Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Day 38 : The Love of Water

25 miles today
2029 miles to go

Three twenty, I am suddenly awake. One moment I was sound asleep, the next I am awake. Maybe it was that the wind stopped blowing. It blew in the pines last night, like it was chasing its tail. Around and around it would go. Left to right then back left. Long day today, probably worth getting started early. It's pitch black. I suppose at some point we’ll have a moon to provide some light, so far the moon’s been absent. I dig out my headlamp and have breakfast. I forego the coffee because that'll require heating water. I drink a liter and three quarters water. That'll give me a couple of containers to fill. I pack quickly and leave my pack leaning against a tree while I refill my containers. The walk to the spring and back is about five minutes. I mix up to two-drop batches of Aqua Mira. I don't know how long the water has to sit to kill the bugs when you only use two drops instead of the normal seven. I'm guessing a couple of hours will be enough. I walk through the pitch blackness to the spring. The stars are like brilliant diamonds in the velvety black sky. Mars glows in other worldly light. The spring water flows unceasingly from the pipe, cold and clear. The night is silent except for the singing laughter of the flowing water. My containers fill quickly and almost as quickly I'm back at my pack. In goes the Aqua Mira, don't drink these till the other two are gone. With my pack on my back I head off into the darkness my headlamp casting a tiny moving circle of light, enough light to step into not really enough to see anything else. The trail passes out of the forest and into the open. I can't see much except the gaunt skeletons of trees without needles. I pass by burned stumps. There is no sound except the crunch of gravel plunder my feet. As I walk the sky in the east gets lighter. Light enough to switch the red light mode. Then light enough to turn off my headlamp. The trail is a dim white line stretching away from my feet. As long as I keep my feet on the white line I am on the trail. 

It's light enough now to see that the forest dos burn here. A long time ago, I wonder how long it will take until this forest looks like the unburned pine forest I slept in. Maybe my grandchildren’s children will see it that way. I cross over a ridge and the trail heads down. Down, way down. Down out of the trees, past the woodland and the grass, down into the heat and dust. Down into the desert. So much elevation lost, so much more hardship and heat. The trail turns into my least favorite, beach sand like consistency. My pace slows as each step is a slog the sand moves and shifts making walking a chore. 

I have seven and three quarter liters of water and I have forty two miles to the next sure water source. This is going to be a long day. About four miles along I come around a corner and a trail angel has cache tons of water. I've had maybe two sips. My Aqua Mira is so low that I can't afford to use a full dose. I can't figure out how to clean any of the water without waiting for hours so I pass it by. Sad and scary, out into the desert about three liters short of what I really need. I only drink when necessary. This is not a good scenario. I don't like hiking like this. To top it off my pack is at its heaviest. The trail, the heat, the weight, psychological lack of water. They wipe me out. I struggle on the trail. Finally I am so tired I crawl under a Joshua tree and take a nap. I wake up and think about eating lunch, but I can't summon the energy to eat another tuna wrap. I suck down some scarce water, it is so, so good. Cool, refreshing, water is such a wonderful gift. I enjoy each swallow today. I don my pack and begin the slog anew. I try using my umbrella, it's a lot cooler , but the wind is blowing it hither thither and yon. The wind pushes me from my path. I press on preferring the coolness of my umbrella’s shade over the ease of hiking in a hat. 

I'm climbing now. On and on it goes. All the elevation I gave up in the early morning I'm having to buy back in the middle of the day at a much more expensive rate. The climb goes on forever. I've been doing this all my life. There is nothing but the trail up and up. Beach sand, every step slides back half. I am moving in slow motion. The sun is so hot. The sand sifts through the tops of my shoes and packs I around my toes. I know how this ends. I stop and empty my shoes. Maybe I'll just sit here and… No! Stand up and walk. You'll never leave this desert without moving, so move. I find a juniper tree with a comfy looking place to lay beneath it. Before I know it. I am there laying in the shade. I take off my shoes. I think about a giant ice cold lemonade. I'll never get one of those laying here. I put my shoes back on, hoist my pack, and continue my slow trudge up the hill. 

Suddenly the hill drops away and below me I can see Bird Spring Pass. This is my goal for the day, twenty one miles. From there it's an even twenty miles to Walker Pass. Where perhaps I'll finally catch up to Braveheart. There are rumors that there is a water cache there. All these thoughts spur me forward. I descend the last two miles at a record breaking pace. “Well? Is there water?” I ask the first Thru-hiker I see. “Yes, there's water.” I am suddenly so happy. I am filled with a lightness, a joy. I am so glad that I just kept plugging away, step after step. I walk to the cache and drink the half liter I had left in my three liter container. On the way I pass lots of hikers laying in the shade of the trees. Today I hiked twenty miles on two and a half liters. Not ideal but I now know what that is like. I refill the three liter container. I use five drops of Aqua Mira where I should normally use twenty one. How long to clean the water? I don't have any idea. I won't drink this water until tomorrow.

I find a tree and lay down and take a anxiety free thirty minute nap. I notice that it's windy and dusty here. I begin to contemplate continuing on. From here the next three miles are steeper than anything I've hiked all day. If I'm going to do it I should eat first. That will give me energy and lighten my pack. How much water do I need from here to Walker Pass? I guess about four liters. So I have enough water. I sit with my back to the wind under a tree and make a tuna wrap. Then I heat some water and make Unbelievable Black Bean Chili. After eating my food I feel better. I also feel better getting away from this dusty windy pass. 

I put on my pack for the last time today. It doesn't seem much lighter even though I know that it is. I look forward to sleeping in my tent tonight. That is my motivation to get to a spot where I can setup my tent. As I climb I think about setting up my tent in sand and how stakes don't work. I decide to attach the extra guy lines I've been carrying so that I have the option of using rocks instead of stakes without having to spend a lot of extra time on setup. I climb the switchbacks without stopping. I have to slow down at parts where it's really steep but I am motivated to get to the top. The land seems to drop away the higher I climb. The trail zigs and zags across the face of a sheer precipice. It's a long way down. Suddenly I'm over the top. I find a nice sized spot to pitch my tent and spend the extra time to setup my boulder guy lines. I already had dinner so I hop into my tent excited that since I climbed the extra three miles Walker Pass is only seventeen miles away and I have about four liters of water to get there. Easy Peasy, I hope.


  1. Don't forget, if you have enuf fuel you can boil water to decontaminate!

  2. We were looking forward to reading another day's journey as a thru-hiker, but you must be out of range?...... We'll check back tomorrow! Be safe!