Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bonking In The Desert - (5/27/2014)

620.7 + 2 mile walk from Willow Spring to mile 637
18.3 miles

In order to get back on the trail from Willow Spring, where we camped last night, we had to walk a 2 mile dirt road... uphill of course. 

We woke up early again this morning to try and beat the heat. I think it helps a little bit. We then walked the road to rejoin the PCT. Where the road and the trail met there was a picnic table and an information sign that had info on the Desert Tortoise. From that sign I learned that the Desert Tortoise is California's state reptile. Who knew.

As I mentioned in my last post, Mandie and I felt like this section of trail was our final test of the desert portion of the PCT. Like any final, it is the culmination of everything we have learned, and today's trail was no different. Today we had heat, big hills to ascend, deep sand, wind, water conservation, and poor nutrition. It truly put us to the test and it almost won.
Did I mention deep sand??? It was like walking on a beach all day. Ugh! I used to really love the desert but I think hiking for the last 640 miles in it has changed that. I am so ready for something else. 

Around mid-day, we were both dragging our feet from not eating or drinking much. There was supposed to be a water cache up the road a bit but we heard rumors that it was no longer being maintained.

As we sat under a tree in the shade we tried to figure out a game plan. We knew that there was a dirt road where the water cache was supposedly at, they had to drive the water in. We also knew that the dirt road led to a paved road with more traffic on it. So we came up with the following plan while drinking one of our liters of water... If there was water at the cache, we would drink lots of water and replenish our water supply, rest in the shade, and continue hiking when it got cooler. If there was no water at the cache then our plan was to bail out on the dirt road, and then try to hitch a ride into town. 

There was water at the cache. 

So, we did what a bunch of other hikers were doing, which was hiding out in the shade for a few hours and drinking water until it cooled down to continue hiking. There was a huge mountain that needed to be climbed just after the water cache and nobody wanted to do it in the mid-day sun. 

At 5:30 pm we got back on the trail and headed for this mountain. It was 2500 feet over 3 miles. We had had a little bit of food while we rested and we hoped it was enough to get us to the top. It was cooler anyway, which would help with the water situation. The trail to the top was fairly well graded and had lots of switchbacks to make it a little easier. By the time we got to the top, we were both out of energy and the sun was starting to set. We had to keep going in order to make tomorrow's hike easier, but we were both bonking hard. Fortunately, the trail on the other side of the mountain was nice hard-packed dirt which made traveling much easier. We were able to do another 3 miles and get to a camp spot just as it got dark. 

We set up the tent with the help of our headlamps on a hopefully not often used road. We split a packet of tuna on two tortillas for dinner and called it a night. We have another 15 miles to do tomorrow with almost no food but at least we will be in town. 

We aren't really sure how we messed up our last resupply so bad that we have so little food this week. Maybe we ate too much one day or miscounted the number of days we needed food for, but something was amiss. We will chalk it up to another lesson learned and try to do better next time.