Friday, June 1, 2012

1 June - Day 42 - Tough desert mountains + high heat + little water = bad attitude day

Landers Camp (Mile 608.9) to Spring Pass (Mile 630.8)

Trail Miles hiked today: 21.9

Total rattlesnakes encountered on the trail to date: 10

Long, hot day.

Pan (Charles) here. Today was pretty hard. A dry, difficult landscape in temperatures in the 100s (not counting how the sun-heated rock & sand around us radiated heat up). Our feet felt like we were shuffling across a sizzling griddle.

Today we had to rely on the generosity of the thrice-blessed Mary, the trail angel of Kelso Valley and Bird Spring Pass. We are usually careful to be sufficiently supplied so that if a water cache is empty it won't affect us - but this was a long hot stretch today and the water we carried we had to drink up.

We arrived at Kelso Valley in the middle of what could be a stereotypical old west film location of brown desert hills and mountains -- dramatic with its laser-etched clarity -- and with nary a sign of human habitation. Under the scrub where we expected to find bottles of water --just some empties, and a note in the bushes from someone ~ "Will be back in 45 minutes. 9:30." It was 10:15 or so. We also didn't know what day someone had written the note. Was this about the water? We pondered what we might do. We had burned through our liters of water getting here. We could back-hike to the last water source.

As we scratched our heads, a truck came up the long, lonely road toward the crossing -- and out jumped an older woman with a big sun hat. She called out to us, and opened the back of the truck, hauling down a milk crate of gallon jugs of water! We went to help her -- and she smiled and called out "There's more in the back of the truck. I can get this batch." She must have brought over 70 bottles of water up that morning! Wowie (our refrain).

Mary told us many a happy tale -- and what a gem she is. Years ago before the thru-hikers started coming through, she told us, she used to bring water up here for the hunters and the dirt bikers, riding up the mountain on her motorcycle with twenty bottles strapped to the back. "I was much younger then," she conceded. "But riding back down the mountain could get tricky with all those empties tied around my neck and flying around my head."


After we saw her off (and after Rubylocks and Calf arrived), we filled up and headed up into the desert hills. In the heat of the day. At a distance, 3Bears and DirtyBrown were just coming over a rise and saw us in the distance starting off from the water cache in the heat of the day, and they wondered what the hell we were thinking of.

We carried 3 liters each for the 18 miles to the next water source -- another cache that Mary supplies. [If Mary didn't supply these, thru-hikers would have to carry something on the order of two gallons -- like 18 lbs of water! ugh! THANK YOU, MARY!!]

Pausing for lunch/snacks under a Joshua Tree.
But the hike took it out of us. Sand hiking is tough anyway. This was sand trail, however, that dirt bikers illegally use and they have rutted the trail into big dips and slides that are especially tiring. And the sun just kept beating down. I had lost my appetite the day before -- and was trying to keep eating, but, bleah!! Nothing appealed remotely -- and I felt nauseated. And the water got evaporated out of us as we hauled our packs up and up and up in the heat faster than we could drink it down -- and we had to be judicious drinking our water so it would last.

I finally got pretty dizzy and we crawled into the alien-world shade of a cluster of Joshua trees, where we laid back and dozed. Ants. This world is made for ants. It seems at times everything wants to bite us or sting us or stick us with spines, thorns, or stickers. But the Joshua Tree treated us well enough and we had shelter in a dreamy, dazed sort of state.

But I was restless under the Joshua tree. Even resting, our metabolisms were burning water and calories. What if the next cache didn't have water? We'd be in a state. So we pushed on.

March, march, march. Trudge, trudge, trudge. You don't think of much sensible. You try to look around and see things -- but the march requires you keep your eyes focused on the trail so you don't stumble. You doze on your feet. The day kept going.

Soon it was late afternoon. Then Dionysus (in the lead) stepped right past a big green diamondback on the side of the trail. It didn't much mind Dionysus this time, but reared back in a general objection to being stirred from her afternoon siesta. We watched it and commented. Then, a bit worried that Seano coming up might not see her (she wasn't moving from the side of the trail -- her snake hole was just across the way), I got a long stick and noodged her along, and finally she reluctantly shuffled off a bit into a sage bush. Seano came along shortly (we had gone) and the snake was still fizzing and buzzing away in the bush (which for diamondbacks is equivalent apparently to swearing up a blue streak).

We finally arrived at the Bird Spring Cache -- the trail follows a long ridge line of a desert mountain to where it intersects a dirt road -- beautiful views to the east of the vast Owens Valley/Mojave Desert confluence, and to the west of mountains and mountains. But we appreciated views only abstractly at this point. Whenever I stopped walking I was dizzy enough to have to bend way over to keep the blood in my head, and to not pass out. Ridiculous. So we kept marching like zombies. There, at the end of the trail, under more Joshua Trees (and watched over by a trillion ants) was a great beautiful field (it seemed) of water bottles tied carefully together so the bottles wouldn't wander. Full of clean, clear water. Gorgeous. We drank and drank.

Pace was already camped nearby. We got our campsite set up -- I was so dizzy I couldn't stand long. Soon Dirty Brown showed up and set up his cowboy camp. Somewhere behind on the trail, 3Bears, Rubylocks, and Calf had found other accommodation.

As the sun goes down, we make our camp in a wide space next to some Joshua trees. My hands are cramping here as I work to unfold them.
As Dionysus, Seano, and I chuckled and groaned about the trials and tribulations of the day, my hands started cramping. Hilarious. It looked like they were demon-possessed. How my fingers twisted and turned and bent and folded. Then my thighs started in cramping. Then my calf/foot. What gives!!?? I never cramp. Dehydration. Pretty strong dehydration, too.

So Chris and Sean forced water down me (I sweat twice as much as they, and my shirt cakes in sweat salts much more dramatically than theirs do, so I apparently use water differently in my body. Who knew?). I drank a gallon of water before bed -- without getting rid of any of it. Woah. Food still didn't taste good, though, and we had some difficulty finding something I could eat. Yuck.

But Sean and Dionysus, though thoroughly "knackered" (exhausted) and footsore and staggering from the exertions of the day, were still by and large doing well. They had appetite and plenty of thirst. And we all retained some sense of humor, especially whenever I began thrashing around with another demon in some odd part of my body. 

Dionysus's feet and shoes. Ah the glamor and romance of the wilderness.

Nevertheless the night was beautiful -- and very windy -- as we sheltered behind a different large cluster of Joshua trees. The sundown was magnificent, with the shadow of earth rising up across the deserts to the east in a big blue wave. Wowie.

The cramps stopped after about 10 pm. How our joints and feet ached all night long though!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

No comments:

Post a Comment