Out of the Snow, Into the Windmills

Monday, April 15; 12 miles

I woke up after 6 AM.  It was already light, so I was able to get my contact lenses on, get dressed, and stuff may sleeping bag before emerging from my tent.  My German camp mate was already making coffee, and asked if I wanted a cup.  I thanked him, pointing out that coffee has never been my thing.  I struck and rolled up my tent, which was all wet from the snow, into its bag and into my pack.

Next was breakfast.  I decided that I was hungry enough for two breakfast items, especially since water was available – and yes, the pipe placement had settled down overnight so that the emerging water was clear.  I ate a pouch of Idahoan potatoes and added a small pouch of gravy.  Then I ate four pouches of cheese flavored Quaker instant grits.  I like this cheese flavor because there is some salt in it, which is lacking in Quaker’s plain and butter flavored varieties.

While I was boiling water, mixing ingredients and eating, the German hiker went on his way.  We had talked about water caches, so he was all set for the dry stretch of trail. I packed the full four bottles of water because aside from using fuel to melt snow, the next water on the trail was the Golden Oak Spring –  20 miles away.

I went on my way through the snow.  The trail joined a windy dirt road downhill, then began a five-mile uphill to Hamp William pass.  Between miles 600 and 599 (Remember, I am hiking south.) a blow down obstructed the trail – a multitude of big fallen trees that I had to get over, one by one, with snow covering all of them.  It was slow going.

Trail maintenance may be lacking because many of these trees had no bark and must have fallen many years ago.  I do know that it can be dangerous to cut massive tree trunks that are above the ground, so maybe the sawyers are waiting until it is safe.

Finally, I reached Hamp Williams pass, back into the world of no snow – or at least a lot less snow.  Across the valley were windmills, and of course there was wind too.

And what was blowing in was a big cloud.  Soon I was in the cloud and everything was foggy.

After passing through the fog, I continued to descend, and when I got to the lowest point, I saw something awful.  All the trees had this yellow blight on them, and every tree branch the blight touched was dying away.  Maybe this is a type of tree fungus.  It appears to grow on almost all the trees and bushes too.

Pretty soon I was hiking through former forests that had died away, presumably due to the blight.  There are all kinds of reasons why trees are dying in large numbers in southern California (southern Colorado too), and this yellow blight must be just one of them.

By the end of the day I found a nice flat spot to put up my tent.  The downside was that the spot was very windy, but the good side was that there were ample rocks around to use as tent stakes.  Besides, my tent was wet, and the wind will blow it dry.

Tuesday, April 16; 13 miles

The wind had died down by morning, and my tent was a lot drier.  Only the bottom was still wet.  I used to have a footprint, but I lost it somewhere on a hike, and since the tent is at least ten years old, I haven’t been able to find a replacement.  I ate only one breakfast today because my water had to last.

Today was the first day that I saw a good number of northbound hikers – eight.  This was one greater than the seven I saw during the first five days of my PCT journey.  By talking to some of them, it was becoming apparent that the percentage of European and Australian hikers is a lot greater on the PCT than on the Appalachian Trail.

I talked to one young German woman in particular.  She said that she had hiked through tremendous snow in the San Gabriels, waist high in places, but by “post-holing” or stepping into the tracks of previous hikers, she kept going – but it was slow.

The trail passed through the first of many wind energy facilities in and near Tehachapi Pass.  This small collection of wind turbines is stretched over ten miles of the PCT, so I spent most of the day winding around one side and then the other of this facility.  It was a hot day, a definite contrast to the previous two days of snow.

The trail then headed to Golden Oaks Spring.  This is a nice little oasis with a piped spring having very modest flow.  There are several oak trees that have grown quite stout due to the water from the spring, so the spring area is nice and shaded, and there is a significant flat space for a good number of tents.  I should have taken a picture, but I was busy getting water and forgot.

The oaks in this region are some type of live oak with small oval leaves and big acorns, produced even when the tree is not too big in size.  I wondered why there were squirrels running around in places that had few or no big trees.

After Golden Oaks Spring, it was more hiking in the hot sun along the side of the mountain ridge.  After about four miles, the trail passed over the ridge into a shaded, flat area that I could not resist as a tent location.

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