Hiking Tehachapi Mountain: Where Fall and Winter are Friends

While spending a whole week with a friend in Bakersfield, California, I needed to find ways to occupy myself during the day while my friend was at work.  I spent one day hungover, one day working on blog stuff and watching Veronica Mars, and one day at “The Park” reading Harry Potter.

It was nice to have some chill days, but I was missing my outdoor adventures.  With my new obsession with hiking, and a few searches on google, one day I headed an hour west to Tehachapi to climb Tehachapi Mountain.  Best decision I’ve had in awhile.

Tehachapi Mountain has an elevation of 7,960 ft, and the hike is approximately 5 miles round-trip and a 2,000 ft elevation gain.  From the trailhead, the summit is 2.5 miles, but when I was there the road to the trailhead was closed, so that added an extra up-hill half mile.

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To get there, I followed my GPS to Tehachapi Mountain Park.  After taking a right turn into the park/campgrounds, I parked my car on the side of the main road near the toilets.  Then walked towards the Sawmill campsites and followed the road until I found the trailhead sign.

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Hesitations overwhelmed me at first.  Did I park in the right place?  Was the trail open?  Was I going the right way?  I wasn’t expecting snow, what else didn’t I not know?  Were my feet going to get soaked?  Was it going to be too cold?  There were a few people around the campgrounds, but none the footprints on the trail looked fresh.  Was anyone else hiking Tehachapi today?

I’ll be honest, I almost bailed once I got there.  I sat in my car for almost an hour before deciding that I was being a wuss.  And I still almost turned around a few times at the beginning.  For the past few weeks, I had been hiking in National Parks or on populated trails with parking lots.  This was a new situation, and I was alone in a strange place with no reception.

But these silly fears were easily conquered and I had nothing else to do, so I quit being a wuss and climbed the damn mountain.  And it was one of the most beautiful and exciting hikes I’ve done.

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I couldn’t imagine a more perfect day to hike Tehachapi.  The entire trail was coated in a few inches of snow, but it wasn’t deathly cold.  A perfect, sunny, fall day, if you ask me.  And I didn’t see a single person the whole way.  So. Damn. Peaceful.

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The best part of fall?  The calm/cool sweatshirt weather and the colorful leaves.

The best part of winter?  The peaceful kind of snow when you don’t have to shovel, scrap your car, or freeze your ass off.

On this perfect November Wednesday, it was like winter and fall were best friends.  Some of the colorful leaves had fallen onto the crunchy snow.

And with my Merril waterproof hiking boots, my feet were mostly dry until the very end.

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The farther I trekked up the mountain, the less footprints I saw.  I switched between trying to step in the exact footprint left before me, to creating my own unique path.  Sometimes making a very unique path… by skipping or taking super random, short, long, sideways, and backwards steps, so that if anyone was tracking me, they’d think, “what the hell!?”

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Most of the trail is a wide dirt path with glimpses of views through the trees.  However, the last .88 miles of the trail is a steep, steep stretch.  I even had few steps in deep soft snow that took me down nearly to my knees.

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I finally reached the “first” summit.  It was a sunny area and the views were incredible.  As they usually say… it was worth the climb.

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There is a higher summit that isn’t too much farther, but it is on private property and is “blocked” by a wire and has signs: “No hunting or trespassing.  Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”  I read online some mixed feelings of the enforcement of this.  Some say to disregard the sign, and some say the area is patrolled by men with guns.  As I was completely alone and there was only one set of footprints, I figured that the men with guns had the day off.  I’d say to use your judgement, be respectful, and understand there is a risk if you choose to go on.  The “first” summit will satisfy the vast beautiful view thing, without trespassing or fearing being shot.

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I enjoyed some time at the top, of course having a snowball fight with myself.  (There were no winners.)  Although the weather was beautiful, the snow was still freezing.  I had some cold red fingers for awhile after that.

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One of my favorite parts of the hike was running down the very steep hill.  I hate wasting momentum, so as I gained speed, I only slowed myself down when I started to feel out of control.  I almost fell a few times.  I kind of wish I had fallen so I’d have a better story to tell.  But I didn’t and I’m not a liar.

I’ve always hated running.  There are only a few reasons you will ever see me run:

  • a race with fun obstacles
  • a murderer is chasing me
  • I’m super late for something
  • select nights when I am drunk and have too much energy
  • select nights when I am drunk and want to get home faster

And now I add to my list:

  • when I’m going downhill in the snow

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After a beautiful day of solo hiking, I definitely earned a few beers.  I found Honey Wagon Brewing just a few miles away in Tehachapi.  One of my new favorite places because of the friendly local vibe and the crazy amount of craft beer options.

I highly recommend combining a climb up Tehachapi Mountain with a visit to Honey Wagon  for the ultimate awesome day in Tehachapi.

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