Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 32- Hat and Mittens for the Desert

Cottonwood Creek Bridge at mile 534 to Mile 558

(Sorry no pictures for the next handful of entries.  They will be added when I have cell service, or the next time I'm in town.)

Before sleeping I told myself to sleep in and not to worry about hiking in the heat.  Five a.m. I woke up to a sunrise that turned the clouds orange and pink.  I felt like I hadn't slept, and after taking a couple pictures of the splendid sky I hunkered down into my bag.  I was up twenty minutes later-sleep was apparently done with me.  I was on trail before 6:30 feeling like it was going to be a short hiking day.

The trail left behind the aqua duct and headed into the wind farm.  It was breezy, but nothing extreme.  Most of the turbines remained still as I walked the miles past them.

At 8 I stopped for breakfast under a juniper shrub.  The one cloud in the sky had parked itself over the sun at sun-up and hadn't let the sun peak past it yet.  Breakfast was short to avoid a chill.

But an hour later the wind had picked up some and I couldn't deny that I was cold walking through the Mojave Desert.  I guess I had waited too long to put on hat and mittens-my fingers were clumsy with cold.  It didn't take long to become warm enough, but it was a little hard to wrap my mind around the weather-this wasn't the desert I had heard about.

Seven miles from where I camped the map listed a canyon and creek.  About a mile before it I started hoping for a sheltered spot for a long break-I was needing a nap and a hot meal.  My hiker hunger was showing itself and it wasn't pleased it had been denied dinner the night before.

The creek had water, but no shelter from the wind.  Nap time was canceled, but I managed to make a hot meal followed by some peach gummies for snack.  I stayed for a cold windy hour before giving the break up as kind of miserable.

At least while hiking I was mostly warm so hike on I did only to stop three miles later in a little bowl that didn't have much wind and was almost warm.  Nap time was back on.  I didn't want to head into town today like many f the other hikers, so I had time to relax.  I dozed off, but not for very long.  It made a difference though-I wasn't feeling like I was going to fall asleep on my feet anymore.

At first going up hill wasn't that windy, but on the third switchback the wind went from blowing towards the mountain so it was just hitting my side to blowing head on.  Between the slick soled shoes and the strong gust I slid back a step or two.  It still wasn't that bad-it was almost funny.

After a couple of miles up the ridge, around 2 p.m. the sun finally managed to break away from the cloud and about forty minutes later I was finally able to take off my cold weather clothing.  Not long after that I made it to the top of the ridge.  Some one had cashed two packages of bottled water for the hikers.  I drank the half liter in seconds-I hadn't realized how thirsty I was until I was halfway through the bottle.  I sat at the cashe for awhile thinking about doing just a handful of miles more.  It was nice there-sun shining, wind not too bad.

I stayed for about an hour and hiked into a burn area.  It seems like there is a burn area at least every 100 miles.  It was while going down the other side of the ridge that the wind went from occasional gust to nonstop howling wind.

This wind pulled, pushed, and shoved me around.  It blew grit in my face and tossed pebbles hard enough they stung my thighs through my pants.  The head wind stopped my forward progress and the tailwind pushed me forward.  And it wasn't gust, it was a constant force that was fighting me.

I quickly grew tired of fighting back.  My goal was to reach a broken water tank-I hoped it would be sheltered.  My progress was so slow.  A mean little voice kept asking if I was having fun on my little hike with a face scrunched up against grit, clothing snapping in the wind, and crazy wind blown hair?  And I wasn't having fun.  Not even a little.  I was tired, hungry, gritty, my face and hands felt raw from cold wind and sand.  I put on my mittens and my hat that has a face masks to protect from the wind and the dirt it threw at me.  I didn't like my short easy day becoming anything but.

I found a burnt tree to hide behind from the wind and ate a quick candy bar snack, and that really boosted my spirits.  About a half hour after that I was low enough to see trees on the desert floor.  I knew from my guide there was a stream near the road into town and those trees had to be near the stream and they would give me shelter.

In true PCT style the trail wasn't about to take the quick way down.  Nope, instead it continued to hug the edge of the wind farm-most of the turbines were still as I was blasted by the wind.  The trees stayed tantalizing close, but so far away.    For a half hour I thought about bushwacking down, but that didn't feel like an option.

At sunset one last gust of wind blew me into a stump, smacking my shin, and I was in the trees.  I wasted no time setting up as it got dark.  Just before full dark I was joined by Alice an Steve who had seen my light and did bushwack a bit to my camp.  We talked bad about the wind while it continued to howl around us as we made dinner.

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