Oct. 5, 2014 Panamint Springs Resort to Dirt Road 27 miles
4 pm: It’s almost time to depart, so I down a couple liters of goldfish pond water. It’s definitely fishy. I don’t mind fishy, it’s better than sulfury. Which flavor desert water do you prefer?
It’s hard to pull away from these watering holes, they are magnetic. Actually, it’s more that I’m nervous about the next stretch. I don’t remember ever having to carry 45 miles worth of water…and I have this little frameless backpack that doesn’t carry much weight. I will have to carry a liter or two in my hands. I did this on the PCT for most of the desert portion in 2012, and when I got to Kennedy Meadows (mile 702) my hands looked like claws.
We exhaust our pre-hike rituals and leave China Garden spring to the birds. And what do the birds say?
Poo -tee -weet
From China Garden Spring, the route heads west cross-country to highway 190. In 7 miles we’ll reach our water cache at Saline Valley Rd.
Look out for tarantulas!
There are thousands of small dark holes in the ground. Presumably tarantula homes?
We climb up to a ridge punctuated with Joshua trees; the dignified and unwavering crooked spines of Mojave desert DNA. From this ridge we can see highway 190 and descend to our cache.
It’s going to be a long night. We still have 15 miles to go! First order of business: make coffee.
We click off our headlamps and recline against our backpacks. Our attention turns upward to the cosmos. Are we just stardust? What about consciousness? Is that stardust? Why is there stardust anyway?
8 pm. I load up my backpack with 6 liters of water. The weight is cumbersome and I let myself bellyache about it for a minute. At least the hiking will be easy tonight, the route follows Saline Valley road for awhile.
The road is a moving sidewalk, a nice respite from cross-country travel. We shift into a 3 mph pace and flow with the pulses of the Santa Rosa mountains.
It’s midnight when I notice a set of lights slowly moving through the sky, too long and slow to be a plane. Then the lights suddenly disappear. Commence alien probing jokes. As we walk, I scan the sea of Joshua trees for old rusty UFOs.
1 a.m. It’s fucking 1 a.m. and we’re still walking. But I can feel that each of us has had enough. Not even Madonna’s greatest hits can take us out of this slog, so we call it a night.
I eat two bars for dinner. This is not enough food to recover but I’m too tired to eat. Dontchaknow? eating and sleeping are myths.
5 a.m. Wake up wake up