Hi, next installment, in which I finally escape the Southern California desert, collect drinking water from the most disgusting source yet, and caress a creature that shoots blood from its eyes!
I left Tehachapi, after resupplying with food, destined for Kennedy Meadows. This would be the last section in the desert, and would signal the entrance to the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range, with its high, snow covered peaks Little did I know, but this would be my toughest week by far. The hike to Kennedy Meadows was nearly 130 miles, and I had to carry food for 8 days. Because we were in the desert water was still scarce, so it was usual to carry enough water for 20 miles, typically 5 litres. All this added up to the heaviest my rucksack has ever been. I didn't weigh it, but I needed assistance from my hiking pal, Romar, to lift it and put it on my back! The huge rucksack, baking heat, and many steep climbs, made for an arduous few days. Water sources vary. In the desert they are often pathetic streams, with little flowing water. Sometimes "trail angels" will maintain water caches, leaving hundreds of litres of water on particularly dry stretches of trail. But, whatever the source, you have no choice but to collect water there or you could, literally, die of thirst and heat exhaustion. So it was that with trepidation, I dipped my water bottles into a disgusting, algea covered, frog infested, horse trough, to collect my 5 litres of drinking water for the next section. I do run that water through a filter before I drink it, but that does not alter the taste. Swamp-like is the best description. Yum yum.
I have seen all sorts of interesting creatures in the Californian desert, but none more so than the Horned Toad. It looks quite ferocious, covered in scales, like something from a pre- historic era. And if it feels in danger it has the ability to squirt blood from ducts at the side of its eyes. But they are inquisitive animals, and one I met didn't need any coaxing to climb onto my hand. No drama, no blood squirting.
As I got closer to Kennedy Meadows the change in the landscape was obvious. There was more greenery, and a river flowed beside the trail for the last few miles. The prospect of cool water, flowing from the snowy Sierra mountains, was too difficult to resist, and in I went, fully clothed (that's shorts and t-shirt) in the river. Wow, it was cold, but blissfully so in the heat. Little did I know that a beaver had made a dam a half a mile or so upstream, and beavers are very good at depositing some very harmful to human nasties. Fortunately, I escaped any stomach disorders, and hiked on the last few miles to Kennedy Meadows, feeling clean and refreshed.
Next, it would be the challenge of the Sierra Nevada mountains, with its snow fields, high peaks, and hazardous river crossings.
A good soak and in some cool (cold) clear water.