Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 34 and 35 - The Mojave Wind

Most of us left Hikertown around 6, packs heavy with water for a full day of hiking before the next source.  The night before was very windy.  The wind even found gaps in my little house, making it breezy inside much of the night.  I didn't mind that as much as the noise.  But it calmed down around 3 am.  Our day's route took us across 24 miles of fairly flat ground with only the last few miles being a climb back up into the ridge on the opposite side of the valley.

We were very fortunate with the day we picked to cross this section.  A huge cloud hovered over the desert floor, shading us from the sun nearly the entire day.  We did, however, have some wind.
Have you ever been in wind that blew your hat off?  Or got sand in your eyes?  That howled in your ears?  With occassional gusts that made you have to lean into it.  Yeah, probably.  That's not what the wind was like in the Mojave.

Sure, it did all that, but that was when we were sheltered by a steep embankment next to the trail, or behind a big bush.  The walk in the morning, while fairly windy, was hardly a whisper compared to the afternoon.  After an afternoon break in a lean-to shelter near a bridge, we set out to face The Wind.  The Wind was strong.  After climbing back up to the road after the break and feeling it fully, I wondered if we were just in a bad spot and it'd calm down ahead.  It was easily a constant 35-40 mph, though I'm no wind guaging expert, and it only got stronger as we went on.  A gust could hit at any moment, sending us staggering a few steps sideways off the trail.  Crouching low was the only way to make decent progress through it.  Even then we'd get pushed, or shoved, around.  And anytime we crested a low rise or hill the wind would increase.  Some of the areas were at a point where the wind was channeled up a small ravine, focusing it.  Usually there'd be a dirt or gravel road there, leading to one of the many windmills in the area (all of which were off, it was too windy).  At those points the wind felt like you'd expect it to if you were standing in the back of a truck going down the freeway at 70 mph.  The whole afternoon was a struggle, but the road crossings were actually challenging.  I stopped as I approached one, got spun around and nearly fell over.

At another road crossing I stopped and turned around to watch and laugh at the hikers behind me as they crossed it.  Then my hat blew off and went sailing back down the hill.  I found a bush to drop my pack next to so it didn't blow away as well, then ran (the wind wouldn't let me walk) down after my hat.  It's dark green, so I thought it may be hard to spot even if it wasn't a mile away by now.  Fortunately, it was stuck in a bush not too far down.

We finally got up into some hills and into a ravine where a creek was flowing down.  There were 8-10 of us in that area and we scattered about to try and find decent playes to sleep.  I found a nice low spot surrounded by bushes.  It wasn't big enough for my tent, but a tent wouldn't have survived the night anyway.  I just kicked the dirt and dead grass around until it was fairly flat, laid out my ground sheet and cowboy camped.  While sitting there making dinner, I heard 2 trees fall over on the hill just on the other side of the creek.  Opus actually saw them fall.  They were dead trees that had burned in a fire there years ago.  We both made sure we hadn't camped under any that looked ready to fall as well.

The next morning the wind was still for a few hours.  It picked back up some but there were enough hills around to make it not nearly as bad as it was down in the flat desert.  I reached a highway in the early afternoon and hitched a ride into Mojave with a couple other hikers.  The guy who picked us up said this was some of the worst wind he's seen around here.  He dropped me at a motel with a grocery store and restaurant right across the street.  That was the reason I had chosen to go go Mojave instead of Tehachapi, where most of the others I had been hiking with went.  I had a big cheeseburger, fries and chili dog at the restaurant, then went and bought my food for the next stretch into Kennedy Meadows.  Six more days of desert until the Sierra mountains!

No comments:

Post a Comment