Zippy and I wake early, sand in our eyes ears nostrils everywhere – and get a bit of a better look at our campspot. We did the best we could with what we were given, but it’s amusing to us in the light of day nonetheless.
It’s a town day – Tehachapi is calling, and the afternoon heat is threatening, so it’s up we go along the trail.
We’re up down up downing again today – climbing a bit more to drop into the canyon we were hoping to get to last night, then climbing like crazy, and back down to Willow Springs Road and Tehachapi.
We pass a couple from in a wash, one of the only decent campspots around. Glad we didn’t try to move forward; there aren’t even passable spots to sleep, really.
Onward, upward; Zippy is trailing behind somewhere as I sign the register at the top of the first hill and descend into the canyon. The other side of the canyon is foreboding, all switchbacks straight up the hillside, and I make it a point to enjoy the down – and being ahead for the moment – while I can.
I’m climbing soon enough, mangling a ginger chew to distract myself and watching the footprints – and tiny cougar pawprints; baby murder machines! – in the dust, trying to identify the shoe brand of each print. It’s so, so much up, and near the top I have to rest in the shade of a bush, where everyone – Zippy and the couple, Caterpillar and Turtle – catches, munches with, and passes me. Ah well. It was fun while it lasted.
I catch them all at a pretty cool cache – we’re told it was better stocked yesterday, but there’s water to camel up on and advice on the next shady spot. I chug 20 ounces of water before moving on.
Zippy decides she’s done for a bit when she hits the shady spot, but it’s nearly 11 and, shockingly, still comparatively cool. Hot, but cooler. So I press on – the shade ends relatively quickly, and while we’re now headed in a downward sort of tendency this burn area has zero shade.
Turtle and Caterpillar are so fast! Or maybe I’m just slowing down, since lots of people are passing me – the two of them, Spaceman-not-Spaceman, I, Robot. Slowly, gently, the windmills start to appear, marking our passing with their otherworldly humming.
It seems to take forever, but finally, the down is finished – I sign the register, and make my way out towards the road, and the RV, and the truck I remember from Ziggy and the Bear’s over 200 miles ago. Legend is there, giving rides and doing trail magic. Awww yisss.
Moses is, of course, standing there, with another crazy story about getting lost and then getting back to the road and then somehow getting ahead of me. Again. Caterpillar, at the behest of Legend, teases me with a soda before granting me my first sip. I, Robot is there, too, and Passport, and we all doodle on Gypsy, Legend’s truck, while Turtle and Caterpillar get a ride and the rest of us pile into Gypsy.
I’m in charge of the music as Gypsy takes us down the road – it’s old school and hip, all Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Buffett. Legend asks us all to say something we wouldn’t normally say to strangers, so that none of us will be strangers anymore. Nobody cops out1.
Legend takes us to the airport, where we unload and Pineapple, Sprinkles, Homegrown, Flaming Hot, and Yoda immediately load in to get Thai food. I’m not missing that, so it’s off to the King of Siam for tasty Thai. People decide to do the meal family style, but I feel like a miser when I decide to just eat my own dish.
Then it’s back to the airport, where I try to meet up with Zippy again and find I’ve been adopted by this group, the Wolfpack, by virtue of being Pineapple’s ladybro. It’s mostly people I’ve been hanging out with already – Yoda, Evac, Outro, U-Turn, Sprinkles, Homegrown, Pineapple, Toggle, Pickles, and the eponymous Wolf, who I’ve yet to meet – so it’s not too difficult to see myself hanging out with them more regularly.
The group decides to do the 8 miles between Willow Creek and Highway 58 tomorrow, to make it a nero rather than a lazybones zero, and spend the evening carousing until sleep beckons.
Start: 542.6 • End: 558.5 • Day: 15.9
Notable Accomplishments: Got to proper town after that crazy wind yesterday • Hung out with cool folks • Got 40 miles farther on the PCT in the time it took me to do the Colorado Trail (not including bonus detour miles)
 I say I used to be terrified of becoming a zombie, until The Walking Dead cured me of that affliction. It’s a strange fear, to be sure, but it was serious. Nightmares and everything.