Day 40: (17.8 miles)
mile 566.3 – 584.14 /3821ft – 6093 ft
Up early to eat and catch the bus to Hwy 58 for a lovely 2200 ft climb. First stop, Primo burger for a hearty breakfast with Eng and Arizona. We had met Arizona earlier on the trail and he had been holed up at the Motel 6 for two days with Montezuma’s revenge. He was going to make another attempt to get back on the trail.(He had tried the day before but had to turn back several miles in as he was losing more fluids than taking in…) Bear in mind there has been a wind advisory for the past two days advising people to avoid driving, due to strong winds and dust storms…yet we decide to head out anyways cause the advisory is supposed to be repealed by 9am. It is 6am. We stagger to the bus stop… because we are full and the wind is catching our packs. We wait in the constantly gusting wind for the 0731 am bus. 30 minutes later we reach our stop. Wind is still blowing. Luckily the wind, for now, is to our backs…and it’s not hot. Two miles of easy trail and then hello 2200 ft climb in a perky 6.5 miles…with gale force winds that put the winds we faced at Mt. Baden-Powell to shame. The winds were blowing through the Tehachapi Pass at 60 mph and gusting up to 80mph.
Below, and off in the distance we could see gigantic dust storms spanning several miles. Good thing we’re up here… crawling uphill. In order to stay “upright” you had to lean into or against the wind…with all you might. Three points of contact with terra firma were required at ALL times or you’d become a kite. You had to constantly adjust with each switchback, and time it just right, depending on which way the wind was hitting you. If it did not require constant focus and was not so comical, it would have been more than miserable. As it was, it was just miserable. I considered taking the phone out to capture its essence, but even the picture Paul took doesn’t do it justice.
Let’s just say the wind was blowing so hard it would actually suck the snot out of your nose and push it up your face toward your eyes. You couldn’t spit into the wind if you tried…it wouldn’t reach your lips. The moment your lips part to spit, your saliva is shoved to the back of your throat. (Tried it…just because).
The clue that Tehachapi Pass would be windy should have been the thousands of windmills. The wind advisory just put an exclamation point on it. We hiked in our jackets and gloves for most of the day. Looking back on it, we’ll take the wind over the heat any day. Eventually we got to a point where the wind subsided and we could walk “normally”. Within 4 miles of our next water stop at Golden Oaks Spring, who should come up from behind us and pass us, but Why Not, and the rest of the group. We thought they were ahead of us and the only way we’d see them again would maybe be at next year’s kickoff…they are a fast group. The trail crisscrossed and followed OHV trails/roads. Some parts were good but most were rutted and difficult to navigate a “straight ” course. We were nearly run over by a pack of off-road motorcyclists who were traversing too fast for a multi-use trail frequented by pedestrians. As we continued up the trail (still can’t figure out how it always seems to be up), we came across two trail riders, one who had hit a downed tree and had been launched off his bike about 20ft with the impact rendering him unconscious, according to his friend. The rider was “OK”, but the bike was damaged. They asked us if we had any cordage so they could tie up the front brake to be able to limp back to their truck. Being the super prepared hikers we are, we had cordage to “spare”.
When we made it to the water source Why Not’s group was waiting for us, thankfully, to ensure that we didn’t try to collect water from the trough and to show us how to get to the cistern where the water was “clearer”. Once done, they moved on as it was getting colder and they needed to find a place to bed down. After they left, and Paul was collecting water, two more hikers approached southbound. They asked me, “Did you see the bear?”. Bear? I haven’t even seen any deer since San Diego. ” No really we just saw a big bear…you didn’t see it?” Doubt I’d be sitting here still if I did, but then I didn’t see/recognize a snake and almost stepped on it. Not surprising that I didn’t see the bear. It was probably heading to his watering hole… Where I was sitting. Good reason why not to camp next to water, besides the dew effect. The two young men were section hiking from Kennedy Meadows (KM) and were able to give us information about water and possible camping to KM. One of them had actually read our blog before he had set out on the trail…Cool! Before we set off, Colonel, Beowolf and Monsoon walked up. Reunion at the watering hole. They told us that Arizona had to turn back…he was still feeling I’ll. Poor guy. After awhile of catching up, we all continued on and stopped at different places for the night. We did our best to get out of the wind and ended up on a cement slab behind and in between several windmills…remarkably out of the wind for the most part. We ate and fell asleep to the “white noisy” drone of the windmills.