Fighting the Wind on the Pacific Crest Trail

The Los Angeles Aquaduct gifts hikers one of the PCT's first flat stretches—but some of its worst wind, too.
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The Los Angeles Aquaduct gifts hikers one of the PCT's first flat stretches—but some of its worst wind, too.
cottonwood creek

Hanging out under the Cottonwood Creek Bridge (Photo by Amanda Jameson)

Today I tackled one of the more notorious parts of the trail: the LA Aqueduct and the Manzana Wind Power Project, a giant wind farm that rolls along the last part of the Aqueduct.

I started along the Aqueduct yesterday evening, rolling into Hikertown, a local home and series of outbuildings right along the PCT that are available for the use of hikers, and hitting the trail later that evening. The beautiful thing about the Aqueduct is that it's the first long stretch of flat land along the trail. Under a beautiful sunset, I rolled along at a sustained 3.5 miles an hour—much faster than the 2.8 I usually go—and nestled in among the Joshua trees, which is where I found myself this morning.

I started off at 5:30 to beat the heat, with 10 miles to the Cottonwood Creek Bridge, the next bit of water and shade. It was a pretty easy walk, and I had it wrapped up by about 9:30 a.m. I probably could have pushed 6 more miles to Tylerhorse Canyon, the next water source, but I had done 16.6 miles before noon yesterday, and I wanted to cut myself some slack.

Along with many other thru-hikers, I took a break under the bridge to sleep, eat, write and socialize. Did trail laundry under the faucet. I probably should've made to go a little sooner, but then a former hiker showed up with some trail magic, and I hung out until 5, long after most folks left.

A seven-hour siesta is good for the muscles, but it isn't often good for motivation. Having recently discovered that my music collection was automatically backed up on my phone, though, I decided that right then was the time to bust out some miles—ten, I hoped, to a nice camping spot after the water source.

The wind had other plans.

The Iberdrola Renewable Manzana Wind Project (Photo by Amanda Jameson)

The Iberdrola Renewable Manzana Wind Project (Photo by Amanda Jameson)

Turns out, there's a wind farm in that area for a reason: While the bridge itself was windy, the trail that followed was hard to walk I was fighting the wind so much. At first, it was fun, a challenge to fight the wind and still make miles. Once the trail moved upwards with a vengeance, though, it became a little more nerve-wracking; I had to stop frequently to catch my breath. Those six miles were some of the mentally hardest I'd spent on trail, my emotions yo-yoed so much.

The wind was still maddening in Tylerhorse Canyon, so another hiker and I moved on, but only made it a mile between the wind and the exposure and the darkening sky. We found a tiny, tiny windbreak, threw my Tyvek groundsheet down in it, and threw ourselves down in it as well.

There's still dust pouring into my sleeping bag, but at least we're out of the worst of the wind. It should make for an interesting evening—but it will just make reaching Tehachapi tomorrow so much sweeter.