Oct. 5, 2014 Panamint Springs Resort to Dirt Road 27 miles
From Darwin Falls, the route follows a faint cairned rock scramble. I’m not sure how to describe it in technical terms, like what class it fits into.
It’s steep. Steep enough so that fucking up could prove fatal. Steep enough that you would rather go up it than down. Steep enough that you would prefer not to scale it with a heavy pack and shoulders that like to dislocate at the darndest times.
Like there was that one time I was about to orgasm and my right shoulder fell out of its socket. They pop out when I’m deep asleep, reaching for things, throwing things, pushing things, carrying things, living, breathing… I had to give up baseball, push ups and jumping jacks, dancing to the YMCA, swimming, monkey bars, and especially rock climbing. They’ve been this way ever since I was a teenager. I was into snowboarding and thought that my life’s purpose was to hurtle myself down mountains.
To keep my shoulders from dislocating in such situations, I engage T-Rex arms. I squeeze my shoulders and elbows close to my body and mostly rely on the strength of my legs.
We slowly pick our way up. Sometimes it doesn’t look like we can go any further. “Can you see what’s on the other side?”
Sometimes there is nothingness and we have to re-calibrate. We find little fractures to crawl up and eventually come to a ledge where there’s a secret waterfall!
Finding this waterfall feels like unpacking another Russian doll. But how could?! NO!
We’re supposed to descend into a wash on the right but we keep traversing left. The faint trail we’ve been following fades into a narrow ledge along a cliff. But It feels too technical to be part of the route; there are gaps in the ledge and steep drop offs. When Orbit reaches for a hand hold, the rock dislodges. This is unsettling. “Oh hell no! I think we should turn around!”
It takes us 1.5 hours to go .3 miles to our next destination: China Garden Spring. And here, we unearth another Russian Doll: a magical goldfish pond surrounded by big oak trees.
This is the last reliable natural water source before Lone Pine. We’ll rest here for a few hours. Try to sleep.
But I can’t sleep, there is a lot happening here. I coo at the goldfish and watch small gray birds bathe and catch moths mid- flight. Leaves rustle across the ground and tree branches sway. I sit down and stand up and lay down and stand up and light a cigarette and unfold my maps and think too much about what’s ahead. What’s ahead?
A 45 mile waterless stretch in one of the hottest places on Earth.