Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 39: Windmill Farm to Oak Creek

Somehow we managed to pack up our gear without anything blowing away in the wind. The wind was relentless, pushing us back down the climb and pulling our packs backward, away from our bodies, as we strained to move forward.

Deep in the recesses of Tylerhorse Canyon, we finally found relief from the wind. But the air was hot and stuffy. Climbing out of the canyon, we were relieved to feel the wind again, now a gentle breeze rather than the high speed winds that had buffeted us down by the wind farm.

We stopped for lunch above Gamble Canyon, enjoying the last whisper of a cool breeze. The next few miles of trail climbed through a burn area, hot, exposed, and shadeless, without a breath of wind to provide relief from the sweltering heat. We guzzled water, momentarily forgetting that our limited supplies would have to last until Oak Creek, still miles away.

Reaching the top of the climb, we soon spotted a welcome wooden sign: "PCT Hikers -- Welcome to Tehachapi, Have a Drink! Compliments, Daniel and Larry."  Next to the sign were several stacked cases of water! We removed two bottles and were grateful for the extra drink.

The top of the ridge was beautiful, with pine trees and purple lupine dotting the sandy landscape. But we soon descended into another burn area, climbing over and around downed trees that crisscrossed the trail. The burn area was barren and desolate, like the surface of the moon. Charred black and white sticks poked out of the sandy soil, with little live vegetation to brighten the landscape.

Looking off into the distance, windmills dominated the horizon as far as the eye could see. And as we neared the windmill farm, the wind returned. No longer a gentle cooling breeze, with every step we fought the power of a gale force wind. Heads down, we pushed into the wind. When the wind hit us from the side, we leaned into it, bracing ourselves, hoping to stay on the trail. But, like a pair of wobbly toddlers just discovering our legs, we were frequently pushed aside.

Just when we were beginning to despair that we might never leave the wind buffeted ridge, the trail finally dropped into the Oak Creek Canyon. Once a beautiful, grassy oak lined creek, the area around the creek is now littered with piles of horse manure covering almost every square inch of ground. Nevertheless, we were grateful to find a sheltered campsite under the oak trees where we could stop for the night.  We were soon joined by Dog, a section hiker who, when he reaches Kennedy Meadows at the end of this section, will have completed the entire PCT!

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