May 5, 2018
After another glorious nights’ sleep, waking up to French press coffee, and delightful conversation with our wonderful trail angel hosts, Scott and Jennifer took us to breakfast at Kohnens bakery. I got a delicious calzone-style breakfast thingy with sausage, cheese, and egg baked into a tasty bread loaf. I don’t know what it was officially called, but I definitely bought one to pack out with me (photos below). Next, we went to Wits’ End to mail my boots home, bid farewell to David and Dalton, and thank them profusely for all they’d done for us during our stay in Tehachapi. It was hard to leave. Then our hosts drove us out to the trailhead, where hugs were given all around and we promised to keep in touch.
As Ghosthiker and I hiked away we told each other not to look back, or else we’d be tempted to turn around and head straight back to town! It was Cinco de Mayo, after all! What better reason could there be to take yet another zero with our new friends? But alas, we hiked on.
It was seven miles uphill and though the heat wasn’t intense, it was terribly dry. We realized pretty quickly that we had just enough water to get us to the next water source, but with as dry as it was, we needed to be careful and ration it. We took a couple of nice breaks in whatever shade we could find and my shoes performed very well.
Since we started so late in the morning and it was so dry and windy, we were feeling pretty spent long before we finally reached Golden Oaks Spring, our intended camp for the night. That last mile, as it is with most “last miles” of the day, just felt like it went on forever. But it never got too hot and my shoes seem to be suiting me very well. I was pretty happy about that.
The water source was a natural spring that fed into a concrete cistern, and there was ample shade and flat spots for camping nearby. When we reached the spring in the later afternoon there were already several hikers setting up their tents or preparing to cowboy camp, none of whom we’d ever met before. One hiker named Bill arrived later in the evening and camped near us. His pack was TINY! He told us he’d just finished the Arizona Trail and was now attempting a yoyo of the PCT! We asked what his pack weighs and he said about 12 pounds with 6 days of food! We were thoroughly impressed.
Because of the natural water source, there was a lot of dense foliage and critters, especially frogs. Very loud frogs. Also mosquitoes and bats. After a delicious dinner (that tasty breakfast bun thing from Kohnans. Mmmmmm), I decided to top off my water bottle before bed so I wouldn’t have to do it in the morning, and while I bent to fill my bottle at the pipe a bat was making circles and swooping low over the concrete cistern full of algae-filled water. He was eating mosquitoes! Good job, bat. We are now friends.
A word on shoes. If you have a certain type of shoe that you have done all of your physical activity in thus far, including hiking, running, barhopping etc., your safest bet is to stick with what you know regardless of what the internet says. If you’re wanting to try different kinds of shoes please, please, PLEASE, for the love of all that is good and holy, take those shoes on an extensive hike of at least a week or more on the most varied train you can possibly find.
I have always done all my hiking and running in very sturdy, stable shoes like the Merrells and ASICS. But everything I read on blogs, various review boards, and even YouTube videos simply raved about zero-drop shoes for hiking, especially the Altra Lone Peaks, so that’s what I bought for my hike. It took me 500 miles to realize that this was a terrible, terrible mistake.
Now don’t get me wrong. The Lone Peaks felt fantastic at first, very roomy and super lightweight which is good if you’re trying to shed every extra ounce, but not so good if your feet are accustomed to excellent support in all of the right places and a sturdy soul to protect your sensitive feet from all the sharp rocks. What did protect my feet from sharp rocks at first was the very solid, custom-fit insoles I was using (another recommendation I’d read online). The combo was not a good one.
Despite all the trouble I was having with my feet, I was determined that the problem was not the Altras. How could it be? These were the gold standard in trail runners and I was determined to make them work for me. Now I know what you’re probably thinking. Why didn’t I follow my own advice and take the shoes on a good test hike? Well, prior to my hike I was living in Northern Indiana and it was January and February. Not only was there nowhere good and mountainous to hike (Indiana is quite flat in the northern region) but the land was covered in snow or wet and rainy. But I did my best. I took them out on the local trails, flat and well-maintained though they are, and also wore them several times on a treadmill at a steep climb. Insufficient testing at best, but it was all I had.
They seemed fine then but of course, I couldn’t know how they would handle themselves bearing 30 extra pounds of pack weight on rocky terrain in the intense desert heat. Sadly, much trial, error, and expense have gone into finding myself the right shoes.
So far the New Balance tennis shoes have been great and I can’t even believe my good fortune. God is truly smiling on me, at least for now. The moral of the story is that everyone’s feet are different and you’re better off hiking in the shoes you know than in any of the top 10 hiking shoes you’ll find praised online. Shoe reviews are fantastic and a great way to learn about the different types of shoes out there and what may or may not work for you but your feet are your biggest asset on the trail. Do not neglect them. Do not force them into shoes or socks or even an unfamiliar gate just because that’s what everyone else is doing or what someone else says is best. Listen to your body. Stick with what you know even if it means you’re wearing hefty hiking boots weighing an extra pound or two. It’s worth the weight. Anything you do for the good of your feet is worth every extra ounce you haul along with you on the trail.