I found Bax reading in the shade by the side of the hotel pool. He looks ok, but sooooo skinny. He was thin when we first got together and a couple years of regular meals prepared by me put some meat on him - he's much thinner now. I can count his ribs AND vertebrae now. Some of that is from being sick and some is from just burning mad amounts of calories. But I brought food with me, so I know he'll be fed for at least the next 10 days.
We drove into Tehachapi for dinner and basically spent the evening having a date night. It was lovely - if way to short. We got to bed kinda early and spent the morning repacking the Jeep and getting ready for the drive to Kennedy Meadows. While we were doing that, his new pack frame was delivered to the hotel office.
We loaded up and head back into the desert - Bax driving. He was marveling at how less boring the desert is in a car than on foot. Which is saying something, because it's pretty boring in a car.
Kennedy Meadows is 25 miles off the main highway, up a winding road into the mountains. And I do mean UP - there's about a 5000 foot elevation gain. The road takes you from the desert floor, through the Joshua trees and into pine trees and cooler temps. We also got to see a lot of burned trees from a fire a couple years earlier. Apparently the trail goes through 9 or 10 miles of that.
The Kennedy Meadows General store sits by the side of the road and has a lovely porch that wraps around two sides of it. The porch is decorated with many hikers in various states of rest and inebriation. We went passed it to the campground and memorial service/party that was already in progress.
The memorial was for No Way Ray - a PCT thru-hiker that died on the trail last month. His widow was there with books to write in and scotch to toast with. We did both. Bax also caught up with a few of his hiker friends and we got some lunch from the buffet laid out.
We also met with the Saufley's - who run Hiker Heaven in Agua Dolce. They reported a wicked stomach bug that's been hitting a lot of hikers up and down the trail. A gear shop further south actually closed for a few days to try to stop the spread. Renowned hiker Scott Williams (he's attempting his second yo-yo hike: Mexico-Canada-Mexico in one season) has been seen throwing up his guts somewhere in the desert - so you know it's bad. There's a chance Bax has the Killer Bug and not giardia, he's hoping it's giardia since he has drugs for that.
After lunch and gossip we got to work kitting him out for the next ten days. All the food was laid out and repackaged. We packed his bear canister and another box with lunches and dinners. He loaded up his pack canisters and replaced his broken frame (yay!).
(I looked at the broken tube and to me it looked like there was a thin spot in the aluminum that finally gave way. We shall see what the official verdict is.)
After doing all that and re-packing the Jeep, we headed back down the mountain so Bax could begin his hike at more or less the same place where he stopped. We made a pass through the general store to drop off his bear canister and rescue his Cipro and other drugs from his bounce box. The guy running the store was trying to close, but took pity and made us the last customers of the day.
We stoped for gas and dinner at a crossroads 50 miles from anyplace, then headed toward the Cameron Road exit - about 60 miles east of Bakersfield. By this time the sun was setting and full-on dark was closing in. I helped him get his gear together and we said goodbye. Then - trekking poles in hand - Bax started walking. His plan was climb a very large hill and camp on the far side.
I got a phone call a couple hours later from him. His cell phone battery was dying and his sleeping pad took a flier. Literally - the wind ripped it off his pack. Fortunately they are cheap, so my new mission is to track one down and get it in the mail.
And that's the report from Bax's last stop in civilization. I expect to hear from him in three or four days when he gets to the general store. Thanks for everyone's cards and good wishes. I took a handful of the mail down with me and he really appreciated it. We'll probably try to arrange another meet-up in Yosemite.
Also: I have the most recent set of trail notes. I'll get those typed up this week.