Tuesday, March 14, 2006

PCT 18 - Section E – Highway 138 to Highway 58 - 48 miles.

Check out the photos here http://flickr.com/photos/mindreader/

We crossed the desert in the winter! What a difference compared to our early days leaving the border. We spent the night before the trip in White's Motel in Mojave. White’s Motel has seen better days. Unless you are enthralled by the opportunity to hear trains all night as they stop to take a dinner break at the McDonald's next door, you’d be better off spending the night in your own sleeping bag.

The first day takes you on dirt roads mostly following the Los Angeles aqueduct. This is the one that "stole" water from the Owens Valley to feed the speedy growth of Los Angeles in the early 1900's. It is about 16 miles of flat walking all the way to Cottonwood Bridge. You pass through Joshua tree forests that look like Christmas tree farms. We were passed several times by languid aqueduct security in an SUV. The water is off right now and a work crew unknowingly provided a port-a-potty for us along the way. I got a hot spot on my right foot about 12 miles into the trip and cured it with duct tape; never bothered me again!

There are some terrific PCT signs here, they are heavy iron, maybe the best since Campo, and it helps keep the hiker from taking one of the many trails that cross it. The spooky thing was we started to hear gunshots, and not just single shot but automatic fire. I have fired a lot of rounds in my life but I think they fired as many in that afternoon as I have in all my days. We never saw them and fortunately we slowly moved away from the sound. We had water cached by Bill just past Cottonwood Creek and the trough, which was dry. Two of the four gallons had tipped over and run out. We suspect that they freeze and fall over easily. It was the first time this had happened. Fortunately two gallons was plenty. We decided to put in a couple of extra miles to make the next day easier. Unfortunately it got harder and harder to find a flat place to camp. We found one in a draw near the base of the mountain. I am getting better and better at eyeballing a flat spot but it was hard to avoid the cow pies in this area. Bill and I cooked our dinner in the biting wind while Ray got right into his tent, warmed up, and had a cold dinner.

The next morning I woke up to frost on the inside of my canopy. It was 28 degrees. That was cool, literally. This whole section is usually windy and hot, so our winter trip, though sometimes brisk, was a real gift. We saw a red tailed hawk or chicken hawk; a good looking bird. I had put my camera in my sleeping bag to warm it up and left it there by mistake. Bill took pictures that day. The climb up to the Tehachapi’s is not particularly steep but it is over 6200 feet where we crossed over. We made one wrong turn and wasted 40 minutes and some energy going the wrong way. We had a short snow flurry and passed through some pinyon pines. I can't wait to try the nuts when they are in season. There are a mess of motorcycle trails here; a group of bikers stopped to talk and promised to stay off the PCT as much as possible, which is not easy. Tylerhorse Canyon had water but Gamble was dry. There is a stiff series of switchback here. We crossed over the top in pleasant trees and views of the Antelope Valley. The north side of the mountain has a nice secluded ridge of cabins and more motorcycle trails. We paid close attention and had to reroute twice to get back on the PCT. The snow from the last storm ran about two to four inches in places. Our trail runners stayed dry. We saw cute little bunny and deer tracks. It was mighty cool. I need winter gloves for this but the rest of me was warm and comfy.

The trail goes down, down, down past the first wind farm above Oak Creek where we camped for the night. It was plenty chilly again so we all jumped in our tents for an early night and a cold dinner. Better to eat it in a warm sleeping bag where I found my camera. This camp is right by Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road, which we crossed in the morning to go over rolling hills filled with wind farms. There are old school windmills here with their new modern giants next to them. It wasn't too windy this time but this is the place to catch the power. The trail goes gently up and finally descends steeply to Highway 58 with a great view of the Southern Sierras. We have made it to the Tierra Del Fuego tip of the mountains ahead. Near the Highway, Ishmael from Tehachapi Taxi picked us up for the trip to Mojave. This wasn't too difficult a hike - the next trip is 84 miles.

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