Location- Evacuated Ranch
Distance Traveled Today- 13.4 on trail
Distance Traveled Total- 669.4 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 90s 100s
Pain level- low
Spirits/Morale- very bummed out
Days without shower- 2
Today was probably the craziest day so far. The temperature was set to get into the triple digits, and I was not looking forward to it.
Since I hiked late last night, I got a later start this morning, at about 7 am. To my complete inconvenience, the trail continued to be mostly broken up rock. So, it was Katana carries galore. It was so broken up, that I was stumbling in quite a few areas, and even had a good sized chunk of granite flip up and smack my ankle. By 8 am, I already felt like I was cooking alive. Luckily it was a short and gradual uphill, before a long downhill.
By 11 am, it was miserable hot, and I only had a little over 8 miles completed. Right before another good 700 ft climb, I saw a small grouping of 3 pine trees, with two of them the perfect distance for a hammock. I didn’t even hesitate. I set up shop, and called it a day for the rest of the morning and afternoon. I had no intentions of taking another step in the sun until after 5 pm. I set out Katana’s water, tethered her to my hammock, and passed out for a nap.
I woke up a little after 1 pm, sweating. Katana was laying against the tree, passed out. I basically spent the next 4 hours staring at the trees, napping, and working on my journals.
A little after 4 pm, I noticed a light brown haze coming over the top of a ridge. I knew it was smoke right away, but I couldn’t smell anything. I waited for my 5pm deadline, packed up, and continued north, Katana on my shoulders. The heat was still intense, but the sun had abated a little.
After another two miles, as I rounded up onto the ridge at the top of the 700 ft climb, I saw a thick plume of smoke rising up over the distant ridge that I was to climb next. There was a group of about 6 other hikers standing just over the Crest of the ridge, debating over what to do. I joined the pow wow, as we surveyed the terrain in front of us and explored options. There was no water for nearly 20 miles back towards Walker Pass where we came from, but there was water a little over 2 miles in front of us, towards the fire that was burning intensely just on the far side of the ridge. After 20 miles of no water sources, everybody had next to nothing for water, including me; I had half a liter left. Going back was not an option, everyone needed water.
We noticed that there was a rough dirt road and what looked like a ranch at the bottom, open end of the canyon. We decided that we’d make for the water, then trail blaze down towards the bottom of the canyon, find the dirt road, and make for the house/ranch. The water was on the far side of the canyon from the house, a distance of maybe 2 miles.
We hit the water to find more hikers sitting tight, also debating what to do. All in all, there were probably about 15 people, and dark was setting in fast. Some people wanted to stay put, some wanted to head south back to Walker Pass, and others wanted to make for the dirt road.
After grabbing a couple liters, myself and some others headed up the trail a little ways, found a good spot to descend the couple hundred feet towards the bottom of the canyon, and went for it. It was still steep, but we soon managed to pick up a horse trail, which then led us to tire tracks, which then lead us down to the sandy dirt road. We followed it for a little over a mile before hitting the ranch property. It was completely dark, and so was the house. Whoever lived there had evacuated, but left all their horses, who were wandering around their corrals.
Seven of us walked around the property to the front, further down the dirt road, then made camp in a flat spot about 200 yards from the house.
I’m cowboy camped next to a stack of dried wood, with Katana curled up next to me. I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight or tomorrow, but the general consensus is to walk the dirt road. Someone with a map said that it eventually ran back into the road that led into Lake Isabella.
I’m really upset about the timing of this fire. It’s almost certain that this section of trail will closed; how much of it, I don’t know…