BATTLING THE WIND
PCT DAY 31: Mile 558.5 (Willow Spring Rd, Tehachapi) – Mile 577.5
Saturday May 14, 2016: 19 miles (30.5 km)
We spent the first few hours of the morning walking through one of Californias largest wind farms. So it was not a surprise that we had strong winds accompanying us. What was surprising was how much stronger and persistent the wind became as we crossed Cameron Canyon.
John, our Trail Angel, came to pick us up from the hotel at 7am. We were at the trail head 20 minutes later after picking up Petra from her hotel. Amazing generosity from John who had to go to work after dropping us off. The philosophy of “paying it forward” is very strong amongst the volunteers and those associated with the PCT. We have been so impressed with the generosity that you cannot help but be influenced in your own behavour. Thank you John. Hope that you get out on the trails soon.
Our packs were loaded to the gunnels. I was carrying 7 days of food for both of us and we were also fully loaded with water. We have a 25 mile section of trail to hike before we can refill. I was carrying 4L and Hammer had 8L. This morning I could barely lift my pack. It was probably the heaviest it has been. As we started out from Willow Spring Rd, it took me almost an hour to settle the pack into a somewhat comfortable position. The first 8 miles were over undulating terrain with wind turbines in just about every direction you look. The wind was coming in strong gusts and it was rather cold. Surprisingly, despite the strength of the wind the blades on the turbines seem to spin at the same speed. We soon left the wind farm behind and descended towards Highway 58 and Cameron Canyon. Considering being weighted down with heavy packs we made good time to the highway and the official end of the Southern Californian section of the PCT. Feels nice to tick off this major milestone.
We crossed a railway line and the highway and after a short walk along the highway we started the ascent away from Cameron Canyon. It was not surprising that going uphill we made really slow progress. On the north side of the canyon, away from the wind farm the wind was even stronger. The wind gusts were so strong that at times it was difficult to make forward progress. Thinking this was temporary we pushed on but the wind just got stronger as we got higher up the mountain. There were moments of almost panic as a gust of wind would pick up my pack and blow me sideways. We we walking on a relatively narrow trail with steep drop offs. I was so happy I had my hiking poles and could dig them in to provide a bit more anchorage to the ground. At one stage I looked back and could see Hammer bent at almost 45 degrees at the waist trying to make forward progress. “Ironlady” was behind him in a similar situation. We seem to battle the wind for hours and only a few times did we get any protection. But when I could steal a glance away from a few inches in front of me I could see that the sky was an amazing blue colour and the surrounding landscape was carpeted in beautiful spring blooms.
By late afternoon the wind was not showing any signs of easing , although we had some protection provided by the trees. We found a campspot that was somewhat sheltered from direct wind. It was so nice to get inside the tent. I could not wait to curl up in my toasty warm sleeping bag. All night long we could hear the wind raging and ripping through the trees above us.