Day 23: What the hell am I even doing here…

Day: Tuesday, June 21st 2016

Miles 566.4 – 573.3

Highway 56 – Remote Camp 573.3

I spent most of the day mentally preparing (if that’s the word for it), in the lobby of the Motel 6 in Mojave. As anyone who has stayed at a Motel 6, they’ll tell you that their lobby’s sparse amenities are not usually a place for doing very much other than checking in, certainly not mentally preparing for your triumphant return to a 2600 mile hike. I had proverbial butterflies in my stomach and whilst the ever patient Victor at the front desk allowed me to hang around like a vagrant all day, I wanted to be there about as much as he wanted to engage in the mindless chit-chat we followed for 5hrs. As you can imagine it was with much relief when time came for me to hop on the Kern Transit bus to the trail head (at a very precise 5:22). The bus arrived early, waited until 5:22 and with just a few passengers we trundled out of hot and dusty Mojave for the last time.

The highway 58 trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail is pretty unceremonious. There’s an overpass on the highway and a dusty layby, beyond that there was little signs that’s a trail even existed. What was obvious however was the sun would not be my foe for this evening. It was calm and cool and the sun was dropping quickly in the sky. I had noticed the bus laboring up Highway 58 and only at the trail did it become obvious that Tehachapi Pass obviously has some serious wind issues. These wind turbines are not here by accident. As I pondered whether it may be windy up the trail, I lamented that this was just Peter being alarmist and finding excuse 557 not to get on the trail for another day. What a peculiar sensation, I loved the first three weeks of the trail, and now seemed to be trying to find every excuse to not rejoin it. I think that some part of this was due to the reputation of the next section to Walker Pass, as a dry dust bowl of uninteresting views and challenging conditions. Regardless, the bus was gone and it was time to walk.

The trail backtracked for a horrid few miles along Highway 58. Recent drainage work had removed and rebuilt the embankment that the trail along and it was a tough mix of soft sand and bad signage, forcing me to recheck the map time and time again even for this straight line route.

The trail finally broke from the highway and started its ascent. I had planned maybe 8-10 miles tonight. I would try to get as high out of the valley as possible so that tomorrow I could place as much distance from the desert as possible, hoping it may assist in reaching my goal of resting during the day at a spring for each of the 4 days on this section. The trail wound around sad Joshua trees, all mangled in contorted shapes and sizes, no doubt helped by the wind. I noticed that in some places, hovels had been fashioned into the Joshua Tree groves with branches as walls. Hikers obviously were resting from the sun in this little enclosures. If there could be a worse piece of vegetation to shelter under than a Joshua Tree, you might strain to find it.

I eventually began to reach a height where the wind asserted its dominance on the evenings activities. As the trail broached a number of saddles, a violent and gusting warm wind hit me form the west. Each time I hunkered down to try and brace and each time it did it’s very best to knock me to my knees. As trail wound over and back it became a regular pattern of calm and storm with my bracing and strategy of crab-walking adjusting for each of the saddles appropriately. I could deal with the wind but the gusts were troublesome, as soon as you brace, the gust ceases and you drop in a heap of human clumsiness, slowly picking yourself up and looking around (as if anyone could have seen it).

As the darkness fell it was obvious that the conditions were unsuited for night walking and so the search for my own hovel began. The tent sights listed on my map were all far too exposed and only after 6 miles of walking, and after creating the highest point for that section, did I find a somewhat protected point that I could erect my tent in. The spot was covered in low Joshua Trees so putting up my tent was an ordeal in being stabbed by their hard spiney vegetation.

As I lay there in my tent, listening to gusts and watching my tent flap violently in the wind, I couldn’t help but ask myself, what the hell am I even doing here…

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