Friday, July 2, 2010

The Miserable Road Walk....

May 26: Running Wolf, Charmin, and I hit the trail. Lorraine made each of us a scrambled egg breakfast and a bag lunch. We didn't even have to get a ride to the trail. Lorraine lived close enough that it was easier for us just to walk to the trail. Running Wolf had it best--he was picked up almost right outside Lorraine's back door. Charmin and I got picked up a bit earlier on the trail, perhaps five minutes away, so we would need to walk a bit further to connect our footsteps.

We left our packs hidden behind a bush by the side of the road and slackpacked up to where we were picked up by Dezert Ratty the evening before, then walked back to our packs. So at least we could hike for a good ten minutes without any backpacks at all, which was nice.

At the first place we stopped to rest, Charmin pulled out the bag lunch admiring the Bear Claw Lorraine put in it. I don't think Charmin had ever seen a Bear Claw before. She looked at it from all directions, then read the label, noting it's 400 calories and saying, "That's AWESOME!" Which I couldn't help but laugh at. It's not often you see a girl who's excited about consuming 400 useless calories. =)

A couple of hours into our hike, a car pulled over asking us about information on the trail. He had been stopped by a hiker a short ways ahead of us (we assumed it was probably Running Wolf, who was the only person we knew about that was immediately ahead of us), and the hiker was asking about how to get to Agua Dulce. Charmin and I laughed. That Running Wolf.... he keeps getting himself lost, and still ends up on the right trail! (Later, when we did catch up to Running Wolf, he said it wasn't him. But we still tease him about hiking seven miles into the detour and not even realizing it.)

For lunch, we stopped at a small creek with trees providing shade. Originally I planned to walk past it, but Charmin was quick enough to note the trees and say that they were the first ones she'd seen for miles. This might be our best option to stop for lunch. So we stopped, not even realizing a good-flowing stream was hidden under it.

So we stopped for lunch, perhaps a bit early for the day, but shade was scarce. Make use of it while you can!

We sat by the edge of the creek, kicked off our shoes, and ate lunch. I had just filled up with water a half-mile back on the trail where a creek crossed the road, but it wasn't the best looking of water sources. Lots of places upstream where it could have been contaminated. This little creek we were by now seemed like it was a better option for water. So I poured out what I had collected before and filled up at the creek.

But here's the thing. I had already taken off my shoes, and I didn't really want to try getting down to the water level to fill up with water. I didn't even want to stand up. So I took a rope, tied it to my Nalgene bottle, then threw it into the creek from where I sat, slowly pulling it back with the rope. I was "fishing" for water, which Charmin seemed to think was pretty bizarre, but at least somewhat amusing.

Charmin has an unusual assortment of clothing. She took a long-sleeved shirt, then cut off the arms, sewed a hem around each end to prevent fraying, then attaches the arms to the short sleeves with safety pins when she wants to wear a long-sleeved shirt--either because she's cold or because she wants to keep the sun off her arms. She was struggling to get one of the arms on, however, since she only has the other hand to work the safety pin in place, and she finally stopped and asked if I could help her to get dressed.

"Uhh.... Sure.... Okay...." I hoped Amanda would never find out about this. It's not as bad as it sounds. Really! =) I helped Charmin get her arm sleeves on, managing to poke myself once with the safety pin, but not managing to poke her in the process. That really should have been her trail name--Safety Pin. I've never met a hiker who carries more safety pins than Charmin. She must have a couple of dozen of them, pinned all over her clothes. On her shirt, on the cuff of her pants, on her shorts--all of her clothing has a handful of safety pins stuck in them. I'm still not sure what all they're used for, but if you ever need a blister popped, she can certainly help!

Charmin and I got ahead of Running Wolf without even realizing it. He went off the trail briefly to replace a broken camera at a nearby Wal-Mart. He called a taxi to pick him up from off the trail, made a quick run into town, then took the taxi back. I was pleased when I learned this, because I put the taxi idea into his head. He was originally going to try to find a bus or walk to the Wal-Mart, if necessary, and I said a taxi might be faster and more convenient. (Albeit, more expensive too.) He liked that idea so much, though, he actually used it.

Late in the day, Charmin was looking at the map of the detour and saw a little dirt road running between the two paved roads that the detour followed, suggesting that maybe we could follow that. I had to admit, on the map, it looked like an excellent suggestion. Walking along a paved road was not fun--not especially busy, perhaps--but still not a fun walk. But I wouldn't commit to her suggested detour of the official detour just yet. I was concerned it might be a private road or lead through private property. Accidentally running into a pot growing operation or something was not something I had on my to-do list!

So I suggested let's take a look at the dirt road before making any commitments. We hiked on, and I nearly passed the dirt road without even realizing it. Actually, I *did* pass the dirt road, then backtracked about 50 feet when I realized I had overlooked it.

And the road looked.... good. Very good, in fact. There were no fences to keep people out. No "No Trespassing" signs, no "Private Property" signs, and no signs to "Keep Out." The road looked recently used, and appeared to follow powerlines across the segment. Probably used by utility companies to maintain the powerlines. "Let's do it!" I said. Charmin's detour would take off about three miles of miserable road walking, trading it in for a mile and a half of a little-used but well-maintained dirt road along the powerlines.

It was getting late in the day as well and we would need a place to camp soon, and the wheels in my head started clicking. Along this road would be an awesome place to camp--as long as there was water nearby. Charmin and I both needed more water before we could stop. The paved road would have been a miserable place to stealth camp. Certainly possible, but every passing car would wake us up during the night. So I told Charmin, "If we find water along this road, let's camp there."

And we did find water. It was a small creek, near the end of the dirt road. The wind was quite strong, so we followed the creek upstream a bit trying to find a place with a bit of wind protection. On the way, Charmin found an onion growing, and had to stop long enough to dig it up. Charmin's at it again, grazing off the land like a cow. I'll tell you this, however--if I were ever stranded in the woods without any food, there's absolutely nobody I'd rather have around than Charmin. She can find food anywhere! That little farmer girl from Switzerland knows more about edible plants in California than I do!

She dug up a pitifully small onion, barely the size of a quarter, and asked if I wanted to share it. "There's not even enough for one bite!" I told her, but she proceeded to slice off a bit with a knife and gave it to me.

"It's not going to have much taste to it," she warned me. I popped it in my mouth, and agreed, it was pretty tasteless. Tasted nothing like an onion.

We set up camp, in a burnt out area of the Station Fire. It looked like there used to be trees providing shade and wind protection, but they had all burned in the fire. A few grasses and flowers sprouted in the area of an otherwise wasteland of charred remains. It was beautiful, in a desolate kind of way. And perhaps the best stealth campsite ever on a road walk!


The 3 Foragers said...

possibly one of the allium family. california deserts alos offer edible cactuses, along with aloes, alliums and yucca flowers. what can you forage?

Unknown said...

Tell Charmin to take her shirt off. Then she can use both hands to pin her sleeves to her shirt, and then put the shirt back on!

That probably won't go over well with Amanda, either!

Anonymous said...

Hey, WASSA fell asleep on the job -- also in CA visiting... our THIS DAY IN HISTORY fails to mention that today is the 4th of July and our nation's fight for independence from England, etc., culminating today, 234 years ago.

(Or did this happen on purpose, just to get us riled up?)

Happy 4th of July, Tortuga.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Well, better to have helped Charmin get dressed and not undressed, right?

Sounds like a much better detour down that dirt road, but that white thing looked nothing like onion. First thing that came to mind was poppy. The crack cocaine type. :'O

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers