Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 29 (6/15) A Joyous Reunion

So yesterday didn’t go so well as I only made 6 miles due to shin splints and hip pain. Resting made the hip pain go away, and I was very glad for that. The shin splints were still present though, and it was clear that I pushed too hard going 37 miles the other day. I had 17 miles into Tehachapi, and this evening I was supposed to meet up with my dad. He was flying in to LA this evening, and would drive out to meet me at the trail. Unfortunately, we planned this a few weeks back, and I had hoped to be about 100 miles further up trail at Walker Pass. That was about 5 days of hiking away, but it was only an hour difference for the drive from the airport. The tough part was that my dad had booked a hotel in Bakersfield, which was pretty close to Walker Pass, but it was about an hour from Tehachapi. Oh well, we’d make do. It would be great to get into a hotel, take a shower, sleep in a bed, and spend some quality time with my dad, who I haven’t seen since in a month. So, no matter what, I had to make it up to the road, and I would meet him there.

I woke up at the normal time of 7am, rather than 5am as I had hoped. I filled up on water, and started the rest of the climb up into the hills. It was a perfect climb as I stayed on the west side of the hills for most of the morning, which kept me in the shade until the sun got well overhead. This is greatly preferable as then my hat can provide some good shade for my face and I don’t have to worry as much about sun exposure. In fact, I’ve been wearing long sleeves and long pants all trip, so the only part that is really exposed all day is the back of my hands, which have picked up an excellent tan color. Occasionally I’ll roll up my sleeves to give my arms some sun, so I hopefully won’t have a terrible farmer’s tan.

My shins were feeling really good on the climb, and even on the descents as long as I slowed down I did alright. If there is one thing I’ve always been bad at, its been throttling back, but this is helping to put that in perspective, and I’ve had to try hard to develop that slower gear. It was really neat to look back over the massive desert we’d just crossed, and to think that we did it in just a day. Of course, the PCT crosses the Mojave in one of the narrowest sections, and it would be an absolute nightmare any further east. The last two nights we’d seen the city of Lancaster glowing out in the distance, a huge city planted in the middle of nothingness. I was surprised though to find that the desert was still not plain sand, but rather a bunch of tiny plants that were well adapted to survive in these conditions. They did a good job of holding down the sand, so unlike out by Cabazon, I never had sand blowing into my eyes and face.

As I climbed further I came across a water cache on top of the mountain. I knew it was a relatively long dry stretch, but it was nice to get an extra half liter of cool water. As I was leaving I saw a pickup pull up on the adjacent road, and a trail angel named Dan got out. We chatted for a bit, and he offered me one of the apples he was leaving with the water at the cache. As we continued talking, I learned that he had lived up here for 37 years before the fire four years ago, and it sounded like he had lost everything. He wistfully talked about how the 300 year old Pinyon pines had made this a perfect shaded wonderland, but that now it would never recover to how it once was. It was sad to see how things had changed, but it was good to see some green growth coming back up everywhere. Not quite pine trees, but at least an improvement from charred blackened trees.

I came down to the road around 5:45, and was able to check in with my dad via text. He had just landed, and after getting the car and something to eat, he didn’t expect to arrive before 10:00. Well, there was another road 7 miles further up, so I decided to press on and get a few more miles done. I ran into another trail angel as I was ready to take off, and since I was in no rush I chatted with him for 30 minutes about trail conditions further up in the Sierras and what I would expect. It is 150 miles to Kennedy Meadows, the start of the Sierras, and I expected to cover that in about 7 days. He informed me it would be another 2 days past that to my first snow, so I had about 10 more days snow free. Plus, he said the snowmelt was peaking this week, so the river crossings would be a little easier by the time I would go through. All great news, and I thanked him for the information before setting off.

This was a really neat few miles as the PCT traverses a massive wind farm. I counted at least 6 generations of wind turbines, and got a bunch of photos of them. Strange how I instantly jumped back into engineer mode around some neat technology. Around 8:30 I stopped for dinner and to watch to moon rise over hundreds of turbines on the desert floor. Really neat stuff. The only problem turned out to be that the final descent down to the road was on the wrong side of the mountain, so I was forced to use my headlamp for light instead of moonlight. Too bad, I really do enjoy walking without my light on. When I got to the bottom I checked my phone, and my dad was still not quite there, so I started walking up towards the highway exit. Within a few minutes he pulled off the highway and texted me, and then there he was. It was great to see him again, and I realized how much I did miss my family while I’ve been out here. We drove back to the hotel (stopping in at McDonald’s for a McFlurry en route) where I immediately took advantage of the opportunity to clean off before bed. I was too tired to stand for a shower, so I made the decision to take a bath. Whoops - the water was a murky grey by the time I was done. Finally, I dropped into the soft bed, drifting away into sleep, with no concern as to the following day.

Mikes Today: 24
Trip Mileage: 565

Photo: Wind turbines in the Mojave

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