Day 48 (Monday, June 6): Scorpions and Devilfish
Kennedy Meadows ETA: Still 6/10, by some miracle
Hey, I canna do what the grownups do, either! I set the alarm for 1:00 AM, then failed to hear it!
It was another freakishly windy night last night. I was in a protected little dell surrounded by Joshua trees, so the blowing itself wasn’t bad, but the noise was awful! A true roar. I put in my earplugs just enough to cut the howl to something less fierce and scary, but I forgot to turn the alarm volume up to compensate. Heh. So I’m cozy and drowsy and wondering what time it is…3:22 AM! Holy crap! So much for my bold night-hiking plan.
But I’ve gotten good at getting things ready the night before, so I was hiking by 4:15. But get this: When I went to put my shoes on, there was a scorpion under one of them.
Scorpion! I mean, jeez. Freaking scorpions. I did a lot of research,
but nothing prepared me for the reality of actual scorpions on this trek. Scorpions!
Luckily I’m a fairly Renaissance human, and I know some things about scorpions–like, I already check my shoes in the morning. Still, you know what hiking means to me? Beautiful forests, secret glades, mushrooms, unexpected waterfalls. Owl sounds, and wood thrushes.
Not sand and scorpions and these little biting gnats that are chewing me to pieces. (Well, OK. I’ll grant you the gnats. They’re everywhere.)
So! I kept my eye on that little dun-colored scorpion until I lost it,
and I got packed up and moving. Miles to go! And a potential water cache at 630! I even wasted a Dixie cup of water and brushed my teeth–but that was mostly a morale issue after oversleeping and finding the scorpion under my shoe. (And it was still windy as hell and pitch dark. In the creepy Mojave desert.)
This is why I will never cowboy camp. Cowboy camping to me means not putting on the rain fly–which I can do at the moment, because no rain, no condensation (campsite choice), and I don’t need the warmth.
I walked. In the dark. I didn’t even give a rat’s behind about
creatures–but the only creature I saw was another little rabbit. How in hell are they alive?
Oh! I have a snake theory. I saw multiple snakes the last few days,
and so did other people. But for a while before that–no snakes. The two times I’ve seen multiple snakes, there’s been a big wind event, a change in the weather–once to break a cold front, and this time to break the heat wave. I could be wrong, but I’m suspecting that the snakes can sense a change in the barometric pressure, and are either more actively seeking cover or are slithering off the mountain.
I had about 3.5 liters of water this morning. There was no way it was going to be enough to get to mile 352 (the next likely water) if that cache wasn’t there. I was looking at about… oh… 29 miles. In the Mojave–which is clearly kicking my ancient ass more than I expected. And this was after doing everything in my power to avoid relying on the caches, including a 9-liter water carry. I needed that cache to be there–and a lot of hikers actually got to mile 630 this morning with a half liter or less. With no possible water until 652.
The cache was there! Thank you, Devilfish! (I hope I got his name right.)
There were a ton of bees there. A massive number. All honeybees. They would land on you softly and drink the water from your arm.
Devilfish came while I was there. We helped him move the empties to his car. I think it’s fair to say that for me, at least, this stretch would have been literally impossible without those two water caches.
My advice to any potential other old fart hikers who might be seeing this in preparation for a hike: Starting in Mojave/Tehachapi, night-hike this whole section. Hike from 9 PM to 9 AM every day from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows. The trail is ridiculously easy to follow, particularly if you have the Halfmile app; and the markers are reflective in the headlamp.
Oh, heh. Hiker Baloo saw a bobcat last night. That’s my one fear,
night-hiking, but I have to deal with problems in the order in which they’re going to kill me. The blistering heat and lack of water are immediate issues, as opposed to imaginary potential mountain lions.
(Can I charge my battery at Kennedy Meadows? Does anybody know?)
After the cache came one of those ginormous sustained climbs–up, up, up to 7500 feet of rocks and scrub pine. I stopped at lunch and looked at my maps. Now that I’ve had my epiphany that the white means ‘no trees,’ I wanted to see if that part was over. (I’m currently in scrub pine forest, still hot but with some shade.) Alas, the white part isn’t over. So I’ll try the night-hiking thing tonight again, after 8 hours of sleep. Roughly 60 miles to Kennedy Meadows, and the end of this 700-mile chunk of desert.
Things may get wacky when I hit the neighborhood of that fire closure tomorrow or the next day. (The trail isn’t closed, but maybe some water sources and camping areas are.) And if I don’t start the Sierra until 6/15–“Ray Day”–I realize that I’m no Ray Jardine, and my only chance of seeing Canada will be hitching a ride on a flying pig. But you know… it’s all good, any way it goes! And the desert will be DONE. Forever! 🙂 Which is Olympic Gold, as far as I’m concerned!
(Let me know if the pics don’t come through. I ran into size issues.)