Total Miles: 566.4
Any day that begins with the promise of real food and a shower at the end of it is a great day and after nearly 400 miles since my last day off in Idyllwild, I’m ready for both. Another early start to beat the heat, we took off one by one in the early morning hours just before sunrise, marching east directly toward another beautiful installment of the waking sun.
Trending downhill for most of the morning, the trail brought us to the edge of a substantially larger wind farm than the one we traversed yesterday, just more than 1000 feet below our campsite last night. Passing among the giant sentries, their blades whirling more fervently in the freshening breeze that replaced the comparative calm of a day earlier, I stopped and spun myself in all directions only to see a horizon covered with yet more of them. At all points of the compass, an impossible number of windmills stretched into the distance. I temporarily was swallowed by a sea of white pinwheels converting an invisible force into massive amounts of energy.
The giant wind farm at Tehachapi Pass was, until recently, one of the world’s largest, but is seeing a bit of a renaissance as the neighboring Alta Wind Energy Center has upgraded and expanded the existing farm to a total capacity of roughly 1500 megawatts. As expansion continues, the wind farm will supply enough energy to power nearly half a million homes in Southern California and will again be the largest wind power operation in the world.
Why all the science mumbo jumbo? First, because science is awesome. Second, because at this very place there exists an intersection of both the enjoyment of nature on the trail, and a clean energy technology that helps to preserve that very same nature the trail enjoys. A visual blight to the trail, perhaps, but one that comes with an incredibly positive upside.
Gazelle and I hiked together for the final few miles of the day, descending down to the busy highway that would take us into town. Just as we reached the access road within sight of the highway and started to discuss options for getting into town, a small car pulled up alongside us, window rolled down, and a local couple asked if we needed a ride. The serendipity of the trail, yet again. The small, but sprawling town of Tehachapi, perched above the western edge of the Mojave desert is where we’ll call home for the next two days, resting, icing, eating, and preparing for the hot traverse of the outdoor oven come Wednesday morning.