Applause. That’s how every hiker is welcomed to Kennedy Meadows by their peers. We got our round of it this afternoon, when we officially completed the PCT’s Southern California section. 702 miles — or 1.130 kilometres — of desert hiking, which is pretty rad. Or in the catchphrase of our Latino hitch into Tehachapi: “That’s wassup”.
For the past two months, we walked through barren hills and green forests. We admired the yucca plants, Joshua trees and colourful flowers, while becoming skilled at avoiding poison oak and poodle dog bush. We hiked through snow and fog, were sandblasted by the wind and melted in the heat. We day hiked, night hiked and siesta-ed during the hottest hours. In short: the desert was diverse, challenging and often surprising.
We are fortunate to have made it here without any real injuries, although the hiker hobble most certainly is real. This well-known hiker phenomenon turns my body into that of a 90-year-old for the first two minutes after I get up, no matter how briefly I sat down.
The desert also reminded us that growth is often painful and messy. While we were hoping to hike bigger days by now, our average daily pace has plateaued at 27 kilometres. Not getting frustrated when we see other hikers fly by is a lesson we are still learning.
Our town days in the desert were almost as colourful as the time we spent on trail. From being offered rides and a bottle of wine to accepting cold drinks, breakfast and coffee from numerous trail angels.
We slept in makeshift bunk beds next to a creepy, old doll in Big Bear and stayed with a gun loving Scientologist in Wrightwood. In Tehachapi, we fell victim to the elderly widow’s jokes while hitching a ride and were subjected to her impressive vocal range, as she burst into song before letting us out of her car.
My new favourite town hobby is rummaging through hiker boxes on the hunt for free food and gear. I even ate a box of cookies someone had left behind on a bench with a note saying they had never been opened, because free calories.
Tomorrow, we head out into the Sierra Nevada with a new pair of shoes, ready to take on different challenges and be rewarded with stunning views. But before we do, here are some random facts about our desert hike: