PCT Day 4 : The Desert Is Windy

March 28 (~8:00 – ~17:30)
Junction to Garnet Peak – Dirt Road & Water Tank / Rodrigues Rd (18 mi / Total: 68.2 mi)
Weather: Sunny but with an icy cold wind

It’s 2:30 in the morning when suddenly my trekking pole and half my tent collapse on top of me. I’d finally fallen asleep after watching the wind violently play with my tent all evening, and the elements have won at last. I quickly go out into a miserable night, cold and white with fog, and restake the tent. When I’m back inside I search for the additional storm guy lines and face the gloomy conditions once more to fasten them. At least the tent appears more solid, and I try to sleep, waking regularly to check everything is still in place.

When I begin to wake at six in the morning my tent collapses again. This time it’s the far end, and the stake gets ripped out with another burst of wind. I fix it and repeat this once more before I’ve managed to pack all my belongings in the freezing temperatures, roll up the wet and muddy tent and head off, wearing all the layers I have.

I’m happy to be moving down the trail again. The wind is strong and won’t lie down, so I struggle to warm up, despite the sun. I push through the last of yesterday’s section until I reach a picnic area. I sit down, quickly, and drink some of my protein drink until I follow the trail up to a mountain of orange rock. The path is like a wide gravel road and the higher elevation offers great views over the valley below, and then the real trail starts, at Kwaaymii Point trailhead.

The trail skirts around the valley, carving into the mountainside, exposing sharp rocks and dramatic views. I take pictures of everything, and move down the trail quickly. I don’t dance like I did the night before, but I move swiftly, and I feel in control of the trail. It’s a good start of the day, as it’ll be a Iong one if I want to make it to Warner Springs by Saturday afternoon.

I take a break in an area with large boulders strewn about and shortly after find a surprise stream with hikers resting on the riverbed. I take some water – it has gone sparse again in these higher elevations, and then Speedy passes. She seems to be in a frenzy, excited to be moving. She has some news for me – she’d called the Warner Springs community center and they told her they were just opening for the season again. The hours I’d read were the off season times. They would be open on Sunday, and every day thereafter. This means I don’t need to push anymore, which is good because despite the easy American trails, I’m not sure I would’ve made it.

I collect a few litres of water and continue on my way, leaving Speedy to dry her tent in the sun. She’s also had a windy night, and her tent is wet and muddy, but nothing as bad as me. I follow the trail down a rocky path, lined with stones in pink marble colours. It’s intriguing, although it hurts my feet. Then I continue up and down the desert hills and chase down the next water source, some ten miles after the last.

It’s a water tank next to a dirt road, and I anticipate camping there but am worried about my safety – camping close to a road is never ideal. As I inch closer I see the trail descend to a picturesque scene, thin grass growing in between the sand, and lots of small bushes and trees providing shelter against the wind. A few tents are erected close to the water tank, and I take some of the dripping water and head back to the trail, to find the perfect spot away from the wind.

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