Pacific Crest Trail hikers soon to arrive in Tehachapi


PCT Hikers from June 2016. Photo by George Novinger

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) covers 2,663 miles of rugged terrain following the ranges of California, Oregon and Washington. Most hikers start at the Mexican border and, if they finish, complete the hike at the Canadian border. They gain significant altitude as they cross the towering Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges. The National Park Service designated the route as a National Scenic Trail in 1968. It was completed and dedicated in 1993. The trail goes through western Antelope Valley and over the eastern end of the Tehachapi range.

For a PCT hiker, arrival at Tehachapi is a milestone. Each hiker is different, some experienced backpackers and some neophytes, many from outside the United States. Those citizens who offer rides and other assistance really enjoy getting to know these interesting visitors!

Hikers move north in the spring and cross Tehachapi Willow Springs Road at Cameron Canyon where they can call for rides into Tehachapi. That's where the Tehachapi PCT Angels can help. This group of about forty volunteers, formed in 1996, is available to give rides and assistance in many other ways. The hikers – having completed the arduous first section of the trail -- pause in Tehachapi to recharge and pick up supplies mailed to them at our Post Office, wash their clothes, have good meals at our restaurants, and perhaps catch the latest film at the Hitching Post! The City of Tehachapi Municipal Airport Aviator Park provides a place to sleep for three days, at $5 a day. Hikers can camp on the grass, barbecue, eat at picnic tables and take showers. They just have to be up early to avoid the Mon. Wed. Fri. sprinklers that go on from 8 to 10 a.m. Other hikers, and sometimes their families, take advantage of our various kinds of lodging.

Many of the PCT Angels have backpacked before, but some have never backpacked. The Angels list of volunteers is posted at the Tehachapi Willow Springs Road and Cameron Canyon trailheads and is distributed to our Visitor Center, local lodging facilities and restaurants. From late March through June, hikers can be seen all over downtown Tehachapi, easily identified by their backpacks, hiking boots, tans and beards.  A few straggle through until winter.

After spending time in town, most hikers find their way back to Cameron Canyon and walk the trail as it continues through the wind turbines north toward Highway 58. Both the Cameron Canyon/Tehachapi Willow Springs Road and Cameron Canyon/Hwy 58 trailheads are about nine miles from downtown Tehachapi. After crossing Hwy 58, the refreshed hikers climb into the southern Sierra Nevada where there is no reliable water for almost twenty miles! Maybe these rains we have had will help with the water issue.

Last year nearly 1000 hikers passed through Tehachapi. Many hikers complete the PCT in sections over a few years, hiking 10 to 20 miles a day. The PCT has become more popular because of the best seller "Wild" written by hiker Cheryl Strayed. She describes her experiences and impressions on and off the trail. This interesting book was also made into a film.  

In the future, 38 miles of the trail will be re-aligned through the breathtaking vistas of the Tejon Ranch, with the Tehachapi rest stop remaining as it is now.

If you see backpackers, offer them a lift as they walk to or from lodging, camp spots, the Post Office or market, often carrying groceries. Hikers come from all over the world. They are interesting to talk to and appreciative of rides and assistance while they are here. Join us in showing them our warm hospitality. They rave about our special town as they hike north.


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