Back in the summer of 2005, when I was 56, I ran and hiked the 2,200+
mile long Appalachian Trail end to end in a little less than five months.
In the summers of 2006 and 2007 I also completed all 26 sections of the
~500-mile-long Colorado Trail.
After I accomplished those goals -- with a ton of
crewing assistance by Jim -- I briefly had aspirations of
also completing all of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail by section-hiking
it over a period of several years.
That has not and most likely will not
ever happen, for several reasons -- I'm older now, I can't run any
more (walking is much slower!), the trailheads are farther apart and less-accessible
on the PCT than those on the AT, and Jim still remembers how hard it was to crew
for me with the RV and two dogs! He isn't eager to take on that role
again, even after all these years.
Sign at the Walker Pass Campground
As you can see from the map diagram above, the PCT runs through
predominantly mountainous terrain from the California-Mexican border to
the Washington-Canadian border.
Before doing the AT, the only sections
of the PCT I'd run were in southern California on or near the Leona Divide
50-miler course and a short segment in Oregon.
One of the reasons we chose to stay at China Lake Naval Air Weapons
Station this week is its proximity to the PCT. The closest trailhead, at
Walker Pass on CA 178, is about 25 miles from the RV park.
Historical markers at Walker
Pass, named after Joseph R. Walker,
who discovered the pass over the
Sierra Nevada Range in 1834.
I ended up doing two out-and-back hikes from that trailhead this week, one
south and one north.
Today Cody and I hiked south from Walker Pass
on the PCT in the Klavah Wilderness and back for a total of 3.1 miles.
The trail was smooth and easy to follow, the scenery and flowers were nice . . .
Hillside full of vibrant Desert
. . . but I felt uncomfortable with two men I
encountered on the trail and cut my hike short for that reason.
If there's anything I've learned about as a woman hiking solo on any
trail, it's to trust my intuition. I probably should have trusted it even more
and not gone back to hike north from Walker Pass the next day, but that's
another story for the next entry.
The PCT crosses CA 178 about 25 miles west of Ridgecrest. The
largest nearby city in Bakersfield.
I marked my
driving route in yellow on the map below. Our RV park at China Lake
Naval Air Weapons Station is the red dot and Walker Pass is the purple
dot. The PCT is the broken purple line running north to south on the
west side of US 395:
The elevation at our RV park on base is about 2,300 feet. It was a
gradual uphill drive the last ten miles, after I got to the part of CA
178 that is west of US 395. The elevation at Walker Pass
where the PCT crosses the road is about 5,250 feet.
After I passed the 4,000-foot elevation sign on CA 178 I began
seeing lots of Joshua trees, rather thick in some places. A little below
the pass I pulled off onto a short dirt road so I could take better
pictures of the trees and surrounding mountainsides:
Looking back down CA 178 toward
the valley with the towns of Inyokern and Ridgecrest
Note the slope above that is yellow, full of Wallace's
Wooly Daisies like the ones in a picture shown near the beginning of this entry.
I didn't realize when I took this photo that the PCT
north of Walker Pass goes along that slope, right through those flowers.
See the next entry for photos from that longer hike.
Even though there is parking on either side of the road at Walker Pass
where the PCT crosses CA 178, I missed it on the way to the trail this
morning. I drove about a mile farther until I saw a sign for Walker Pass
Campground, run by the BLM. I was able to park there and easily access
Campsite with a great view of
the surrounding mountains
My GPS track begins and
ends where I parked in the campground about 1/4 mile below the trail.
I added purple dots to show about where the trail continues north
toward and across CA 178, the solid gold-colored line:
I followed signs in the campground up a hill to the trailhead
for the PCT and headed south.
PCT SOUTH OF WALKER PASS
Because much of the PCT -- including the short section I walked
today -- is in wilderness areas, there are very few trail markers
or other "improvements" to the trail.
I couldn't have been happier with the trail itself -- hard,
smooth sand for 1.6 miles south of the campground to the
point where I turned around, and gradually up and down between 5,035
feet to 5,531 feet elevation per my GPS.
There were also tons of wildflowers along the way and I was totally
distracted by them. Many of the pictures I took had flowers in them. I've
included some of the varieties here and have done my best to identify
These photos are in order outbound:
Desert Sunflower AKA Desert Gold
White Daisy Tidy-Tip, blue Phacelia, yellow
Devil's Lettuce (??)
Above and below:
Freckled Milkvetch, I think
Front half of a non-venomous
California Striped Racer; the back half stretched
across most of the trail to the right but Cody and
I got around it OK.
Looking back at Cody
A little farther beyond this point, we turned around.
The scenery was more interesting to me going northbound,
back to my car in the campground, because of the mountains in the
Above and below: Baby
Blue Eyes (??)
This trail goes down to the Walker Pass CG,
where I parked. The PCT continues up here, to the right.
There were nice views to the large valley ten miles to the east
as I drove back down to US 395 from 5,250 feet to about 2,300 feet.
I took several more pictures of the Joshua trees as I was driving
This was a really short segment of the 2,650-mile PCT but I liked it enough
to come back the next day and head north from Walker Pass to see what was
in the next section. The trail was smooth, the views were scenic, the
grade was gentle, and, in early April, there were lots of wildflowers.
Next entry: scenic hike #2 on the PTC, going north
5½+ miles from Walker Pass to Mt. Jenkins
and back, with a nasty surprise when I got back to my car
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil