Sunday, July 18, 2010

Giants! No, just windmills....

June 3: The strong winds from the night before seemed to intensify even more by morning, and I was more glad than ever I decided to cut my day short and camp next to the wind break I found at Cottonwood Bridge. The occasional gust would find me even behind the wind break, but it was nothing compared to the brush whipping around the area unprotected from the wind.

Once I ate and broke up camp, the wind practically knocked me over. I carry earplugs in case I have to camp in a particularly noisy area, and I considered pulling them out because the wind was so loud swirling by my head, it actually hurt my ears. It seemed like this trail has had a lot of unusual high-wind days, and I was growing positively sick of it. But I battled through the wind, hiking through yet another test of hiker endurance. At least it wasn't raining. The trail left the aqueduct for good shortly beyond where I set up camp, and so I also enjoyed being on a real, honest-to-goodness trail once again, steadily rising into the mountains where I belonged.

I caught up to Simon, an Englander, about seven miles up the trail, who I hiked with for an hour or so before we broke off and started hiking again at our own pace. He told me horrors about the wind that night, stories I would hear repeated by several hikers I'd catch up to throughout the day. "You were smart staying at that wind break," they invariably told me. "It was a rough night."

The higher the trail went, the lighter the wind became, and by 10:00 that afternoon, it had become nothing more than a nice breeze. At first, shade was scarce, but by late in the afternoon, trees started becoming more common, and even that wasn't a problem.

A lot of illegal off-road vehicles travel on the trail in these parts, and I heard reports of booby-traps being set up, such as nails embedded in concrete blocks being buried under the ground, and I kept my eyes open but saw nothing suspicious.

Near the end of the day, the trail wound its way into another wind farm--the second one on the trail--and the wind picked up again. Not a big surprise there, I suppose. Wind, at a wind farm? Kind of expected.....

The trail headed right for the enormous wind turbines, though, within a hundred feet of them in many locations, and they towered above us puny hikers, swirling in circles. Quite loudly, I might add. From a distance, they seem so slow and silent, but up close, they spun fast and loudly, cutting through the air like a pneumatic gun.

I planned to camp near a road that most hikers hitch off of into either Tehachapi or Mojave. My guidebook said there was water and a campsite there, and I didn't really need a place to stay for the night. Until I arrived there and saw the conditions. A loud generator was throwing diesel fumes in the air, and cow crap littered the area and the trickle of water running along that thing they called a creek. Ugh. Screw that, I thought. I'm hitching into town!

I walked up to the road--Tehachapi Willow Springs Road, planning to hitch into Tehapachi. I had a mail drop in Tehachapi, but I hadn't intended to go into town until I reached Highway 58 another eight miles along the trail the next day. I'm going now, though!

A guy was parked at the trailhead, loading up his dogs and looking about ready to go home, but he was headed to Mojave in the opposite direction. He started driving past me, slowing down asking if I wanted I ride, and I wave him off. "No, thanks," I called out, pointing to Tehachapi, the direction I wanted to go.

He started to speed off, then I noticed a small little yappy dog, its tags clicking together, chasing after the vehicle. Oh, crap! The guy is leaving behind one of his dogs! I started jumping up and down, waving at him frantically, hoping he'd see me and stop. He pulled over to the side of the road, and I started running as quickly as I could toward him.

"Is that your dog chasing you?" I called out.

I looked out his window behind him. "Peanut! What are you doing out there?!"

Whew. Saved yet another dog from the trail. At least this one I know has gotten back to its owner. =)

The wheels in my brain were still clicking, though, and it occurred to me that a ride into Mojave wouldn't actually be a problem for me. My mom was planning to come out to visit me, so she could easily pick me up in Mojave the next morning, slackpack me across to Highway 58, then drive me into Tehachapi the next afternoon for me to pick up my maildrop. It really didn't matter which city I ended up in, and I already had this guy offering me a ride into Mojave. Who knows how long it would take me to get a ride into Tehachapi?

"Hey, you still offering that ride into Mojave?" I asked. (Also thinking, "You better be--I just saved your sorry dog!)

So I jumped in his truck, and Peanut rode in my lap, as I rode into Mojave. He gave me a scenic tour of the drive, pointing out where he recently bought a property and confirming my suspicions that the snow-covered mountain I could still see to the south was, indeed, Mount Baden-Powell. (I swear, after about two weeks since passing over that mountain, you'd think it would be out of view by now. But no..... it's the mountain that continues to haunt us, weeks after we've passed it.)

He offered me a beer from his cooler, which I declined, but took one for himself as he popped it open and took a big gulp. I wondered, briefly, how many of those he'd already had before getting into the truck, but decided it wouldn't do any good to ponder that thought. I mostly watched the road in front of us, because I felt at least one of us ought to, as he swerved into the oncoming lane occasionally while pointing out his properties.

