From the aqueduct to mile 549 cache
June 6, 2014
The sun is shining on me and it’s already hot, where I’m cowboy camped next to J on the flat spot next to the aqueduct. Bob is already up and packing, Red is stirring, but J and the other two Canadians are still asleep. It’s only going to get hotter, lying here. I’m tired but I guess I’ll get up.
I added some weird green powder from the Canadians to my power breakfast mix, and now it tastes… green, as well as being a distressing green – brown color. It could use some more brownie mix, too bad. Altogether though, I’m hopeful about the morning. A little ibuprofen, a little caffeine, and I’m ready to take on the day, as if I hadn’t walked 26 miles, or until midnight. Maybe J and I have got this hiking business down after all. Maybe we’ll be able to make the miles to get ourselves to Canada. Maybe maybe maybe.
The morning sun backlights the Joshua trees and creosote bushes – the fuzzy seed pods of the creosote look festive, like Christmas ornaments. The dirt road we’re walking is mostly flat, and the sky is totally blue. It’s nice to actually see things, to be awake.
We hit the water cache seven miles down in easy time. “What are you guys doing here? ” I exclaim at seeing most of the hiker crew from hikertown. They echo it right back. They hadn’t seen us sleeping next to the road, and we hadn’t heard them pass. They walked until 4:30 in the morning! I understand not wanting to walk in the heat, but that sounds at least as miserable.
Leaving the cache, we rejoin the aqueduct and head towards the windmills. From the descriptions of this stretch from previous hikers I’d expected another desert wasteland, rocky, brutally hot. Instead, we’re walking up rolling hills towards slopey mountains, with Joshua tree forests and stands of juniper. That, and huge windmills, sprouting out of the landscape like strange, indigenous trees.
The wind has started picking up. “I’d say that maybe it’s less windy up ahead, except for the giant windfarm,” remarks J. Not only are we heading into the windfarm, we’re heading straight into the headwind that drives it. The trail is straight with a gentle uphill and a stiff headwind, and I’m so glad I have my own set of hiking poles now. Like last night, I dig in to tap the idle reserves of strength in my triceps, my forearms, my fingertips. They’re like a lifeline, and hand over hand I pull myself uphill.
It keeps getting steeper, and hotter, and drier. There’s a dead snake on the trail, it’s head smushed in. It looks like a garter snake, so I wonder why someone decided to kill it.
The end of the uphill slog, a quick downhill, and we’re at Tylerhorse spring. Straight through the bare, rocky canyon runs an incredible little stream, a tenuous thread of water in a dry land. Bob and the Canadians are already there, shoes off, underneath the sole, big tree. We join them, and it’s siestas for everyone.
I plan my nap poorly and wake up in direct sun. Everyone else is passed out still, but eventually we all get up. I thought that the rest of the pack we’d been traveling with had arrived, but I don’t see them. I guess they already left. It’s almost four, and we’ve got eight miles, so it’s time for us to go too. As soon as we head out though, we spot everyone else. There’s a big cottonwood, just downstream, and it’s sheltering Short Rib, Kimchi, Spice Rack, Hippo, Thirsty, Avocado, Sarah, Lapis, and Was. All asleep. I wish I was too.
The trail is a difficult mistress today, taking us straight up a ridge, then straight back down, then straight up again, and up, and up, and up. We catch up with Dan and Sarah. “When people talked about the desert, I imagined everything from Campo to Kennedy Meadows looking like this,” Dan says, gesturing at the naked, rocky hillsides, the blazing sun.
“Me too,” says J. “I wanted to just skip the whole thing. It’s been so much nicer than what I imagined. Today’s a little rough though.”
Up, up, and finally we’re at the top, in what was surely once a lovely pine and juniper forest but is now the burnt remnants of a pine and juniper forest. There’s a water cache, stacked with beautiful gallon jugs, chairs for weary behinds, and a bowl of green apples. Green apples! They’re like a dream! Bob is sitting in a chair, looking content. Good way to end the day – Tehachapi tomorrow.