Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Desert hiking - advanced level
First of all the water situation is pretty demanding, despite the fact that due to all the snow there is more water than usual. I had to carry up to 7 liters of waters (read: 7 kg weight!!!) for some stretches. And of course, just before the longest waterless stretch my Platypus bottle broke reducing my water capacity from 7 to 4,5 liters. I hate Platypus bottles - I have already changed about 10 of them because they broke in similarly crucial situations. Luckily The on-trail water can be pretty nasty as well. I had to drink out of cattle troughs before, but these ones here are especially nasty. Not only are there floaties in the water but thousands of dead bees! I don't know why, but there are bees everywhere and apparently they are attracted to water - where they drown!
Second, beside the bees the rattle snakes are a real nuisance here. I have seen more rattle snakes here on the AZT in 2 days than I have seen on the whole PCT! And they really do spook me out. I nearly stepped on a couple of them and one was even nesting right on the trail. I have given up listening to my MP3 player while hiking - too dangerous! I want to hear their rattle so I am warned of their presence. Today one rattle snake startled me so badly that I lost my balance while trying to sidestep it and fell down! I did not feel very comfortable lying on the ground with my backpack on like a turtle on its back within striking distance of a rattle snake...
I have also been attacked by a calf! I was just turning around a switchback when I little calf ran INTO me! It scared the shit out of me and for a second I thought it is a bear. The calf panicked and did not seem to know what to do. It wanted to run away and stay with me.... We were both on a very narrow trail and instead of staying behind me it ran after me passing me on the trail trying to get away from me. It was heart breaking to see its efforts when it fell into the the thorn bushes, but I really did not know what to do.... I quickly hiked on to get away from it and nearly stepped onto another rattle snake... Life is dangerous here.
With all the snow here the desert is still in full bloom. There are flowers everywhere - a truly amazing sight. Everything is green and looks like a English country lawn - but only from a distance. As soon as you try to pitch your tent you realise that the ground is rock hard. I am having a hard time getting any tent stakes in. And this ground is not very comfortable to sleep on - hard, lots of little pebbles and prickly things everywhere. I check the ground very carefully every evening before I lie down on my therm-a-rest and so far - knock on wood - no hole in my sleeping pad.