Twig Adventures

Day 93: Into the desert

October 6th, 2018
Walker Pass mm 652 to mm 620
Distance: 32 miles
0730 – 1830

After packing the calories and having a great visit with Josh and his family, it was time to get back on the trail. I had some trepidation about this section, since it was the driest and I was unarmed with the croud-sourced commentary from guthooks. I looked into buying the desert section of the app but the way things were divided, I would also have to buy the Sierra section to cover just the trail from Walker Pass to Tehachapi.

I just downloaded the old-fashioned water report instead. It’s a pdf that someone maintains weekly/monthly based off reports from other hikers. They write in to say if a spring is still running or how much water remains in a cache. There were some reports from as recent as a week ago, so I figured that was good enough. It’s risky to rely solely on one source or cache, so I carried 3 liters to start the day.

Josh dropped me off at Walker pass pretty early. It was quite cold and I had to wear several layers. The desert continued to defy my expectations. But cold was great, considering that I didn’t need as much water. I barely took a sip in the first 6 hours. Luckily there was lots of water in a cache 20 miles in at Bird Spring Pass, where I downed a liter.

I was surprised to see in a trail registry that about 8 SOBOs had come through on the day I zeroed. I had no idea so many were just a day behind me. I wondered if some had skipped ahead, since the weather in the Sierra was getting bad. Some of the names I knew but there were a few unfamiliar ones, as well.

If I could catch some, I could get additional water info, so that was a motivator. I did finally catch up to one, The King, at the end of the day. He was a Kiwi guy but hadn’t lived in New Zealand for a long time. I always think it’s funny when I meet expat kiwis forsaking their little islands for the bigger world, given that I badly want to live in NZ someday. But we both agreed that right now was a great time and place to be.

Except that it was so cold and windy in the late afternoon! I began to worry that I wasn’t going to be able to find a sheltered site to pitch my tent. There were virtually no trees, other than the spindly Joshua trees (which are basically yucca plants on stilts). The substrate was also mostly sand, which didn’t bode well for my tiny stakes and non-freestanding tent.

Thankfully, the wind died down after sunset and I also found a sheltered flat spot behind a clump of Joshua trees. Although, snuggling up too close to such trees was a bad idea. I bumped into one while setting up and it gave me a painful poke. Desert plants are, on the whole, very spiny and not friendly at all.

There’s also a lot of poop in the desert. I had to kick aside a bunch of cow pies to clear my site. I’d been noticing it on the trail everywhere. There’s no rain to wash it away and it doesn’t decompose very fast or at all, leading to mummified turds. As for the makers of said turds, I saw lots of rabbits, a coyote and also this little beauty, sunning itself on the trail…

…a harmless bullsnake. They are often mistaken for rattlesnakes. I had not seen any rattlers yet but I needed to keep my eyes peeled!

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