The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday 7 June 2012

Day 6 - Mile 545 to Mile 558.5

Wednesday 6 June (0430-1035)
Distance: 13.5 miles
Weather: normal service of wall-to-wall sunshine resumed, but still cool at just 20 degrees by 10.30)
Number of wind turbines seen: hundreds!

At 5.15am day has just started to dawn and it's just about light enough to see without a headtorch. At 4.30am today, the moon was bright enough to achieve the same thing, so we started our day with a moonlit walk before the sky to the east turned red. It's not a bad hour of day to be out walking - particularly when you're up high for sunrise.

Up high is exactly where we were for sunrise, as we warmed up through the chilly start by zig-zagging our way from our campspot at 4700' up to 6200' - the high point of the walk so far, but only half the altitude we will reach in the Sierras.

I was huffing and puffing, but the ascent was (of course) gentle and it took us over an hour and a half to get to that high point. Even then, there was still lots of up to do - but nothing as sustained as that first one.

We've been through a couple of burn areas already, where it's evident that at some point in the past a wild-fire has taken place. Some of these obviously happened long ago (mature live trees along with the remains of the burnt ones), some more recently. On our way to the top of that first rise we passed through one such burn area where new growth was taking firm grip.

It was whilst we were taking in these surroundings that we spotted what looked like a tarp strung up in a tree. That turned out to be the completely unexpected trail magic. We hadn't seen a road for miles, and didn't see one for 10 miles more, and yet there on the trail was bottled water and apples.

Another chap, Jacob, was just about to leave as we arrived and from his comments and those scribbled on bits of paper left for the trail angels, we weren't the only people to be absolutely delighted with the kindness of Daniel and Larry, who had apparently placed this magic.

Having paused there for breakfast (I wasn't going to pass by the opportunity to sit in a real seat for a meal!), on we went for our last 10 miles to Willow Springs Road.

In getting there another burn area was crossed - this one the most recent and the saddest of all we've seen so far. Big, old trees, all blackened and dead, some toppled, and only the smallest hint of new plants and flowers starting to spring up. That one must have been quite recent and it'll be many decades before the area can possibly again look like it did before the fire.

So, rather than passing through some nice woodland, it was more barren desert landscape, albeit this time with blackened tree skeletons.

Then we came to the windfarm. Well, we though yesterday's was big, but it seems that it was just a tiddler. Turbines could be seen here in every direction for about as far as the eye could see. It was incredible.

We skirted, rather than passed through the turbines today, dropping ever downwards until we met a road. According to the trail register there we were only the second through today (arriving about 30 seconds after Jacob had signed).

It was then just a few paces to Willow Springs Road, from where we were to hitch into Mojave. I hate hitching and within twenty minutes I was convinced that we were going to be there all day. I was also convinced that we'd chosen the wrong town, as the other hitching option from this road is Tehachapi (Teh-hatch-a-pea is a pretty close approximation to how most people seem to say it), which is slightly closer but in the other direction. All of the cars seemed to be going there, rather than to Mojave.

Of course my pessimism was misplaced as well within the hour someone didn't just stop for us, but took us right to the door of our motel.

Hopefully getting out of town will be easier. We're rejoining the trail at a different point, to where we can get a bus. It's not a scheduled stopping point, but Mick has spoken to the bus operator, who has confirmed that they will drop us at the trail.

I should probably also give mention the going underfoot, as they are currently far from what we are used to in our UK walking. Today the sand/grit underfoot was often soft enough to be considered ankle-shaping and to slow us down a bit (not that we're going fast anyway). It probably goes without saying that the ground is hot, but I hadn't anticipated how hot it would be. Even on these cool days I can feel the heat radiating through my shoes, and each morning the ground sheet of the tent is warm to the touch.

Here in town we're also walking on grit and dirt. They're not big on pavements around here, and it's either that or the road. We've done a bit of walking too (as Mojave is a spread out place) although only for the purposes of eating and eating some more. We'll tackle resupply in the morning, before eating more, before heading back to the trail for about 4pm.

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