Day 42-45: Renewing Energy
Day 42: Between Tylerhorse and Gamble Spring Canyons (Mile 544)-Highway 58 (Mile 566.5); 22.5 miles
Our alarm rang at 5:30 AM and we were up and walking by 6. Over the past few weeks we have perfected our morning routine and now are quite speedy. Shutterbug breaks down the tent while Anna organizes food for the coming day. We quickly place each item in the perfect spot in our packs so the weight is well balanced and everything we need is easily accessible.
The morning’s environment transitioned from grassy desert hills to a forest which burned last fall. The burn was so recent we could still smell charred wood, and the soil was scorched black. Little grew save a few small wildflowers.
As the trail wound over hillsides and descended to the valley, the wind began to pick up, and we entered a huge wind farm. The farm’s 5000 turbines were capable of powering 350,000 homes. While the strong wind made it hard to walk at times, the powerful turbines were reducing fossil fuel use and limiting climate change. This boosted our spirits.
At the end of the day we walked out of the wind farm and a fellow hiker named Rockin’ picked us up at the highway. She and her family treated us to dinner at their home in nearby Tehachapi.
Day 43: Zero Day in Tehachapi
Today we did chores and rested our weary feet. We were very successful at resting our feet, but the chores (grocery shopping, repairing gear, emails, etc.) always seem to take us much longer than we expect and we end up compromising on sleep. Too much to do and not enough time!
Anna was excited to get new shoes, and Shutterbug got new trekking poles and socks. We were also stoked to learn that our Picturing the Mojave blog post was featured on the WordPress homepage! We ended the day with a big spaghetti dinner and trail talk with Rockin’, Dan, Grant, Lisa, and Border Patrol. Perfect.
Rockin’ and her family were amazing hosts, and we are very grateful for their hospitality. Thanks! You can check out Rockin’s own PCT adventures, and some great photos, on her blog, Lady on a Rock.
We felt that if Rockin’s prodigious energy were somehow harnessed and converted to electricity, she would replace a number of wind turbines! We wish her the best in her hiking this summer. If you see a blur speed past you on the trail, it is probably her.
Day 44: Highway 58 (Mile 566.5)-Past Golden Oaks Spring (Mile 586.5); 20 miles
With our legs refreshed, we started a serious climb. Our packs were laden with 7 days of food plus 3.5 liters of water each. Though our load was heavy, we enjoyed seeing flowering beavertail cacti and cartoonish Joshua trees along the trail.
As we climbed, we began to encounter small pine trees and manzanita. We savored their shade as it was a sweltering day. We sweated so much that we ran out of water one mile before the spring. This surprised us as we try always to carry more water than we expect to drink.
We refilled our water containers with clear, cold water at the spring. A few miles later we set up camp and were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Day 45: Past Golden Oaks Spring (Mile 586.5)-Near Landers Meadow (Mile 606); 19.5 miles
Our walk took us through the Paiute Mountains, which showed some similarities to the Sierras, which we will be entering soon. Most notably we spotted larger mammals including deer, a skunk, many squirrels and chipmunks, and even a few bear tracks. This was still desert, though: The dry air parched our lips, the sun blazed in a nearly cloudless sky, and water was scarce.
We passed a few more wind turbines, and we felt it was a fitting time to share how we charge our phones and camera batteries on the trail. We use a Suntactics sCharger-5 solar panel, about the size of a sheet of paper. It folds in half for transport, and weighs about 8 ounces. It produces 5 watts of power and can fully charge an iPhone in 2 hours in bright sun.
We devised a sturdy way to attach the panel to our packs so we can charge while walking. First we drilled a hole in each corner of the plastic casing. Then we used flexible key chains to securely mount the panel to straps on our pack. Solar panels work best if you can match the sun’s angle, so putting the panel flat on top of the pack is best in the middle of the day when the sun is high.
This setup works so well that most of the time the solar panel is packed in our bag because our batteries already have plenty of juice.
Today we stopped hiking at 6 PM to ensure we got enough sleep. Our sleep deficit was really catching up to us, and we have learned that sufficient sleep can mean the difference between enjoyable, engaged walking and mindless “zombie hiking.” Sometimes ten hours of sleep is necessary! We drifted off to sleep as the coyotes awoke and began howling.
Be the change you want to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi