Day 25: white desert

It was cold last night, down in the twenties. I slept in my wool long underwear and my rain suit until I woke up sweating in the middle of the night and removed the jacket. Humidity was building in the air and my exhaled breath clung to top of my sleeping bag near my face. I woke up to it damp. Packing is a bit slower when I still have so much food, my normal food bag full and two cheap plastic grocery sacks of corn chips and Oreos and crackers. The grocery sacks are both almost completely shredded and serving no purpose but to irritate me at this point. I have to manage their tatters and loose food items every time I get into my pack. It’s getting light so early now: I wake up in twilight dawn instead of darkness and can turn off my headlamp well before breaking camp. So it was that at 6:40 I wrestled my way out of the Tamarisk thicket where Erin and I had camped for shelter from the wind. Bright, a new day. 

The entire day was spent almost entirely in one drainage, though it forked a few times and changed names. Last Chance Creek, a name that made sense later in the day when we faced a conundrum. At some point along the drainage we would leave the water behind and wait another thirty miles before coming to water again. Desert streams are often intermittent: they come and go, disappearing into the sand only to reemerge from parched sandy ground a half mile later. As a desert traveler, you have to decide when you think you may not see the stream again and load up with water there. For a thirty mile carry, that is quite a lot of water. We saw the stream disappear and reappear but thinner every time and the drainage name made a stupid amount of sense: Last Chance Creek, as in, is this the last chance to water? Or will we find more later on? At one point the water disappeared and we decided to load up, with 40 miles of water since the water sources for the next ten miles didn’t have good confirmation from previous hikers. 

Water water. Filling up with all that water, using a little measuring cup as a scoop, one third cup of water from the still alkaline puddle at a time, to fill up 8 liters. And guess what! In a snowstorm! Honest, fine-grained snow blowing down from above. It was cold cold cold. And cold now!




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