After about four hours of sleep, I woke up to start a new day.
I was motivated to stay ahead of the group that had left around 3am from Hikertown. They were planning on reaching the Cottonweed Creek bridge around 9 or so. I resumed my walk along the sandy road lined with joshua trees, seeing this environment for the first time in daylight!
After about an hour of walking, windmills started coming into sight. I was about to enter a new land of gigantic alien-like machines. And as if on cue, the wind began picking up with the appearance of these towering objects. It suddenly became a bit harder to move forward! The desert is generally a windy place, and I struggled often to keep my hat on my head, pulling up the bead on the leather ties that made my chinstrap, and pushing down the brim of my hat. In this new land, however, it was futile to even try to wear my sunhat. I took photograph after photograph of the landscape of windmills. The symmetry was quite pretty. As I passed by some of them, I could see little doors and wondered about the people entering them.
After a few more miles, I approached the bridge and was surprised to see a vehicle crossing it! I didn’t realize this part of the trail was accessible to cars. It creeped along and I could see the driver looking out, but they didn’t seem to want to interact with me. I found a side path leading down to another tank of water that was stocked by Hikertown. I collected and filtered the water, ate a snack, and was greeted by Chief, who was the first of the late-night hikers to roll in. He found his own shady spot a bit away, and I continued along the trail, enjoying the flat terrain and the contrast of nature and machine. The wind became stronger, so I put on my winter hat. My pace slowed as I worked harder to fight my way through the moving air. Juniper bushes started to appear and I looked for one to take respite from the high wind. I found one that could shelter me, unrolled my sleeping pad, put on some warm clothes, and curled up. Lying down felt so delightful! A hiker passed by as I was packing up, whooping, and throwing his arms in the air. “You gotta love it!” he shouted out. He had the right attitude!
I moved on, hoping the wind might have died down, but it only seemed stronger. I was beginning to hate the windmills. I wondered if they were creating more wind, or if they were just placed in an already very windy area. As I looked ahead, it seemed like there were only a few left, and I kept telling myself that I only needed to make it that far until I was out of their vicinity. But they never ended…
I started the descent into Tylerhorse Canyon, where I could see a couple of hikers. By the time I arrived, they were just about to leave. I looked for a sheltered place to sit and decided to cook a meal in the afternoon instead of the night to help warm my body. As I ate, Chief came in, scouting out a place to camp, and then Iceman and Cattywampus followed, searching for a place along the creek. While Chief napped with a bandana over his eyes, the couple went about setting up their tent. It was only 3:00, but Chief’s wife was coming to visit him in Tehachapi in two days, so he had plenty of time to kill. I went down to the creek to collect water and then returned to my spot on the hill under the tree to filter it.
I moved on, starting the climbs out of the Mojave desert. The open space between the brown mountains surrounding me made me feel so happy. I decided to listen to some music, feeling so thankful to have such an expansive area to myself. One of the songs strongly reminded me that I know the truth of my experience from what I feel, and that no one else’s words or actions can ever take that away.
I moved from the rims of bare mountains back into trees. The moon was rising as the sun set. I watched the changing colors of the sky as I moved along.
Soon, I came upon a group of chairs in a small cove beside the trail. A nice carpenter named Daniel had created this resting spot for us, and had left apples and bottled water, as well! He put out a sign welcoming us to Tehachapi! I never factor in time to spend at such places, so after drinking a bottle of water, I resumed my walk. Night was coming. I was motivated to get as far as I could tonight, because I wanted to get to the town of Mojave in time for breakfast- my favorite meal! I figured that since I had night hiked last night in the moonlight, I could do it again tonight! The temperature dropped and my hands got cold. I walked past a tent and saw by the outline, that it was Puma inside. I decided to continue on so I had a better chance to get my breakfast.
I saw the road down below and wondered if I should hike all the way down to it, but decided I didn’t want to camp next to the road. The sky turned pink as I moved down the switchbacks.
Soon, there was nothing but black, and the moon oddly did not seem to provide nearly as much light as it had the night before! I began to tire and decided I should start looking for a place to camp. However, I was walking down a path of never-ending switchbacks, which meant that there were no flat spaces. At 9:00, with four miles to get to the road, I decided that I was finished for the day. I picked the best spot that I could, given the situation, which meant that I would have to sleep on a slope. I placed my backpack on the sloping side, but I was also set up on a vertical slope and knew I would slide downward during the night. After putting on my warm clothes, I huddled in my sleeping bag. The wind grew stronger and stronger throughout the night. At one point, I woke up wondering why my hip was hurting so much! I realized that I had rolled off my sleeping pad and when I went to get back on it, discovered that there was no sleeping pad there at all! It had blown away in the ferocious wind! I lifted up my head to see if it was anywhere near me, and my down jacket that I was using as a pillow, immediately flew out. I instinctively reached out my arm and just managed to grab it! Oh my gosh… this was a bad situation! I looked around to see what else might have blown away. Were my shoes still there? I turned on my headlamp and shone it into the bushes around me. I saw no trace of my sleeping pad. This was a terrible, no good, very bad night!