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PCT 2015 Day 31: Desert Surprises

  • Start: 517.6
  • End: 549.7
  • Miles: 32.1
  • Camp: Above Tylerhorse Canyon

Today we had to cross a corner of the Mojave desert. We knew the first 18 miles or so followed the LA aqueduct and a wind farm so we’re expecting it to be flat. We were lucky that the forecast was for cool weather too. Last year the temperature was around 95F at this time of year and there is no shade at all. We were fully expecting to make good progress in terms of miles but were not expecting a riveting journey in terms of views. Boy were we wrong.

The walk out of Hikertown was pretty much straight North once it hit the aqueduct, and we were hiking along a dirt road so were able to move fast. On the right hand side of the road were sunrise-lit clouds, and on the left some menacing looking grey clouds which created a beautiful rainbow. On both sides were Joshua trees, the intriguing looking plants only found in SoCal. I was astounded by the beauty of the first stretch of a day I had expected to be fairly brown and dull.

As the aqueduct turned the corner, the terrain became more ordinary, and we were able to speed up again after stopping for photo after photo. Doolittle had his head down and marched way ahead of Chug and myself, so he missed the trail magic just being laid out as we passed Steve and Bill at around 10am. We didn’t catch up with him until we stopped 16 miles into the day at a water cache where we had lunch. He was packing up just as we arrived; the guy was flying today. 

Windscreen showed up not long after we sat down to make lunch, having started later than us but taken no small breaks for snacks or water or trail magic as we had. He laid down on his sleeping mat and declared himself an idiot before falling asleep. I think a siesta might have been nice were it not for the ferocious winds. The trail had moved into the wind farm by this stage. The presence of a wind farm did imply a certain likelihood of winds, but I wasn’t expecting a consistent 40mph+ wind which gusted much harder. They say that a wind in miles per hour of half your weight in pounds is enough to move you, and I had first hand experience of that today.

The end of the section was Tylerhorse Canyon, 24 miles from Hikertown, where the water report indicated a nicely flowing creek. As I descended the hill approaching the creek, all I could make out was a dry creek bed and I wondered if the water report could be out of date even in a couple of days. I had enough water to make it to Tehachapi but barely, and certainly not enough to cover an emergency.

At the creek, I met Taxi from Washington and we talked about our good luck with the desert weather. We aren’t used to the heat like the California boys and we find it too hot at 75F in the sunshine, let alone the average desert temperature.  Hornbuckle also showed up, tempted to give up on his plan to join our planned camp at mile 32 on the day, and just stop at Tylerhorse. I had to push on; I hate big miles into towns unless I’m arriving late, and 16 or 13 miles to the road into Tehachapi struck me as too much. 

The path started to climb after Tylerhorse, up essentially a sand dune. The path was washed out in parts, and uncomfortable, and I’m glad I didn’t leave it until tomorrow. 8 miles of climbing later and I arrived at a campsite where Duggan and Sweetums had stopped; an overgrown area with flat spots for tents where someone had left a water cache. I knew Doolittle and Chug were ahead though so I continued a further half mile. What I found was a slightly more exposed campsite with crazy winds. It’s freezing so I’m eating rehydrated mashed potato and hot chocolate for dinner and eating it inside my sleeping bag. Ah well. Company is what matters, right?

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