Oct. 5 Panamint Springs Resort to Dirt Road 27 miles
The next section from Panamint Springs to Lone Pine is 62 miles. There are only two natural water sources: Darwin Falls and China Garden Spring. They lie within the first ten miles of this section, so you’ll need to cache water somewhere or carry 54 miles worth.
Because we don’t have a car, we could only cache in one spot; where the route crosses highway 190 at Saline Valley Rd. But we still had to carry 45 miles worth of water. We each cached three gallons, and I carried out six liters. Our strategy involved night hiking the first 15 miles of this 45 mile waterless stretch.
Meanwhile at Panamint Springs…
It’s midnight and I haven’t fallen asleep. The wind blows sand and debris through the mummy hole in my sleeping bag. I am a fool for cowboy camping in these conditions. I try to set up my shelter which turns into a game of tug of war with the wind. There are tents nearby that the campground provides for a fee so I gather up my sleeping bag and poach one of them. Carrot and Orbit do it too.
But I still don’t sleep, the wind fusses with the tent’s loose ends and sometimes I think I can hear the footsteps of the campground host. The plan is to sleep in, but I wake up early in anticipation of the new day’s adventure. I feel hungover yet alert. Where is the coffee? All I wanna do is drink coffee. Even if it’s piss, I’ll drink it.
The couple next to our site offers to buy us breakfast if we talk to them about our adventure. But I don’t talk good when I haven’t slept. I can hardly link a sentence and my vocabulary drops to a third grade level. Orbit is shy and Carrot’s on her phone so I take the brunt and there are a lot of awkward pauses, stories out of context, and thoughts that should be kept to oneself. We talk about how good the food is even though it’s terrible. But I’m like a wolf over a carcass and devour the burned eggs and shriveled little sausage links. The eyeballs too. I am thankful to be eating anything but bars.
Our plan for today is to take advantage of the cool evening hours so that we hit the first part of the 45 mile waterless stretch in the dark. We loiter around Panamint Springs until 10 am before we head out to loiter some more at Darwin Falls and then China Garden Spring.
For fucks sake I’ve had way too much coffee and now I’m superficially awake and peeing every ten minutes.
Tourists closely observe our pre-hike rituals while eating brunch. They watch as I drench my clothes and head wear with water, fuss with pack straps, and sip water compulsively so that I’m peeing every 10 minutes. I look at myself in the bathroom mirror. What do they see? I see a girl who’s wearing a $7 pair of sunglasses that make her look like Hunter S. Thompson. They are crooked and slide down my nose whenever I perspire. I hate these sunglasses. Should have invested in a better pair. I tuck tangled hair into my ratty hat and this makes me look like a boy. I don’t want to look like a boy but the desert doesn’t care what you look like.
At a table nearby, handsome men flirt with attractive women. They’ve just met over brunch. The men are touring Death Valley on motorcycles and the women in a Cruise America! RV. I want the handsome men to notice me as I walk by, but I look like a boy. Ask me what I’m doing, ask me what I’m doing, for fucks sake ask me what I’m doing. I should not keep on, I’ll just creep on creepin’ on…
Nothing. So I go back to the bathroom to pee.
When we’re done with over-doing our pre-hike rituals and facebooking and instagraming, it’s time to hike. From Panamint Springs, go left on highway 190 to Darwin Falls Rd.
Make a left and follow this dirt road to the Darwin Falls trail head. Walk down the wash for one mile to Darwin Falls.
Please don’t swim here, I’ve been told this water is used by the folks at Panamint Springs resort! But take a nap, listen to the birds, enjoy the magic that is a water source in the middle of one of the hottest places on Earth.
Until it’s time to hike again. Or rather climb…