30 April 2021
LA Aqueduct North of Lake Hughes to Tylerhorse Canyon
PCT Mile 485.8 to 541.5
What. A. Day.
It reached well over 90 degrees in the desert today, with gusts up to 40 miles an hour. But in the pre-dawn hours it was in the 60s and calm. Sounds like the perfect time for a night hike!
I intended to wake up at 3am and start walking Road 170 across the Mojave Desert back to the PCT. Instead I awoke at 1am and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I decided to go for it.
It was a short walk on the aqueduct over to my road for the morning. In the nearly-full moon it was beautiful — no headlamp needed!
I was a little sketched out because of my adventures last night, and I got nervous when I approached a group of houses. Thankfully they were all set back very far from the road so the barking of their dogs remained well in the distance.
Then, on a stretch without houses, a car heading toward me stopped and pulled over with its headlights on. Uh oh. Maybe someone getting their mail after a late night? Nope.
The car waited for me to get close enough that it could see me. Then it pulled out into the road towards me, made a U-turn, and drove away. It was Border Patrol! I’m not sure what they were looking for, but either my dorky backpack or the color of my skin must have convinced them that whatever strange thing I was doing was not a threat. (Ah, racism….)
Over the next few hours I would see them again, slowly driving fence lines off the road, presumably looking for other people out in the night.
I made it to Highway 138 around 3am and I took a break under a street lamp in the middle of nowhere near a lit-up memorial for an ATV rider (my picture of it was blurry in the dark). Trucks passed every 2 minutes or so while I ate some cold-soaked ramen.
After that, I kept walking past solar farms and power substations. Around 5am I took another break at one that was all lit up.
And then…. Magic! The sun started to rise over the Iberdrola wind farm and the Joshua Trees of the Mojave.
Around 7am I arrived back at the PCT where it still follows the Los Angeles Aqueduct (here, covered in cement). Some hikers were sleeping under the Cottonwood Creek Bridge, and I joined them and napped for a couple of hours in the cool shade below.
There is a water cache here, and mid-morning the trail angels who maintain it (Pretty Boy and her husband) showed up with more water and oranges for the hikers.
I hung out with about 10 other people all waiting out the heat under the bridge. New hikers straggled in, all of them having started at Hikertown 17 miles away. It was fun greeting people I knew and some I didn’t.
Then around noon my own trail angels showed up! Wolly Mammoth and two of his kids showed up for a night of desert camping with me. They whisked me away to the base of a giant wind turbine amid the Joshua Trees, where we set up shade and ground cover. They then proceeded to ply me with icy cold soda, delicious roasted chicken and broccoli, home made chocolate chip cookies, ice cream (how on Earth did they keep it so cold?), and a Stone IPA. I felt like a sheikh lounging there in my padded and walled kingdom. They even made a fan club poster for me. Wow!
A short while later two officers from the Sheriff’s Office rolled up. Uh oh — are we not allowed to camp here? But they were just out looking for a missing hiker named Andrew. I didn’t know him, so I suggested they go talk to the hikers under the bridge.
We whiled away the hours, but soon the wind got so strong that the shade structure would no longer stay up. It didn’t bode well for camping! Alas, my own best option was to seek cover 6 miles away in Tylerhorse Canyon, so I suggested to Wolly that he take the kids on to Grandma’s house in Ventura instead of hanging around waiting for a suffer fest.
I was very sad to see them go.
And then I started hiking. In the heat. And in the wind. Two thousand feet of elevation gain. It was miserable.
I accidentally got off trail at one point, and hiking cross country with my headphones on way too loud because of the wind, I almost didn’t see this guy:
The last mile was the hardest I have done the whole hike.
Why am I doing this? I miss Half Cookie so so much.
When I finally reached Tylerhorse Canyon I was convinced I needed to quit the trail.
I found two other hikers (Wildlife and Slab) I had hung out with under the bridge. And I almost broke into tears when I told them how I felt. They were so sweet and supportive, suggesting that I take a few days to think about it. But they also said going home might be the right choice.
Wildlife and Slab moved on to the next canyon, but two new hikers, Geode and Sodium (they just graduated from geology programs!), set up camp next to me while I laid in my tent.
We talked for an hour, and they were also sweet and supportive. Gradually my mood shifted and I felt like it might be okay to keep going. Either way, I definitely need to take some time off trail in Tehachapi….
I slept for a few hours and now I lay here writing this after being awoken by a tent collapse! Although the sustained wind is much better here than on the desert floor, we are still getting the huge gusts occasionally. Sigh. I can’t wait for four solid walls tomorrow.
A Frozen Trail Magic Paradox
Jeez, how on Earth
Did they keep ice cream so cold
While I am melting?