Jacob Leistra / "Game Boy" / PCT 2019

Days 35 and 36: Tehachapi

Mile 566.5 - Zero miles on trail

My first night in Tehachapi was June 12th, and it was a memorable one.

Here’s the setup: I had pushed 32 or so miles to HWY 58 in hopes of catching the last bus into town. Willow Springs Road, about 8 miles before the highway, is a major hitchhiking spot for getting into Tehachapi. I decided to push the 8 miles to the freeway so I could avoid a longer water carry out of Tehachapi. The first water is around mile 583, so adding 8 miles (and a liter+ of water) sounded terrible. Willow Springs also had a trail angel list with numbers to call for getting rides into town. There was even a service advertising that they would message trail angels on your behalf to find you someone available. That sounded great, as I had intermittent reception and wanted to keep moving. As I was hiking to the highway, I sent over a text to that service asking for a ride. The person on the other end replied with: “Take the bus or message another number.” Wow, so helpful, many thanks! /sarcasm. Luckily this was the only “bad” experience I had with anyone from Tehachapi.

The last bus was 5:45 PM. It was 3:30, I was 7 miles away, and the trail slowly dropped in elevation the whole way there. Basically, Han Solo to Chewie: “Punch it!”

I was jogging for a good amount of the hike, and I got to the highway in time for the bus. Alas, I didn’t need it, because an awesome retiree named Ron was dropping off Waypoint and Pusher, two cool hikers I’ve seen a few times. I hopped in his GMC Yukon and he drove me to Tehachapi.

He dropped me off at the airport park as hikers are allowed to camp there for $5. It was gorgeous, but I decided not to stay because a sign said the sprinklers would be on at 8 PM. Instead I walked to the Red House BBQ, partly for some dinner and partly because I heard they offer free camping in their backyard. I didn’t even get to place my order before the owner came out and offered to let me camp in the backyard. She pointed out the extension cords for charging, gave me the wifi password, and made sure I had water. Truly one of the nicest people I’ve met so far. I wish I caught her name.

I camped out back with Cheesus, Thanksgiving, and His Nibs. The sleep was restless as we were within a few hundred feet of some train tracks. If there’s anything I know about Tehachapi now, it’s that trains are/were the lifeblood of the town. Every 30 minutes or so a long cargo train would pass by and blare its horn. I’m surprised I slept at all.

The next day the rest of the gang showed up as I was eating at Kohnen’s Bakery, a quaint German bakery on the main drag of town. I consumed copious amounts of pastries and coffee and browsed the internet. When everyone showed up we made a plan: resupply food, go see a movie, get into the hotel, go eat. We executed the plan perfectly.

We walked to Albertson’s for a solid resupply of $0.69 Clif bars and pink unicorn Pop Tarts (among other things). We saw Dark Phoenix and ate large bags of popcorn, of which only the latter was worth spending money on. We checked into the hotel and showered. We stumbled on the farmers market and got elote, tamales, and local beer. Then we headed to Red House BBQ after my glowing review, and I think everyone agreed with me: solid food, cool spot, great service, obnoxious trains.

We woke up the next morning with about 10% interest in actually hiking, so we decided to take another rest day in Tehachapi. We spent the day lazily drinking and eating some great food. We watched a couple episodes of the HBO miniseries Chernobyl. We hopped in the pool and hot tub at the hotel. We played card and “dice” games (in Pass the Pigs, the dice are literally pigs). We had a great time, and I didn’t remember to take photos of most of it.

*Main Photo: The view of the Tehachapi water tower from the adjacent park. June 14