I’m sO EXCITED in the morning – Walker Pass awaits! – that it’s easy to get up and moving, easy to roll out of camp despite being tired from the wind last night and the desert holding on for so many more miles and and and. I’m just ready to recoup in a town, even if that only means resupplying and going to the post office for my shoes. I hope it’ll set me straight, get me out of this funk I’ve been in. First, though, I gotta get there.
One of the first things I pass is a note in the sand about a particular view. There, off in the distance, so teeny-tiny the camera didn’t even pick it up, are some mountain peaks. The Sierra, maybe? Are we close enough to see them? Even if they’re not, I entertain the thought that they are, and it buoys me down the trail.
The trail is pretty run-of-the-mill desert-y today, but gentle, less sandy, and primarily downhill. So maybe nothing at all like the desert.
I’m rolling, keeping up with the Pack, passing folk when they take breaks. I feel strong, happy, so happy I sing along to my music.
Wrench catches me just before the Walker Pass Campground, and we chat for a second. He seems lonely, but he’s not stopping in town.
I roll into the campground desperate for the pit toilet – in avoiding digging a cathole, I’ve been counting on its existence, and I can’t see it from the register I scribble my still-new trail name in. Pineapple catches me, and we go down to investigate the remnants of Yogi’s trail magic – we’d heard about it, but we were a day too late. Oh well.
I find and utilize one of the cleanest pit toilets I’ve seen on the trail, then it’s back up, behind Evac and U-Turn, to Walker Pass itself.
As Pineapple and I arrive, the others are pulling away in an SUV. Pineapple runs over to see if they have room, and is traumatized when the driver rolls down his window for her, says nothing, and pulls away. Oh well.
Pineapple wasn’t planning on going into town initially anyway, so now she’s in a bit of a conundrum: should she move on, even though she’d have to backtrack to the campground to get water, or does she come get pizza, ice cream, and potentially donuts with us? She’s waffling when a hitch makes up her mind – Michael, a trail angel from Independence, is headed to Bakersfield, and is happy to give us a ride to Lake Isabella.
He shows us a preview of what we’re going to see in the Sierra; he goes hiking up there all the time, and his pictures are beautiful. So green! So blue! We ask him all about the area as we go; the ride is too short as he drops us at the post office, and we thank him profusely for his trouble.
Then shooooes! I don’t open the boxes yet, wait until we walk waaay down the street to the Vons Plaza where the others are having an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. After gorging myself, I open each like it’s Christmas. Altra Running, in their magnanimity, has sent me two pairs of shoes, two pairs of gaiters, a hat, and an awesome card – I’m squeeing over the contents as everyone coos. There’s a pair of Olympuses and a pair of brand new Lone Peaks – and I do mean brand new; they had a prototype of the 3.0 in my size, and they’re letting me try them out. I’m floored. I try both shoes on, settle on the Lone Peak 3.0s – I’ve been told to give the other pair to a hiker in need, and I’m going to figure that out as soon as I resupply.
Resupplying after eating is always best, and we do so quickly – Sprinkles, Homegrown, and Pineapple are trying to get back to the trail, while Wolf, Yoda, Evac, Outro, U-Turn, and I have all settled on staying the night in nearby Kernville. I still have to mail off my old shoes to Backpacker and figure out what to do with this other pair; Evac needs the Post Office too; the others, I think, are just ready for a break.
So the three that are trailbound get a hitch from Vons, and everyone else takes the bus to Kernville, Evac and I head to the post office. I go just next door to try to get a shipping label printed, fall into great conversation with the gentleman that runs the place about hiking and thruhikers and finding the time. I say go before you don’t, but then I’m not a business owner. He waves off my money once it’s done; only ten cents, but still. It’s kind – so much kindness on the trail.
I get the old shoes shipped off and the post office agrees to hikerbox the shoes for me there. I post about them on Facebook; wait for a message from whoever picks them up. Evac ships boxes ahead, and then we’re off to find a hitch to Kernville.
We’ve noticed Lake Isabella seems to have a bit of a meth problem; it’s been whatever because people are nice. As an apparent extension of that niceness, someone stops Evac and I in the street, asks if she can take our picture, because she just loves the hikers and asks everyone coming through if she can. Sure, we say, no problem, we strike a pose. Nono, she corrects us – take a picture of us with our phones. Thaaat’s where it gets kind of weird, and having had an expensive electronic device stolen out of my apartment by an addict before, I’m picturing having to potentially tackle a grown-ass woman in the street because my entire life is in my phone. But Evac hands hers over, and chuckling nervously, I hand mine over, too. She takes some pictures, looks like she’s backing away; I step forward, and she’s done, just like that. Wishes us a good day. It’s a weird experience to walk away from.
We barely have our thumbs out before we get a hitch; a firefighter who used to work in the area is vacationing with his family in Kernville, knows about the hikers. We have a good conversation about fire season and droughts before we’re dropped off in town.
We find most everyone at the Kern Lodge, where they’ve given us an apartment where everyone has cushy sleep space. So nice. We basically decide to take a Zero if we can get the place again; it works out, and I’m happy it’s a thing. We go to the store for town food – I cook alfredo sauce with broccoli, asparagus, and red pepper again, and we enjoy the pleasures of town and each other’s company until it’s actual 2am, when we figure, eh, might as well enjoy the pleasures of sleep.
Start: 641.9 • End: 652.1 • Day: 10.2
Notable Accomplishments: Lake Isabella and New Shoes! • Kernville and the Kern Lodge! • Stayed up talking til 2am!