May 2, 2018
I awoke the next morning and packed everything up in anticipation of getting a reliable ride to Tehachapi. It was not to be. I saw neither hide nor hair of Richard all morning, but I remained optimistic by posting a message to the PCT Trail Angel Facebook page that I’d be hitching into Tehachapi that day and asking if anyone might be able to host myself and maybe a friend for a few days while I recovered from an injury? I got overwhelmingly positive responses and felt sure I’d have somewhere to stay once I reached Tehachapi, but I still saw no sign of Richard.
All the hikers I’d met last night had hiked out that morning, but the Cling-On was still there. He’d taken on some side jobs in exchange for food and a place to sleep for a few nights, so he was wandering around Hikertown doing odd tasks. I was glad to see him earning his food, even if it meant I couldn’t avoid talking to him if only in brief conversations.
I know I probably sound like a real bitch, and maybe that’s exactly what I was being at the time. I suppose you’d have to be there and make your own judgments.
At long last, around 10am, Richard arrived. He said he wasn’t able to find me a ride but he could take me as far as Lancaster and I could take a bus from there to Tehachapi. But he was leaving right that moment, he said, so was I ready?
“Yes!” I grabbed my pack to emphasize the fact that I’d been ready for quite some time.
I hopped into the truck. Richard said he was going to stop by the general store real quick and offered to give a ride to whoever wanted to go, so a few more hikers jumped in. A good 10 minutes passed before we finally left Hikertown and drove the few miles up the road to the general store.
“Alright, let’s go get some food. Then I’ll take you to Lancaster.” Richard said. I must have had a dubious expression on my face because Richard smiled and said, “I’ve just got a few things to do, it won’t take long.”
I left my pack in the truck, bought a Dr. Pepper in the store, and sat out on the patio waiting for Richard. After about 20 minutes he breezed past me on his way across the lot with one of his employees and said, “not much longer!”
An hour passed. I’d already broken down and bought a street taco at the diner, eaten it, and cleared my dishes, and still, I sat waiting.
I kept reminding myself that beggars can’t be choosers, that I was getting a free ride to a city half an hour away and I needed to be thankful for that ride, whenever it happened. The bust ride from Lancaster to Tehachapi would take about 1.5 hours, and I had no idea when I’d be arriving in Lancaster, so making plans for my arrival in Tehachapi was difficult.
At least my foot was starting to feel better. When I woke that morning after a heavy nights’ sleep the blister didn’t hurt nearly as bad and there was no more yellow fluid draining out of it so I removed the thread, applied antibiotics, and let it dry. That morning as I was waiting for Richard to appear I read a status update posted by a former director/employer of mine on Facebook. Apparently, a very minor cut on his foot over a year ago resulted in a series of infections, various treatments, and eventually the complete removal of his foot! I was shocked! Reading his account helped to put my priorities into better perspective. No thru-hike is worth possibly losing your foot! Better to take several days off and play it safe. If I want my feet to carry me to Canada and still be in good enough condition to keep hiking and running afterwards, I needed to baby them.
We’d set out from Hiketown in Richard’s truck a little after 10am. It was now almost 12:30 and I hadn’t seen Richard at all. Meanwhile, the other hikers had gotten a ride from someone else back to Hikertown.
The whole time I sat waiting I watched as a couple of maintenance workers fixed a cooler in the general store, chatting with me idly once in a while when they passed me on the way to their truck for tools. When they finished their task around 1:00pm, they offered to give me a lift to Lancaster. I accepted instantly, grabbed my pack out of Richards truck, and we were off.
My ride gave me a nice scenic tour of downtown Lancaster before dropping me off right at the bus station. It was super nice of them to show me their town – they were obviously very proud of it. The only problem was that I needed to use the restroom something fierce! When we finally arrived at the bus stop, I gave them some cash and thanked them profusely, then waited for them to pull away before dashing off to find a bathroom, STAT. Later, while I waited for the bus, I made a phone call to my brother in Florida and we chatted for a while, then I rode the bus for an hour and a half to Tehachapi. I settled happily in my seat with my pack propped next to me, glad to finally be making some real progress.
A gentleman named Dalton had agreed to pick me up at the stop outside of Kmart and take me to Wits’ End, a popular stop for hikers in downtown Tehachapi. Dalton and his partner David own Wits’ End. It’s a second property that sits right next to their home. It was under construction but the main living area was set up just for hikers. There was a long table where we could sit and rest, eat snacks, and decorate our own prayer flag to hang on a line across the ceiling with others. There was a substantial hiker box for food and another for gear, and Dalton and David ran a little resupply stop just for hikers so they’d have somewhere other than the post office to mail their resupply packages. The post office in Tehachapi is way across town and very hard to get to without hitching. I hadn’t known about Wits’ End, so all my packages were at the post office. I knew I’d be staying in Tehachapi for at least one zero if not two, so I wasn’t worried about it right then. The best part was that when I arrived, Ghosthiker was already there waiting for me!
David and Dalton were the sweetest trail Angels! They stayed open hours after they normally do to accommodate us and even invited us to eat dinner with them at a delicious local Mexican restaurant. David and I really hit it off. He’s a really technical, artsy theater guy and we chatted a lot about live theater. Ghosthiker encouraged me to share my random adventures and careers, and I did, but only after some prodding. I don’t like to dominate conversations with stories about myself. After the meal, we sat enjoying margaritas and played Top 5 Favorite Movies, and then they took us to the theater that David helped restore and where he serves on the board as an artistic director. The set for Steele Magnolias was up and it was absolutely beautiful. It felt surreal to be shown around a set silently waiting to come to life, while I was so far removed from that life now.
I told Dalton and David about the many offers I’d received from trail angels with places Ghosthiker and I could stay, and when I mentioned the names Scott and Jennifer, Dalton said, “Jennifer’s the one you want to stay with. They are the nicest people you’ll ever meet.”
Definitely the understatement of the century.
Jennifer picked us up at Wits’ End after our delicious dinner and took us 9 miles outside of town to her big, beautiful farm house on a hill. She showed us up to our rooms – that’s roomS, plural – and after we’d gotten hot showers she and her husband Scott insisted we have a beer and chat with them until bedtime.
Scott and Jennifer are both retired 2nd grade teachers with English degrees, so you can imagine just how well we got along. Scott is also a huge Star Trek nerd and was quick to point out that they’d purchased their home from a fellow nerd who’d designed their kitchen counter to be reminiscent of the original bridge of the Enterprise! It was so nerdy, I loved it!
I slept very well that night.