Date: Thursday, 25 May 2017
Start: Camped by the trail at Cottonwood Creek at Mile 534.9, 3093 ft
Finish: Tehachapi Willow Springs Road crossing at Mile 558.5, 4153 ft
Daily Miles: 23.6 PCT
Total PCT Miles: 558.5
Weather: Warm, windy and sunny
Accommodation: Best Western Mountain Inn, Tehachapi
Breakfast: Cereal and pancakes
Dinner: Pizza and ice-cream
Aches: Feet very tired
Highlight: Reaching the town of Tehachapi for two zero days.
Lowlight: None really
Pictures: Click here
It wasn’t as peaceful as I had hoped, sleeping with the swoosh-swoosh of the windmills all night, but the promised pancakes, along with cereal and juice, were produced by “trail angels”, Tom and Jo, at 6am and I enjoyed my breakfast while chatting with Tom, a retired firefighter, about his life fighting fires.
Despite the leisurely breakfast, I was still walking by 6:45am, with the goal of reaching the Tehachapi Willow Springs Road, 23 miles away, by the end of the day. Originally, I was planning to camp there, then walk on another 8 miles to Highway 58 tomorrow and hitchhike from there to Tehachapi for two days off. However, the trail notes suggested that hitchhiking from the first road crossing to Tehachapi would likely be easier, so I decided that if I could change my motel booking that is what I would do.
The trail started by gradually climbing, in almost a straight line (remarkable for the PCT) through the bare scrubby landscape of the enormous windfarm, towards a range of equally bare mountains. As it got closer to the mountain, the trail gradient increased, it resumed the usual circuitous path, and the views back across the Mojave Desert became more expansive. There was only water available at one place during the day, a small stream at Tylerhorse Canyon after six miles, so I joined a number of other hikers taking a break there and loading up on water for the rest of the day. Given that we still had a mountain to negotiate, nobody was very keen on adding the extra weight to their packs, but I think the lessons of the past four weeks have been learned, and nobody seems to skimp on water.
The climb of a little under 2000 ft, was relentless, made more difficult by the loose sand and gravel surface of the trail, but at least it was cooler than yesterday, and I enjoyed looking back across the desert to the mountains over which I had trekked in the past 10 days. In the far distance could be made out the snowy slopes of Mt Baden Powell. It was hard to believe I had walked from there, and not in a straight line, in less than ten days.
The climb finished on the broad top of the mountain and the trail wended its way across a scrubby tableland. A surprise was a cluster of plastic chairs in a kind of al fresco cafe setting in the middle of nowhere at about 6200 ft complete with bottled water, apples and trashcans for hikers. There was no one manning the “cafe” but someone had gone to a lot of work setting it up and stocking it, presumably using some kind of ATV to get there on a regular basis.
By this time I had managed to change my motel booking, so was looking forward to finishing the day. The descent was long, and as usual hard on the feet. It passed through another massive windfarm, and huge turbines were visible near and far. I admire the statuesque elegance of these tall white structures and the understated power they generate, but they don’t improve the scenery from my perspective. However, I’m a believer in global warming and the need for renewables, and if there is anywhere that windfarms should be then it is in the windy high desert.
On the descent I met Selvi (a German of Albanian origin as she told me when we first met three weeks ago). We have crossed paths occasionally and have some trail friends in common, so it was good to catch up briefly and I may see her again in Tehachapi. She has a number of piercings and is probably in her early thirties. I have since heard on the trail grapevine that she is a German police officer (on leave) and works in drug enforcement!
I finally reached my target road at 5:30pm and began hitching immediately. In a few minutes I was picked up by a guy who works as a technician for Virgin Galactic at their Mohave testing ground, so it was an interesting conversation as he drove me right to the door of my motel in Tehachapi. I was checked in by 6pm and had showered, finished my laundry, done some shopping and had dinner by 8:30pm.
I now have two days off the trail to rest up and attend to a number of chores. My feet are looking forward to it.