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Portrait - Pacific Crest Trail Journal - 2012

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City: Northampton
State: MA
Begins: Apr 27, 2012
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Mon, May 28th, 2012
Start: In the shadow of a hundred wind mills
End: By the train tracks
Daily Distance: 30.02
Trip Distance: 564.9

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 765
Journal Visits: 20,791
Guestbook Views: 1,020
Guestbook Entrys: 35

Pacific Crest Trail Map

Night hiking out of Tehachipe

At night I hear frogs from concrete bunker I sleep next to, and it's strange that this block of concrete is the most lively part of the desert, excluding perhaps the wind. The wind stays steady, which is just low enough for me to comfortably sleep.

In the morning I hear from other hikers that the wind turbines near us have just been installed, and that the reason they are not spinning is because they are not yet online. This explanation disappoints me, and I prefer the grander images of my ignorance, in which the motionless turbines waited for the hurricane force gales that were surely coming soon.

I also hear that yesterday's long, dull aquaduct walk was not the result of unavoidable terrain, but rather uncooperative land owners, who refuse access to the green, mountainous path that the PCT would logically follow. I envision a future generation of thru-hikers looking down on the flat history of the PCT.

The trail works its way through the stationary wind farm, over the mountains, and through another even larger active wind farm. I see dozens of turbines, several up close, and when I crest a hill, a hundred more suddenly spring into view, and then thousands more, miles and miles of sleek, spinning turbines.

I reach the road to Tehachipe and Mojave around 5 PM, just after the Three Gay Cabelleros. They are hitching to Tehachipe, and I stand on the opposite side of the road, toward Mojave, to increase the chance of a car stopping for them (which might then give me a ride), or catch a ride to Mojave instead if that's easier. Neither of us have any luck, the Memorial Day traffic of returning families being terrible hitching material.

After 45 minutes and hundreds of cars, I head down the street where I stand at the intersection of the road to Mojave and Tehachipe, hoping to try hitching to either at the same time. It takes another half an hour, but finally a pickup truck stops, and a local woman drives me the 12 miles into Tehachipe.

I hope to do a hit and run on Tehachipe, resupplying and charging my electronics and then hitching back to the trail before it gets dark. The resupply is easy enough -- the pickup drops me right at the grocery store and I know just what I want inside -- by my external battery charges slowly, and I watch the shadows lengthen as I wait outside the grocery store writing my journal. The blue LEDs on my external battery blink out their sequence again and again, and I wait for it to accumulate enough juice to last me the next six days.

My electronics on the trail this year consist of my iPhone 4S (Verizon, 64 GB), my 8000 mAh external battery pack, which I charge in towns, my USB rechargeable headlamp, and of course my camera, which being an SLR holds its charge a surprisingly long time.

Having written every entry of my AT trail journal on the small, unreliable keyboard of a Kindle, typing on the iPhone's touch screen is a comparative joy, and a fair bit faster. The primary reason for switching, however, was the iPhone's superior functionality as an email and web browsing device (I knew of these advantages when I hiked the AT, but I was too stingy to pay the monthly fee, and had already invested considerable time writing custom journaling software for the Kindle).

I would recommend an iPhone to anyone hiking a long distance trail -- anyone who can afford the contract costs anyway. The only question is what to do for charging. On the AT, with its green tunnel, solar is impractical, and rechargeable battery packs are the way to go. On the PCT battery packs and solar are more closely matched, each with their disadvantages. Solar is more of a pain while hiking, and the battery packs are easy to charge overnight if you stay in town, but they do make in-and-out town stops like this one harder.

I leave the supermarket just as the sun sets, before my battery finishes charging, to attempt to hitch back to the trail in the last twenty minutes of dusk. I have as little luck in town as I did by the trail, so I start walking as I hitch, and scope out locations for urban stealth camping. When it is just about dark as I'm about to give up on hitching, a truck stops. Dan is a biologist who studies the impact of the thousands of new wind turbines, and he volunteers to drive me the ten miles to the trail, saying he has nothing better to do.

I'm overjoyed to be able to return to the trail, having worried about having to pay for lodging or be hassled in an urban stealth site, and worried about not being able to make it back to the trail until mid morning. I know that there's a small camping spot a few hundred yards south on the trail, but I'm so excited to have scored a ride at the last minute that I decide to do some night hiking.

I hike past humming, spinning wind turbines with blinking red lights, and except for tricky road intersections, I hike with my headlamp turned off, seeing only by the light of the half moon. I hike until I hear the blare of a train horn, and I see the train rumble by a mile or so away. I'm already closer than I'd like to the noise of the train, but it will be quite a few more trail miles before the trail crosses the tracks and is out of ear shot on the other side, so I lay down my sleeping pad behind the first bush big enough to be used as a wind block. A second train passes while I brush my teeth, it's horn as loud as the first, but after hiking until 11:30 PM, blaring train horns might not be enough to keep me from sleep.

Entry 34 of 36
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Journal Photo

Pacific Crest Trail - 2012

Mexico to Canada has a nice ring to it.


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