Total Miles: 549.7
The 4:30am alarm on my watch came early, but I quickly pulled my gear together and set off just before 5:00. Is it possible to hate the morning but love the sunrise? Minutes down the trail, that was the question I asked Gazelle, sensing that like me she struggled to greet the day at such an hour but enjoyed the soft glow of its pastel beauty. The occasional Joshua Tree set against a rising sun that slowly bled the deeper shades of blue from the sky made for a perfect silhouette.
Even the distant wind farms, which we spent much of the morning traversing, seemed to come to life just as scarlet reds gave way to burnt oranges and pinks.
I walked along a final stretch of aqueduct, the water quietly seething below me, audible only at regularly spaced concrete service hatches. When I finally reached the edge of the wind farm, the only sound other than my footsteps was the nearly silent hum of the nearest turbines. As the blades made another revolution, the rhythmic passing of their slender shadows was the only movement across the entire landscape. What looked like lakes in the distance slowly revealed themselves to be giant solar arrays.
It was a day full of small doses of trail magic that more than offset the sun, which was without its seemingly constant counterpart for most of the day: the wind. First, a cooler full of ice cold water left along the aqueduct by a nearby resident (yes, people actually live out here). Then, it was two lonely Coors Lights at a water spigot that Gazelle and I were all too happy to give a home. Is 7am too early for a drink? Not anymore.
The unexpected twist of the day was that after spending the morning following the nearly flat course of the aqueduct for miles yet again, the trail abruptly turned back towards the mountains and climbed up to over 6000 feet. As the trail tilted upward, the breeze returned and scattered cumulus clouds began to appear, providing periodic breaks from the sun. Moments after nearing an old dirt road that accesses a radio tower on the summit, we happened upon our third dose of trail magic: oranges, apples, cookies, and water. More than anything else, I crave fresh food and, in particular, fresh fruit. The juiciness of the orange was divine (sorry Greg, sticky hands were unavoidable). The clouds overhead had merged into a single, larger, dark cloud that began to unleash something seemingly impossible in this landscape. Barely a sprinkle, but it's probably more rain than this mountain will see for months.