Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day 6 on the PCT - Deadly Snakes

When last we spoke I was going to bed early so I could be on the trail by 3am to hike through the Mojave Desert.

One concern in night hiking is the Mojave "Green" Rattlesnake. It's one of the more aggressive and deadly snakes in North America and I'd be walking with limited visibility through its turf during feeding time. But pshaw! A local I talked to who has lived in these parts for 45 years has only seen them 5 times, so what are the odds? Of course, I was secretly hoping to see one but from a safe distance. 

Getting an early start turned out to be a good idea for a few reasons...

First, I got to slowly observe a beautiful desert sunrise unveil itself to me while walking directly east for over an hour. It was preceded by a gorgeous red crescent moonrise, too. Rise and shine, Joshua Trees.

Then, while walking next to the Los Angeles aqueduct which the PCT parallels for a few miles I spotted it!

And just as I'd secretly hoped, this most deadly and aggressive Western "Green" Rattler was lazily chillin' in the rare shade of a scrub bush. It was quite green in color, too. Like, really green. Emerald even (which unfortunately doesn't come through in the photo). 

From Wikipedia:
  "...has venom that is considered to be one of the most debilitating and potentially deadly of all North American snakes..."

I asked other hikers and nobody else saw it, probably on account of the pick-em-up truck that came blasting through here about 5 minutes later at a rather high rate of speed given that it was sharing the road with many hikers. Lucky me!

And third, it was good to get an early start because it was hot. Damn hot. Someone said 98 degrees and the only shade for miles was at this bridge 17 miles into the hike. By the time I left the bridge for another 7 mile hike to the next water there were about 30 of us trying to stay cool in the moving shade. I spent 5 hours under that bridge. 

A consistent 20-40 mph wind helped keep me safely cool during the hike. The Mojave has multiple massive wind farms and solar arrays...

Yesterday the trail began to climb in elevation which helped with the heat. I have about another week in desert conditions, but am now in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. 

Tehachapi, CA is a little town about 10 miles from the trail and I planned on using it as a resupply point because it has a grocery store. Got here yesterday and had the good sense to pop into the VFW for a beer on Memorial Day. Met some nice folks there and I'm going to spend today here for my first off day. 

The Agony of Da Feet
I'll never take my feet for granted again. Legs feel fine. Lungs have been good. My pack fits well and my sun protection strategy is working as planned. 

But my feet are my most critical and most sensitive asset. Since I was simultaneously training for that Almanzo 100 bike ride I didn't put as many training miles on my feet as I had hoped. 

It seems almost everyone hiking out here got blisters in the first couple weeks and many also developed different stress-related ailments (like a tight Achilles or aching knee) around the third week. Everyone on the trail told me to take it easy the first couple weeks to avoid injury. 

I was doing a good job of that, hiking 15 mile days instead of the 20 I'd planned on. But that plan went to hell in the desert where one has to hike certain long distances to find shade and water. Sunday I did 24 miles and 17 more Monday. So today I rest and will do some laundry, buy some food, and try to take care of my feet.

1 comment:

--cl said...

Press on. Sounds amazing (and crazy!)