Miraculously, he got me to the Motel 6 in Mojave in one piece. He recommended a restaurant across the street to me--Barbie's Primo Burgers. I thanked him, asked if I could get a photo of him and Peanut (mostly, I wanted a picture of Peanut, the second dog I saved from the trail), then he took off.

Before I even checked in, I spotted Morph outside, who told me that Moonshadow, Tradja, Jess, Go-Go, and Sticky Fingers were also checked into the motel. Cool! Lots of hikers around! =) But I needed a shower, first and foremost.

I checked in, went to my room (#110), took a shower, then started a load of laundry. I caught Tradja, Jess, and Go-Go outside trying to decide what to do for dinner, thinking about trying the Primo Burgers across the street, and I told them that the guy who gave me a ride into Mojave recommended it which seemed to settle the decision. I still needed to collect my laundry, so they went on without me, then I caught up with them about ten minutes later.

I ordered the bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a strawberry milkshake. The burger and shake were excellent. The fries--they looked really good, but seemed to taste ordinary. Not bad, but just ordinary. But it was a lot of food--a huge heaping pile of fries--and tough even for my thru-hiker stomach to consume it all. But I succeeded. I ate every last bit. =)

I'd like to say a few words about Mojave. It seems like most hikers stop in Tehachapi to resupply, a town I'd never actually stopped in before. I had been to Mojave a couple of times in the past, driving through on my way to Las Vegas, and I found the town absolutely fascinating. It's not a tourist town by any stretch of the imagination, bu the last time I drove through, I noticed what seemed like hundreds and hundreds of passenger planes parked at the airport there. I'd never seen so many passenger planes packed in such a tight area in my life. Even at major airports such as in Atlanta or LAX did I ever see so many passenger planes.

This was shortly after 9/11 when air travel plummeted, and Mojave is one of the locations where old planes are parked when they aren't needed. The lack of humidity is supposed to help preserve the plane in case airlines want to bring it back into service later. I've read a little about the process, and I find it absolutely fascinating.

Since that visit, I've read about Mojave as a civilian spaceport, where several companies are trying to launch a tourist business into space. This is really fascinating stuff to me, so I rather like Mojave. I've flown over the town I don't know how many times--the flight path from Phoenix to San Luis Obispo seems to go directly over it. I'm somewhat familiar with Mojave, and it has some unique and fascinating aspects that you won't find in any other town that I'm aware of.

But it's also an ugly little town. I knew what to expect when I got there and didn't think anything of it until Tradja made a comment about this not being a cute little tourist town like the previous trail towns. And I thought back to the previous trail towns, such as Agua Dulce, Idyllwild, Wrightwood, and Big Bear, and realized he was absolutely right. It seemed like we always ended up in "resort towns." Built to look cute and cuddly, to attract tourists. Mojave isn't one of those places, and what a contrast it must be for hikers to resupply there. So most hikers don't seem to have a very pleasant opinion of Mojave, but I want to go on record, I love Mojave. It's a fascinating town.

Sticky Fingers told me that they actually give tours of the spaceport facilities, which I really, really wanted to do but alas, it appears I'll have to save it for another day. I found out about that too late to actually give it a whirl, but Sticky Fingers plans to try it and I made her promise to tell me all about it. =)

We walked back to the motel, talked to Sticky Fingers a bit, and eventually broke up into our respective rooms for the night. Another day done.


LunaSea said...

I love Mojave too. My Grandparents used to own property in the Mojave desert, so I spent a lot of time there as a kid. Not pretty or quaint or cute, but special in it's own way.

Unknown said...

Had to check out Mojave on Google Maps satellite view. Very cool! It's also just down the road from Edwards AFB which is where all the super-secret stuff gets flight tested. So, living in Mojave you'll get to see oddities flying overhead every now and then, too!

Good motel, good burger joint, what else do you need?

Shoafsters said...

Sweet! I'll be living at Edwards AFB soon. We move in September. Looking forward to checking out Mojave after our arrival.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'm freaking out!

That little dog Peanut looks so much like my little dog, Dobbie. She's a female chiweenie (daschund/chihuahua mix). I adopted her almost 2 years ago at a local shelter. She had been rescued from a puppy mill where she spent the first two years of her life being bred.

It's uncanny how similar Peanut and my Dobbie look, down to their size, bodies, coloring, ears, tails and they even have the same back foot dipped in white!

I wonder if they might be related!

But how in the world does someone almost leave their dog behind?? He must have had way too much to drink. bah!

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers