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Day 36 – May 9, 2022

Mile 558.5 (Willow Springs Road/Tehachapi) to 583.3 (Golden Oaks Spring)

24.8 trail miles | 23.6 tracked miles | 5,978 ft elevation gain | 59 F / 15 °C

I am back on trail after a double zero in Tehachapi, CA. Once again, I dodged a weather event. Yesterday’s forecast called for persistent fog, low temperatures, and a wind advisory—a dreadful prospect when hiking through wind farms. Fortunately, the wind abated somewhat today.

Weather considerations aside, today’s stretch was almost comically underwhelming. It seemed like this section was designed to be as punishing as possible.

Michael and I picked up the trail in the morning where we left off at Willow Springs Road (mile 558.5), while Joe decided to skip a few miles and resume hiking at Highway 58 (mile 566.5) as he wasn’t feeling great.

Joe didn’t miss much. From Willow Springs Road to Highway 58, the PCT meandered aimlessly and miserably through wind farms. I couldn’t make sense of the never-ending switchbacks, since the terrain was mostly flat. I ended up taking a few shortcuts, which is frowned upon because of the long-term impact on the environment. On a more positive note, I enjoyed seeing multiple generations of wind turbines, including a few oldies!

The trail eventually reached and followed Cameron Canyon Road for half a mile. Then, I crossed the Tehachapi Loop railroad, a famed 19th century engineering marvel which is hailed as one of the seven wonders of the railroad world. The Loop is a 3,779 foot long spiral that allows trains to climb Tehachapi Pass at a 2.2% grade. Long trains literally loop around themselves!

The Loop was built by 3,000 Chinese laborers for the Southern Pacific Railway Company. It incorporates 18 tunnels and 12 bridges and played an important part in the early development of Los Angeles. Nowadays, the right of way belongs to the Union Pacific Railroad’s Mojave Subdivision. Sadly, there were no trains in sight this morning.

The Tehachapi Loop, up close and personal

This minor highlight was followed by a boring two-mile walk along Highway 58.

The PCT along Highway 58

I was thrilled when the trail finally veered off the highway and gained elevation, but the path was horribly exposed. The wind was so strong that I had to fight to stay on my feet. It took me a while to find a suitable spot to sit down for a snack. At least, the temperature was comfortable.

Climbing north of Highway 58
View over the wind farms from the north side of Highway 58

A forested area brought a brief respite, then the trail merged with a tortuous dirt road that was built to the standards of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was ridiculously beat up and rocky, although the grade was quite gentle. One hiker commented on the FarOut hiking app: “I am literally commenting out of boredom.” That sums it up, although I felt more frustrated than bored.

Nasty five mile dirt road walk.

I eventually reunited with the gang and we settled for the night at a campsite near Golden Oaks Spring. The area by the trough was quite crowded—hikers tend to congregate by the few water sources—and I wished I had skipped miles and arrived earlier.

Eventually I was able to find a protected spot just a bit higher up, near a spur dirt road. Ultimately, today’s highlight was definitely my hot dinner!

Camping at Golden Oaks Spring

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