Day 22: Los Angeles Aquaduct Death March

May 16
Mileage 24
517.6 to mile 541.5

In the morning we sleep in until 6, there’s pancakes, a period of lazing about. I look longingly at the people on the couches, hikers we don’t know, slumped over as if they’ve been here forever, as if they’ll always be here. It would be nice to take a zero. It’d be nice to forget about time, the rush of the hike, the rains in september. Today I don’t really want to hike. I want to keep my hawaiian shirt on, eat more taco salad. But what can you do?

The trail between the Anderson’s and Hikertown is closed, as it burned last year in the powerhouse fire. This is a bummer, as I walked it last year before the fire and I remember it as a beautiful oak forest. Now forty miles of trail, shut. Some people are doing a 19 mile road walk, but long road walks = tendonitis for me, and no-one else is stoked about walking the road in the heat, so we decide to hitch around it. Terry gives us a ride to the junction in the road, Twinkle, Woody, Sherpa, The Boss and myself, we stick our thumbs out and we’re spirited along in a series of pickup truck beds all the way to hikertown, where we are dumped unceremoniously in the dust. It’s ten a.m. and not too hot. It’s supposed to be 95 degrees today but after yesterday, that doesn’t feel too bad.

Hikertown is wierd. Hikertown is always wierd. I can’t even explain it. This year there are thirteen one-day-old puppies, curled up with their mother inside a wooden doghouse that smells of shit and birth, not in an unpleasant way. I put my hand on one of the puppies, feel its soft warmth. The puppy is soft and black and has little needles for claws. A whole life, stretching out before this puppy! The whole world, with all its hopes and dreams and fears, just waiting.

Around 10 we set out on the aquaduct, that underwater river encased in concrete that will carry us across the mojave. It’s hot, and there’s wind. One thing I’ve learned about the mojave is it’s either very hot or very windy, and sometimes both. The aquaduct is a dirt road, then it’s concrete. We walk in two rows, quickly across the flat nothingness, joshua trees breaking up the sand, windmills (or “wind machines”, as the locals call them) turning in the distance.

Seventeen miles later we are done with the goddam flat endless aquaduct and we reach a concrete bridge over an uderground stream where we cower in the shade and drink water from a cache. We are all beaten from the long walk in the heat, the wind, the hot sun. We wearily cook dinner and then pack our things away for the last six miles, a weary slog up and over a ridge to a creek in a wash where we can camp. The wind picks up as we climb, beating my straw hat all to pieces. I clutch it to my head, stumbling up the hill with my trekking poles in my other hand. I remember last year, hiking through this section in a windstorm. Oh mojave, what have you got for me now?

We reach the creek in tylerhorse canyon a little before sunset and I unroll my bedroll in a little hollow beneath a burnt, downed tree, out of the way of the wind. The others set up where they can and we eat our little dinners and settle in for a long night’s battle with the wind. I lie in my sleeping bag watching the stars, listening to the wind rush down the canyon. I start to drift off and then the wind comes again, puffing up my sleeping bag like a sail. Soon, instead of sleepy, I feel the opposite of sleepy. It’s not until midnight that I realize that I can put my earplugs in and finally sleep- while I can still feel the wind, at least I can no longer hear it. I’m gonna be fucked-up tired tomorrow, I think, as I finally drift off. But oh well. What can you do.

Photos on instagram.