PCT 2019: Day 42, Hiker Town to Tylerhorse Canyon

Road Runner, the coyote's after you

When I woke up this morning shortly after 2:00, I decided to pack up and walk with MJ, who planned to leave at 3:00.

I never felt comfortable in the camper. It wasn’t filthy, but it also wasn’t clean. It wasn’t a wreck, but it was definitely dysfunctional.

Perhaps I should have camped last night in my tent, but at least I didn’t have to take it down before leaving.

DateSaturday, May 4, 2019
WeatherClear skies, with an overnight low in the mid 50s and a high in the low 80s
Trail ConditionsLong section of flat road walking, then gradual climb before finishing with steep climb and descent to canyon bottom
Today's Miles23.9
Trip Miles542.7

I surprised MJ when I knocked on her door. She was finishing packing and didn’t expect to see me, but was glad I decided to walk with her.

The night was pitch black when we left. There was no moon in the sky.

The air was cool and that made walking enjoyable. Or at least it was enjoyable until I stepped in a hole that I failed to see and twisted my ankle.

Fortunately, it wasn’t hurt badly and I was able to walk off the pain.

After about 45 minutes of walking, we reached where the trail began to follow the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

When we first saw it, the aqueduct was a large pipe mostly buried in the desert sand. It was part of a massive and notoriously corrupt project to bring water from Owens Valley to Los Angeles.

The project was completed in 1913 and was successful in providing much-needed water to the rapidly-expanding city. But it also destroyed any hope for farmers in Owens Valley of becoming viable and productive. The aqueduct also had disastrous environmental consequences for Owens Lake, which is now mostly dry.

Walking on the pipe seemed like a good option, compared to walking on the sandy trail that ran next to the pipe. I soon gave up doing that, however, because in the dark it was difficult to see joints in the pipe.

Dawn came at 6 a.m. and I no longer needed my headlamp to illuminate the trail in front of me.

For a long stretch, the trail continued along a gravel road next to the aqueduct. From the pipe, it transitioned to a 12-foot-wide concrete trough with a concrete cover.

At one point I noticed coyote tracks were embedded in the concrete. I laughed at the thought of seeing Wile E. Coyote stuck in mid-run across the concrete.

Moments later, I saw a roadrunner dart across the trail.

It’s true. I really did, but it was too fast for me to take a photo.

After sunrise, I began to see more features of the desert. In particular, there were many Joshua trees, which I had not seen up to this point of the hike.

They are members of the yucca family and grow only in the Mojave Desert, which extends from here to Nevada and a small part of Utah and Arizona. They can live up to 150 years.

By 7:30 a.m. I was ready for a break, so I stopped when I came to one of several large concrete pedestals that were spaced along the aqueduct. The temperature was beginning to warm, so I removed my windshirt and windpants, then I ate a snack.

This section of trail can be especially inhospitable, especially later in the hiking season. That is why most hikers avoid walking it in the middle of the day and why MJ and I thought we should start early.

The temperature this morning was more comfortable than expected. Though it was warming as the day wore on, the conditions remained pleasant.

Obviously, a long and flat stretch of trail through a desert basin is not what you’d expect for a trail named the Pacific Crest Trail. In fact, this section was not part of the vision of the trail at its inception, and eventually, it will no longer go through it.

An agreement has been reached to reroute this section through Antelope Valley and the desert. It will be moved to private land owned by a large corporation, Tejon Ranch.

The agreement for rerouting the trail was part of a larger decision by Tejon Ranch to set aside 90 percent of their land for permanent conservation. The full property covers 270,000 acres, making it the largest single piece of private real estate in California.

With about three miles to go to reach the bridge at Cottonwood Creek, where I planned to take a break, I spotted a small clump of trees along the side of the gravel road. Though I was falling far behind MJ by now, I decided to stop for lunch in the shade. I thought I’d probably catch up with her at the bridge.

Up ahead, a large wind farm stretched across the horizon. Not surprisingly, this area is ideal for wind generation, as well as for solar power.

Not far from here is one of the largest solar photovoltaic projects in the world. It contains roughly 3.8 million solar panels to generate 242 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power 75,000 homes per year.

I reached Cottonwood Creek at 11 a.m. The creek was nearly dry, but a faucet made it possible to get water from the aqueduct.

A former PCT hiker was there with some trail magic. He told me MJ had just left.

I intended to walk underneath the bridge at the creek, where I knew it would be shady. I had been hiking eight hours now and this seemed like a good spot to rest.

I only stayed about an hour, though. There were so many flies I didn’t get much rest, so I decided to keep on walking.

By now the temperature was reaching near 80 degrees F, but I didn’t feel overly hot. A breeze helped make the day bearable.

Not far beyond the bridge, the trail turned from the road and entered the wind farm. As the blades of the windmills turned in the breeze, they made a low roar.

The wind farm was so huge that it took a couple hours to walk through it.

By the time I reached the other side of the wind farm, the trail began to make a climb, gradually at first, then steeper. This was a ridge that led to the edge of Tylerhorse Canyon.

I arrived at the bottom of the canyon just before 3 p.m. I found where MJ was camped on the other side of the creek, so I pitched my tent nearby.

It had been a long day, the longest of this hike so far and the longest I had walked in any hike. Despite taking some lengthy breaks, I walked nearly 24 miles in under 12 hours, which was a good pace for me.

I was glad I chose to leave early. That meant I didn’t walk the entire way under a hot sun, and I finished just as the day was reaching its high temperature.

There was a cooling breeze where we were camped, so after I finished setting up my tent and collecting water from the creek, I took a nap in my tent for more than an hour.

Later, when I woke up and was preparing dinner, Captain and Gilly arrived. They had decided to leave before the rest of the Woohoo Crew, who remained at Hiker Town for several more hours.

If you're on the highway and Road Runner goes beep beep.
Just step aside or might end up in a heap.
Road Runner, Road Runner runs on the road all day.
Even the coyote can't make him change his ways.

Road Runner, the coyote's after you.
Road Runner, if he catches you you're through.
Road Runner, the coyote's after you.
Road Runner, if he catches you you're through.

That coyote is really a crazy clown,
When will he learn he can never mow him down?
Poor little Road Runner never bothers anyone,
Just runnin' down the road's his idea of having fun.

Road Runner, the coyote's after you.
Road Runner, if he catches you you're through.
Road Runner, the coyote's after you.
Road Runner, if he catches you you're through.

From “The Road Runner Show” theme song by Barbara Cameron


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.