Day 44: (6.99 miles)
mile 645.01 – 652 Walker Pass
The alarm goes off at 5am. Were itchin for a real breakfast and we hear the hitch from Walker Pass to Lake Isabella can be pretty difficult. Remarkably our legs don’t feel too bad…for a little bit, then the shin thing starts up again and we pretty much have nothing but down hill.
Good thing there are lots of distractions like brilliant blue flowers and steep unstable cliffs to keep one focused on something other than ones feet and legs. Finally Walker Pass.
Paul signs the register, “2moremiles…time to zero”. We get to Hwy 178 and stick our thumbs out. Almost immediately a car pulls over. They are willing to give us a ride but they’re trail angels going to the Walker Pass campground to drop off a hiker (Pacman) and some trail magic. At least we scored some trail magic…Gatorade and an apple. Yum. We are not dejected because again not 5 minutes later another car pulls over and this time they are going to Lake Isabella.
They are two French tourists a little older than us traveling to the iconic west coast(ish) sights. They started in LA and for the life of them do not know why the travel agent told them to “see LA”. They said it was a waste of their time…Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, etc. They’ve been in the states nearly a month and have been to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas and were now on their way to Sequoia National Park and then Yosemite followed by San Francisco and home for a new grandchild. They asked us about our trek and what it was like, especially what we do about/for water. They pointed and asked about the interesting homes we saw along the road, and asked what people that live in such rural areas do for income. That question we could not answer as we wondered the same thing ourselves. They graciously drop us off at the Dam Korner in Lake Isabella. Whom do we see trying to hitch out of there but Why Not and the gang. We hang out the window and yell at them. They point and laugh in disbelief that we’ve caught up to them…sort of. They say they’ve been trying to hitch back up to Walker Pass for awhile. A county bus pulls in and we talk to the bus driver and ask what’s the best way to get up to the pass. He says the bus will take them at 11am to Onyx, and they could hitch from there, but it’s gonna be hard with such a large group…maybe they should split up. PocoLoco is now waving cash as an incentive to give them a ride. We start to laugh, and then ask the bus driver the most important question, “Where’s the best place for breakfast in this town?”.. The Dam Cafe of course! The town sits at the base of the dam for Lake Isabella and based on the water level of the lake that is fed by the Kern River, the town is in no danger. Inside the Dam Cafe we go, but first we exchange cell numbers with Why Not, and tell her we’ll ask some patrons inside the diner if they’re going toward Walker Pass. An older gentleman, 78 year old Mr. Huckleberry, speaks up that he can help but can’t take that larger of a group. A conversation begins and Mr. Huckleberry tells us colorful stories about his life as a WWII pilot, crop dusting in Australia, and flying over Mt. Whitney. We told him were going to summit Mt. Whitney and he told us he did that in 1959 and 1962. Later we realize Huckleberry is an unofficial Mayor or possibly the town greeter. We saw him every where we go and everyone knew him. We loved seeing him, he was such a lively character. After a hearty breakfast in which “Just Paul” (as Paul is now known as… he doesn’t
like any trail name suggestion) demolished the “Monster Omelet” In true hiker fashion, we come outside to find the clan dancing like highschool cheerleaders in the street trying to still get a hitch. We all laugh and we head to the motel for a shower and a bed.
The Isabella Motel looks like the “Bates Motel”, it’s old, fifties style, must have been something else in its day. We are able to get an early check in and head to our non air-conditioned room. Not to worry it’s only going to be in the low 100’s for the next two days, yuk. We stopped here to resupply so after a quick shower we are off to the post office to pick up the supplies. Unfortunately, the package was never forwarded from Hiker Town and we will have to get our supplies at the local market.
On our way we stop at Shady’s Bar for beers, it’s afternoon…Happy Hour, and 100 degrees,why not? We got some good intel from the bartender about the town and the hockey playoffs before venturing out into the heat and restocking our food bags.
We returned to the bar later that night and watched the Anaheim Ducks lose to LA Kings … ouch! I guess not everything can be roses. We did meet a friendly young couple from the LA area (Chicago Blackhawk fans) that were camping at Lake Isabella. Stacey assured us the Blackhawk would win the Stanley Cup. We shall see! Now to stagger (not because we’re drunk) back to our room.