Monday, May 07, 2012

Day 15-Water in the Desert

Mile 210 to 230

The full moon was as bright as someone shining a headlamp on my face, although that probably happened a few times last night, too.  Not a great night of sleep, but I did get up early and was hiking at 6:30.  Not early enough, though.  By 8:30 it was 83 degrees out and I was climbing steeply out of a canyon to the top of Mesa Hill Wind Farm.  It was a pretty rough climb with a food bag that was overflowing its confines: but my second breakfast was delicious.

The wind farm--it was a nearly windless morning
Things were better after the first climb.  The trail evened out some and I stopped working so hard and sweating so much.  Unlike on the AT sweaty clothing dries out while hiking on the PCT.  My shirt has rings of dry salt stains-the rings tell how many days it's been since the shirt was washed.

At mile 8 there was a .5 mile side trail to White Water Game Preserve.  There was actually flowing water in the desert today.  White Water Creek looked dry at first from the hill above, but going down to it I heard the sounds of rushing water.  The water was clear as crystal and sparkled over the river rocks.  The trail to the Preserve crossed the creek with a small wood footbridge.  The trail was lush and green and smelled of mud.  It was a nice change from the arid desert.  The Preserve had picnic tables under shade where I ate homemade ginger snap cookies and tanked up on water.  There was also a wading pool that had icy cold water that felt great on my feet.  They stayed cool for half of the walk back to the PCT.  I spent two hours there-too long for so early in the day.  Some hikers last night were talking about staying there all day for some trail magic hiker feed starting at 5 p.m

Back on the PCT I put up my Chrome Dome.  I think Chrome Domes make wind.  It was perfectly still while following the creek and then it was all windy.  The trail followed the creek for a ways.  The first crossing I folded up my umbrella and marched through with my shoes on.  There were four of us across the creek looking for the trail.  I think we scrounged around for 10 minutes before Rattle Bee found it.  The rest of the crossing we easy and didn't call for anymore wet feet.

The trail moved away from the hot shadeless creek bed and up a hot shadeless ridge.  The assent was gentle and perfect for using the Chrome Dome.  When cresting the ridge the valley below and the rest of the ridge unfolded with each step up.  It was really neat to see nothing in front of me but the ground I stood on and the sky to having the area unroll before me.  Best part of the day, I think.

The trail followed the ridge line for a bit.  Near the top I stopped quickly for a snack.  It was so hot I could feel the heat of the ground through my shoes like standing bare foot on pavement-breaks had to be quick.  From the ridge I could see where the trail was going:  to Mission Creek where there was shade and water to drink.

My thru-hiker hunger hasn't kicked in yet, I think its being suppressed by the desert sun, but water is something I always want.  At this point in the hiker there are few things better than sitting in the shade and drinking a liter of water with the source bubbling away near by.  The trail took its time getting me to that water source, but sure enough I got there.  Threshold and Dancing Feet had been there for a bit and Tommy and I found places in the shade followed closely by Kurk and Colors then Rattle Bee and Speed Bump.  There wasn't much unoccupied shade at this point. 

I took my shoes off and had lunch and drank water.  I ate some cookies, but mostly just enjoyed being still.  The break stretched out.  Some people snored as they took a nap.  We had five miles left-easy ones judging from the maps, and we weren't going anywhere until it cooled off some.  Clouds had gathered around the highest peaks and we all paused to listen to the rumble of thunder coming from where we had hiked a few days ago.  No rain for the desert, though.

Clouds gather over the high peaks
At 5:30 I was the first to leave the oasis of shade with Tommy a few minutes behind.  I'd probably walked 10 minutes before coming across a young rattle snake next to the trail. It coiled up for a second, but didn't rattle.  Slowly it uncoiled, tongue flicking to taste the air.  It moved slowly my direction.  It as just cruising, doing its thing, looking at me whenever I took a step away.  It slide through some dried leaves making a sound more dangerous than its rattle.  I was keeping a half eye out for Tommy to give him a heads up.  When he arrived he took a couple pictures, gave the snake a wide birth, and we moved on.

The trail crossed Mission Creek twenty times in a handful of miles and we were counting on camping on the bank near mile 230.  With no real landmarks we set the goal of hiking until 7:30.  At 7 after checking the maps we thought we were where we wanted to be, and we were both feeling done for the day.  As soon as Tommy said he was going to start looking for a campsite one appeared.  It was mostly flat, mostly grassy, had a fire pit, and the creek was right there.  Perfect.

After setting up and making dinner Threshold hiked by.  I called out to her and she joined us.  She said most of the others were camped a mile back.  We hung out until hiker midnight (full dark) and everybody crawled into bed.  I'm cowboy camped again.  The moon is full and bright overhead.  The creek is bubbling, frogs are peeping, and I'm exhausted.

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