Downhill to Tehachapi

Wednesday, April 17; 18 miles

I awoke at the usual 6 AM because that is when it gets bright enough that I no longer need a head lamp.  This was the second night that I spent in the vicinity of windmills.  It is probably best described as sleeping near an airport where planes are only landing.  There are plenty of whooshes and whirs all the time but never any deep, loud takeoff rumbles heard for tens of miles.

It makes you think of Senator Ted Kennedy, who has been dead for 15 years now.  He was always in favor of wind power anywhere and at any time – until they wanted to build wind turbines on and near Cape Cod.  Then he was dead set against it.  The web says that they are finally building the Cape Cod windmills after all, but it has been a long time.

The trail down to the Bakersfield-Tehachapi highway (state road 58) was mostly downhill, long, hot, and winding.  It was about 3  PM when I got to the place where hikers can call for a Kern County bus to pick them up at 6 PM.  Since I was almost out of water, the bus option was my plan, but lo and behold, once again there was a modest cache of water at the gate.  Thank you, water cache trail angels!

Now, I did not have to wait for three hours, so I proceeded into the main Tehachapi Pass wind farm.  The claim is that this is the second largest collection of windmills in California by number but first in terms of power generated.

There is a road walk of more than a mile before entering the wind farm.  Right at the gate I met Rafael and Davinci – Rafael was a real name that he shortened to Rafa, whereas Davinci was a trail name to fit the Italian Renaissance artist theme.  Rafa proceeded to tell me all kinds of things about the next 100 miles of trail, some of which I absorbed.

After the gate and a big uphill, I was right up there with the windmills.  Yes, there were fences between the trail and the windmills in all places, but the windmills were mighty close.  The trail had benches and bridges, and there was one place that Rafa had told me about where the gully eroded across the trail was so big that hikers had to cross the fence and return in order to get around it.  Needless to say, the wind was strong to fierce.

I walked about six miles past state road 58 and found a place where the trail followed a deep gully with a flat bottom.  I wasn’t sure if hikers are allowed to camp in this section, so this looked like the perfect place for a stealth camp. It was well shielded from the strong winds too. All night, if I stood up, I saw headlights that I imagined were from security vehicles, but I have no idea whether this was true or not.  I had plenty of water for dinner, so I would skip breakfast in the morning and get myself to Tehachapi for recharge and resupply.

Thursday, April 18; 6 miles

I hiked the remaining mile and a half to the Willow Springs trailhead, and I saw the posted list of trail angels.  Since it was so early in the morning, I called Star Taxi 24-hour service.  He charged me $30, but I got to Walmart in a timely fashion.

Then I decided I was too hungry to shop, so I walked to the McDonalds close by and had a Big Breakfast with hot cakes and a side order of oatmeal with raisins and apple cubes.  I found their charging station and charged my two Onn dual-port portable batteries and my cell phone too.  Since these take hours to charge, I wrote and published my story about the bus trip while sipping tea.  This McDonalds had a big jug of tea available for refills.  Not all McDonalds have that anymore.

By afternoon my batteries were charged and I had written enough.  I went to the nearest grocery, Albertson’s for resupply.  Later, outside the store, I was engaged in packing my purchases when this very nice guy appeared and said that he would drive me to the trail.  He told me that he hikes a two-week section of the PCT every year during his vacation time, and this coming summer he intends to complete the trail up in Washington state.

He drove me to a picnic table at Willow Spring, where I could finish sorting my stuff.  I offered him $20, but he refused, saying that I need to return the favor to someone else.  He took off and I finished getting packed, so I was ready to hike again at about 4 PM.

There was still more of the windmill field ahead of me on the trail, and I was able to walk about 4 miles before the sun set.  Once again I set up my tent on the trail on the side of a steep hill, but this time I was much more careful that my tent site was level and wide enough.  Even though I was up there right below a couple of big windmills, the wind wasn’t too bad at this location.  It crossed my mind that windmills can fail and collapse, as has happened in western Oklahoma during storms, but I considered the weather to be more or less normal at the time.  I slept well.

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