Pacific Crest Trail: The Place Where the Machines Stand Tall

I can feel the heat radiating off of the ground back onto my calves. The endless, blistering sun baking every piece of exposured skin. The only saving grace, the slight breeze blowing gently across the plains, unknowingly ready to whip masterfully without question. I had just left Hiker Town, unsure of what the night had in store. Everyone had their own idea of what they wanted to do out of town and for the LA Aqueduct section, something that we’ve heard is generally a tough hike because of the heat and 17 mile water carry. Although most would consider that a long stretch without water, I tend to lean towards that being a fine carry. 

The trail runs along the exposed Aqueduct, showing essentially LA’s entire water supply. Once you head north again, the water is held within a concrete cistern essentially that runs the entire way towards the wind farm. I left town at 3:30, essentially in the heat of the day. Once again I questioned why I was making the decisions I was making, but alas.  

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Before I get too deep into the details of how the day unfolded, I want to touch on the fact that I finally caught up to Happy Feet, one of my long time friends from one of my section hikes of the Appalachian Trail back in 2014. I was doing the state of Mass. and Happy Feet was nearly 1,600 Miles into his thru hike. When we initially ran into each other, I had no idea what would unfold before my eyes. We ended up hiking about 100 miles together, all the way past the Vermont Border, eventually yielding to my ending point. Amidst all of the hiking and my introduction to the thru hiking community itself, Happy Feet gave me my trail name. He asked me what my favorite tattoo was that I had engraved into my skin, and after a little while spent thinking and pondering,  I settled and still to this day settle on my tattoo that reads, “PMA”, an acronym for ‘Positive Mental Attitude’. 

Im not sure if Happy Feet initially planned to name me, but I vaguely remember him mentioning that he wanted to, as we climbed out of Dalton, MA on that oh so distant late summer day four years ago. He eventually belted out, “Puma!”. He claimed it to stand for ‘Positive Ubiquitous Mental Attitude’, something that I found to be quite meaningful, but also really thoughtful. It stuck.  

I took the name, and over the last four years, that moment in time stands to this day as one of the more impactful days for me.  

Anyways, after you arrive at the first water source along the Aqueduct Hike, PCT hikers enter the Wind Farm near Tehachapi. Essentially a 15 mile stretch where the wind blows strong, and the Machines stand tall. It’s quite an ominous area to walk through, especially at night. The shadows lay along the metal blades as they hummed in the night. The wind, gusting up to 50mph, was enough as a head wind to slow my pace, and with my neck constantly bent staring at the turbines and stars, it took awhile for my pace to quicken again. We had our sights set on the water source roughly 10 from the last. The terrain included a decent cllimb up, relentlessly exposing us to the headwind once again. I eventually hiked until 1:00 AM where I laid down my mat in a frenzie to get comfortable. The night was starting to wear on me. 

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I was delusional to an extent, stumbling through the darkness, gazing up at the stars and machines as they towered above with their constant hum. Right before I slipped into a deep sleep, I managed to get a few exposures of the Milky Way, slightly shrouded by the emanating light pollution from town. My eyes closed, and within moments it all blended into darkness. The night was over. 

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Yesteeday yielded a low mileage day of roughly 17 miles into Tehachapi. We are getting close to the Sierra, and with only a few days left, we’re in the process of making the decision on when to enter. Time will tell.