Oct 3, 2014, Shorty’s Well to spring in Tuber Canyon, 23 miles
Keep a-movin’ Dan,
don’t you listen to him Dan,
He’s a devil not a man
and he spreads the burning sand with water,
Dan can you see that big, green tree
where the water’s running free
and it’s waiting there for you and me,
water, cool, clear, water… “Cool Water” by Marty Robbins
We get to the ridge below Telescope Peak in one piece. Some how Orbit has enough energy to climb another 1,000 feet to the summit!
Carrot and I chill out and eat snacks while she’s away. I’m a bit anxious though, it’s getting late and I’m almost out of water.
I slump against my backpack and retrace the route with my eyes. I’ve never gained that much elevation in one summit. It took us most of the day to get here. We had to work really hard for the miles. I feel proud of our accomplishment, but we still have a long way to go. Is this the most challenging part of the route? Somehow I don’t think so. The uncertainty exhilarates and concerns me at the same time.
I try and turn my brain off for a moment to soak in the surroundings. I am in love with the desert. When I was sixteen, the desert canyons of southern Utah hypnotized me. And on the Pacific Crest Trail? The desert is my favorite section. Why? There’s no clutter. For an anxious person like myself it gives me a cognitive equilibrium I rarely feel.
Jess gets back and we head down a nice trail for a couple miles before the route diverges left and drops steeply from the ridge into Tuber Canyon. We bushwhack and slide down scree in the dark. Our next water source will be at the top of this canyon. And then…
we miss the spring. FUCK! Should we go back? I’ve been out of water for over two hours now. My mouth is dry and I feel dizzy but I’ve been here before and know I’ve got some time left in me. We decide to push on, hoping the other water source is running. Charlie, a ranger who works in Death Valley, told us Tuber Canyon had water. But we didn’t ask him if both sources were running. FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!
The dark descent down Tuber Canyon tests my grit. I am thirsty and my joints bother me, but I won’t stop until I get to water. Something tells me the water will be running because the further we descend, I see more wild burro poop and places where they bedded in the sand. Why would they hang out here?
We come to a part of the canyon choked with green vegetation and it indicates that the water source is nearby. So we split up and each take a different animal trail to find it. Jess yells something. I point my headlamp her direction and see that she’s grinning ear to ear holding up a big horned sheep’s skull! Is that a good sign?
I inspect my area closely, there are animal bones and poop and places where animals sleep. And then! I turn around to face the most amazing sulfur smelling yellow muddy little puddle I have ever seen. “Water! Water!” I yell. The girls come running.
We stare at it for a moment. Like to make sure it exists? No its there. We stare at it because it’s the shittiest water we’ve ever seen.
“Are you gonna treat it?”
“Do you hear that? There’s running water behind those bushes!” blurts Carrot.
Somewhere there’s a spring but it’s choked out by thick brush. We try and go over and under and through and around, but to no avail. So I guess its the shitty little puddle after all. But water has never tasted so awful and good all at once! Have you ever tasted water that smells like farts?
I set up my sleeping bag amid the bones and poop, the prickly things, and watchful eyes. I feel bad for invading their space. Don’t be shy, we’ll fall asleep soon.
I barely eat and don’t sleep. I toss and turn and think too much about tomorrow and past lovers and what the future holds. My brain is working overtime and my body is practically dead. I feel wired and high from the intensity of the day. How do I harmonize my brain and body? I need to sleep so I don’t burn out! BUT I’M ALIVEEEEEEE