A true friend is poached by the CDT

Day 35: Zero in Tehachapi

June 6, 2019

By zeroing in Tehachapi, I got to go to the spectacularly good German bakery in town. I sat drinking coffee and eating pastry after pastry with Midnight (another hiker tangentially related to our trail family), Foot Juice, Danish, and T-Pain.

Since I’d met him, T-Pain had talked about leaving the PCT in mid June to begin a southbound hike of the CDT (Continental Divide Trail). Because he is interested in guiding backcountry trips in Montana in the fall, a hike through the Bob Marshall Wilderness and some of the other areas he hopes to work in makes more sense to him than completing a PCT hike this year.

But the knowledge that a friend is leaving and the reality of saying goodbye are two different things. Today was T-Pain’s last day with the trail family, and we all wrote him notes to read on his train ride from Bakersfield.

In my note, I described the ways in which T-Pain’s presence had bettered my experience on the trail. He was one of the first friends I made on the trail, and he had helped think up my trail name. He and I had shared a room in Idyllwild on my first zero day on the trail, where we had gotten to know one another better while getting dinner and drying our gear in town. His upbeat demeanor and independent attitude had made him an inspiration to me as we worked our way through difficult weather and trying group dynamics. Perhaps most importantly, he had hiked with me all day through a hellish storm on the way to Agua Dulce, cracking jokes and expounding upon the details of his previous jobs and his life in Texas and Montana. That night, he had helped me pitch my tent in the driving rain and had kept up a smile even as he shivered in his tent. Losing him to the CDT felt like a major blow.

Sadly, due to a miscommunication about after-dinner plans, I wasn’t able to say goodbye to T-Pain in person. Instead, I had to leave my note for him with Hot Hands before going to bed early with the Danes. We planned to catch the first bus to the trailhead in the morning and wished our friends good luck on the section ahead.

T-Pain on our walk toward the aqueduct a few days before Tehachapi

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