Day 2: April 25, 2019
Destination:Stealth Camp Mile
Start Location:Stealth Camp Mile 18.5
Today got hot. I got up around 6 and headed out about an hour later.
Sunrise from my tent was lovely, with my view of the valley below.
The trail was elusive. Sometimes there were posts; sometimes there were cairns. It was definitely useful having Guthook. There was no question that I would go off trail, as there wasn’t really a trail in some places. I knew the general direction I had to go in, and so I would walk for a while and if things seemed likely awry, I just checked Guthook. It helped save me time more than anything, though I definitely spent a lot of time looking for the trail.
It only dipped into the low 50s last night, and already by 9 I could tell it was going to be a hot one. The desert started looking even more like desert as I passed through a dry basin area after the Hatchet mountains were finally in the distance. The earth was cracked and dry as a bone. I saw a number of hares in this area. I think they are jackrabbits. They would hop away, but then turn around and watch me, seemingly not wanting to run too far.
After the basin, I reached the water cache I needed. I guzzled about 2 to 2.5 liters of water, then filled up 5 liters to go. I’m really glad that I worked hard to bring my base pack weight down - carrying 5 liters of water is heavy!
I saw two men at the water cache who camped near me the night before: Longfish and Dave. Dave hiked the entire PCT without getting a trail name! Longfish is from Maine and has thru-hiked the AT as well.
The rest of the day I spent learning lessons, and trying to make my way to a cattle water trough, which is why I walked so far today.
Here are today’s lessons:
Bird in the hand. Around 12/12:30 I had the chance to sit in some shade and wait out the heat. I opted to keep going “a little further to the next shade.” It took me 2 hours to find shade, and only a tiny patch. A bird was in the little tree that I sat under and screeched at me to leave for about 15 minutes before accepting that I wasn’t going anywhere.
Timing is everything. When it comes to avoiding the hottest part of the day, timing matters. Getting up early, hiking later, and choosing that mid-day break time all determine what the day looks like, and potentially the next day.
Thorns are everywhere. I actually had two thorns pierce the sole of my shoe and come up inside and poke my foot! I wear Altra Olympus shoes with thick soles, so this was surprising. Fortunately I escaped painful puncture wounds both times and just got pricked a tad. Also, I picked up my pack after my afternoon rest and there was a thorn through the bottom. I learned not to pack my sleeping pad at the bottom of my bag to reduce risk of it being punctured.
Sun - pants vs shorts. Overall, there is no right answer. If pants weren’t so hot, they are definitely better at protecting the legs. I’m still glad I wore shorts, though today I was in the sun too much and the backs of my legs got a little toasty. Even reapplying SPF 60+ every 90 minutes won’t prevent some burning (for me, with Irish skin). That said, my shorts breathe well and keep my midsection from getting as hot. I think that helps me to sweat less and therefore keeps the chafing down. I’m also a lot cooler.
When I was a little over three miles out from the cow tank, I passed Longfish sitting down under the first real shade tree I’d seen all day. He said he was having heat cramps and was just going to wait there and rest until the evening, then hike to the water tank. He was almost out of water, so I gave him what I could spare and hiked on. The thing is, we can’t count on these water sources always having water, so it always pays to save a contingency amount in case the water source doesn’t pan out.
I reached the cow pond and had to talk to some cows. They didn’t like that I was there, but after I talked to them from a distance, they moseyed on and I could get through safely. The bulls were staring at me hard because there were three very young calves in the group.
I made it over to the water trough, and realized that I was going to have to confront a fear today. The pond itself was not suitable for filtering as it was mostly a muddy bog with cow poop. The water was on a timer and pumped from a well, right into a small trough, FILLED WITH BEES!! They were everywhere, all over the water. I had heard there were a lot of bees at desert water sources, but this was ridiculous. I have kind of an irrational fear of bees. I’m not that afraid of them. I’ve been stung many times, though, so I’m very wary of them. But I AM afraid of her nests and giant clouds of them!
There was nothing I could do. I sat for a while and drank all of the water I had left. Dave was there, as was an older gentleman named Pine Stick. They had no problem with it and advised me to just “move slowly.” Uhhhhh.... But, that’s exactly what I did. It was terrifying trying to fill my water bladder with bees all over, touching down on my sleeves. I had to do this 3 separate times. On one occasion, bees kept getting in my water bag and I had to dump out and start over. But, I DID IT! I didn’t get stung (thank you universe!).
It was still viciously hot out, so I decided to cook dinner in the shade there, then when it cooled down I could walk away from the cows and camp. Fluffy, Sampson the Bear, and Joe Dirt showed up. They were beat, and apparently spent 4 hours waiting out the heat in the shade.
Tomorrow will be another hot one. I’m going to try to get up pretty early and be walking at or around sunrise. We’ll see.... Despite its challenges, today was a good day! I learned a lot and hopefully I’ll be able to benefit from that tomorrow. I was grateful for all of the beauty of the desert, and also that it didn’t punish me too hard today.