From walker pass to Joshua tree spring
June 14, 2014
I was ostensibly planning on getting up early today, but even last night I knew that wasn’t going to happen. “We have to check out by eleven,” I think. “No rush.”
And we don’t. We make it to the bus stop by 9:45, but we read the bus schedule wrong – the bus goes to Onyx at eleven, not ten… Time for smoothies then.
The bus is late, but arrives eventually, and we join the beat looking residents of Lake Isabella. The bus driver and a local woman (who seems to think haranguing people as her mission in life) get in an argument about the best place to get off to get a hitch to the trail. We take the bus driver’s advice, and get off at the Old Onyx Store. The store is a charming old-timey place full to bursting with kitsch and candy, all for sale. The busy little woman running it dispenses advice on hitching while we order huge sandwiches, pickled eggs and ginger ales.
We’ve managed to spend half the day just fiddling around, but by one we’ve finally got our thumbs out on the highway. It only takes a couple minutes before a guy pulls over, introduces himself as Steve. He’s not going all the way to walker pass, but he takes us there anyway – another kind soul on our journey.
The trail is beautiful today, sharp ridges, big granite faces, and forest. On the west side of the ridges we can see rows of mountains stepping back in blue echoes; on the east it’s desert flats fading into haze. J is having stomach problems and I’m a little worried. I’m also worried about myself. I’ve been having a lot of foot pain for more than a week now, and my right knee and hip feel bad too. This isn’t really how I want to enter the Sierras… I think I need new shoes. I hope I just need new shoes. I want a magical answer to all my problems. New shoes, and the miles will be like walking on clouds…
Before getting on the trail, I imagined this fabulous stroll through the wilderness, outside every day, under the stars every night. I was only off in one tiny detail… The PCT is not a stroll. Walking the miles I need to make to get to the next water, the next resupply, to get to Canada before the snows – these are hard miles. The difference between twenty miles and twenty-one is bigger than I could have possibly known – a mile is longer than I could have possibly known. I’ve walked over 600 of them, and I think I am just beginning to understand the length of a mile… yet I can walk them. And I walk them every day, outside, until it’s time to sleep under the stars.
Our walking goal for the day is Joshua tree spring, twelve miles from walker pass, a short start for reentry to my nomad’s life. It’s supposed to be the first reliable water source since willow spring, 43 miles back, so you can imagine our dismay at finding it dry. Dry!
Well, it’s no sand dune – there’s a fetid trough of scum with flies, and a dripping pipe, and a sign declaring the water unsafe for drinking. J collects a liter at the drips and it takes him over an hour. There should be water in another six miles, but that’s six more than we’ve got in us tonight. Looks like another slightly thirsty night.
The desert just will not let us go until we’ve reached a quota of misery, I guess. Sleeping under the stars tonight, maybe that’s a fair trade.