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Day 39 – May 12, 2022

Mile 638.4 to 652.1 (Walker Pass/Ridgecrest, CA)

13.7 trail miles | 13.5 tracked miles | 1,378 ft elevation gain | 51.8 F / 11 °C

I hiked 14 miles to Walker Pass today, which now feels short to me. It’s funny how my definition of ‘short’ has changed in just 39 days!

I woke up around 6am, while Joe, and Michael hit the ground running at the crack of dawn, but I still managed to perform a 10 before 10 (10 miles hiked before 10am.)

The scenery and terrain were mostly the same as the past two days. The trail hugged private property and followed a rough dirt road for 2.2 miles, but it was a better experience than my last road hike. As usual, all water sources were dry.

The path was mostly flat until the descent down to Walker Pass, which allowed me to maintain a good pace.

I arrived at the eerily quiet Walker Pass around 11am. The highway was deserted except for occasional truck traffic, and I figured that hitch hiking to Ridgecrest would be an unlikely endeavor. I noticed a sign advertising an overpriced “hiker taxi” and called, but the sole operator was out of town and referred me to his friend who never returned my call.

Eventually I joined a group of hikers further down the highway. Among them were Joe, and Michael, who, despite arriving ahead of me, were still waiting for a ride.

Luckily, we managed to get in touch with a local “trail angel” who agreed to come pick us up for a “donation.”

There are two types of trail angels on the PCT: those who offer their services out of kindness—such as the generous folks who maintain and resupply water caches—and those who basically run illegal businesses. While it’s okay to collect a fee for a service, picking up hikers for a ‘required’ donation is simply a way to make tax-free cash while dodging insurance requirements and business licenses.

We managed to pack 10 hikers and all our gear into the trail angel’s SUV, which was like playing a game of human Tetris. The stench was probably revolting, but I don’t think anybody cared.

The conversation on the way to Ridgecrest naturally turned to food, and we opted to get dropped off by a Mexican restaurant and have lunch together. At a first glance, the restaurant looked closed, but I’m sure that the owners appreciated the patronage of ten hungry hikers.

Mexican restaurant in Ridgecrest, CA

We still had time before our hotel check-in time after lunch, so we went Starbucks for coffee and dessert.

Ridgedrest is another depressing suburban town that is eerily similar to Tehachapi, save for the incredible views of the jagged Sierra Nevada peaks in the distance.

We resupplied at the Walmart supercenter, and somehow, I ended up with an entire tub of ice cream, though I blame Joe for being an enabler.

Great shopping opportunities in Ridgecrest, CA

At the hotel, I briefly reconnected with real life and worked from my phone for a couple of hours while lying in bed and eating my tub of ice cream. #lifegoals

We spent the rest of the afternoon doing laundry and hanging out by the hotel pool and hot tub. Once again, doing laundry was a minor adventure. Michael and I struggled to figure out how to start the coin-operated machine. Eventually, I realized that we had to insert quarters in pairs into the slots. The eighties have called and want their washing machine back…

Best Western China Lake Inn, Ridgecrest, CA

I’ll be back on trail tomorrow morning. Ridgecrest was just a pit stop, but an enjoyable one as tonight may be my last night in a bed for a while. Next stop: Kennedy Meadows, CA, the gateway to the Sierra Nevada!

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