SHIPS OF THE DESERT
PCT DAY 5: Mile 73.4 – Mile 95.2
Monday April 18, 2016: 21.8 miles + 0.5mile to water cache (35.7km)
If you consider that yesterday we were wind blasted in the morning and then slowly rotisseried in the afternoon, today all day long we were fully baked, or as Americans would say, broiled. It was a hot, dry day with hardly any shelter as we wound our way on endless loops along the San Felipe mountains. To add to the difficulty of the day we were on a long waterless stretch. We filled up our 6L of water each at Rodriguez Spur which was at mile 68 and thought we could make our next water source at mile 101 without going into Julian to top up our water. This morning we started with what we thought was enough to get us to the next water source but not enough to have dinner or breakfast. We reached the road at Scissor Crossing around 7.30 this morning and were offered a ride to Julian even before we stepped off the trail. It was very temping but we declined. Even when they mentioned the free apple pie and milkshake they offer to hikers in town.
We had not counted on this section being so open and so hot and the terrain so challenging both in profile and technical nature of the narrow path. In a way the past 4 days has lulled us into a false sense of security about the desert. Today we experienced more of what I thought the desert would be like. The whole day while going up or down the seemingly endless zig-zags over the deep gullies with steep drop offs, I kept thinking of camels – the ships of the desert. We felt a bit like camels today, just not as efficient in the heat. Lugging so much water in what could be a hostile environment if you run out.
It was such a relief to arrive at mile 91 in mid-afternoon and find that the water cache was stocked and we could fill up with water to get us to mile 101 and also have dinner tonight. Hooray, it was like finding an oasis in the desert. Not just because of the water cache but the location was also the first bit of shade- providing vegetation we had seen all day. There were quite a few hikers spread out under various shady spots recovering from their efforts in reaching this point.
Even though it was hot and the trail required focus on your footing I could not help but be captivated by the beauty of the cactus flowers. They are so gorgeous, they demand your attention. Springtime is a great time to be visiting the desert. The flowers are truly amazing in their colour, their fragility and diversity. Animal life has been less prolific. The buzzing of the bees is the only insect sound we can hear in an otherwise silent landscape. We have seen two gopher snakes so far, one yesterday and one on the first day.
Both Hammer and I are holding up well so far. It took us 12 hours to walk today’s total of 22.3 miles. We have another fantastic campspot just off the trail. We are camping without the rain fly on the tent. The difficulties of the day are almost forgotten as we admire the canopy of stars and the almost full moon above.