Day 38 was our introduction to the beauty—and grinding reality—of the next 100+ miles of trail: wind farms, Joshua trees, and yet more—and fiercer—wind. The two-day walk from Hiker Town to Tehachapi was new and beautiful and intense.
Right after Hiker Town the trail joins the Los Angeles Aqueduct, following alongside the open channel and then actually running along the top of a section that starts as a huge half-buried iron pipe and then becomes visible only as a long, flat, paved ribbon running across the desert floor.
It’s a notoriously hot, ironically dry (you are, after all, walking directly on top of millions of gallons of water) section of the trail that many people night-hike in order to avoid the heat of the day. When we walked it, we lucked out with a cool, cloudy morning and a breezy afternoon.
The flat aqueduct was easy walking, with only the occasional speeding dirt bike or utility truck to dodge. We started passing huge Joshua trees, approaching a distant wind farm. The trail climbed some hills and then took us directly through acres of massive turbines.
The scale was breathtaking. I’ve always been fascinated with large-scale infrastructure—bridges, dams, huge things with a practical purpose—and these were just wonderful. Giant. Huge. Sooooo big. Impossibly tall. And a local guy (who was railing against them, but whatever) told us that you could drive a school bus into the housing behind the blades, they’re that big.
Oh, and there was wind. Not just wind farm wind but post-storm, low-pressure-system, this-may-be-the-apocalypse wind. As we climbed towards the mountains that would take us to Tehachapi, it got worse and worse until we were staggering forward, heads down and poles out, struggling to stay upright as gusts threatened to knock us off the trail. Pure adrenaline kept me going despite my aching feet, twenty-four miles of hiking to a bitterly windy canyon where hikers were trying to keep their tents upright behind trees, bushes, rocks, anything that might block the unrelenting wind. We cowboy camped rather than attempt to set up the tarp, and all night gusts would come through that felt like someone grabbing and violently shaking our sleeping bags.
The next day was a 17-mile trek through sandy hills and dirt bike trails and more close-up wind turbines, brightened by two moments of trail magic: one water cache with chairs to relax in, and one southbound section hiker handing out chips and sodas to all the NOBOs he met. (GoalTech, you’re awesome!)
Did I mention the wind turbines? I love the wind turbines.
We finally made it to the road to Tehachapi, where a fellow hiker who was taking some days off for medical issues and had rented a car gave us a ride into town. Much food was eaten, and what began as a single zero day became a double zero (so decadent!!) plus a nero (low mileage day) of slack-packing (hiking with mostly-empty packs) the eight miles from Tehachapi Willow Springs Road to Highway 58. It was a glorious and much-needed break, filled with food, sleep, hot tubbing, and even a real movie in a real theater. (Mad Max, which was phenomenal.)
Day 38: 23.9 miles, Mile 517.6 to 541.5, Tylerhorse Canyon
Day 39: 17 miles, Mile 541.5 to 558.5
Day 40: 0 miles hiked
Day 41: 0 again, booyeah!
Day 42: 8 miles slack-packing, Mile 558.5 to 566.5
(More Day 38 photos on Flickr)