week, licking his wounds. We planned to head out the following day and I would keep the Crazy Horse on a tight bridle! But before that there was the small matter of another big feed to contend with. Chance had some friends passing through town and they were keen to take us out for dinner. Thai was the cuisine of choice and we had the most convivial evening with fabulous food, wonderful conversation and lots of laughter. The evening was made all the more special when Dalton arrived and I was able to meet his partner, David. It had been a really great couple of days in Tehachapi. I’d eaten lots of fabulous food and met some even more fabulous people. It would be sad to leave but the mountains were calling and the trail wasn’t going to hike itself!