After siesta yesterday we trudged along through endless ridge contours of chemise lined sandy trail. The sun dipped lower and lower. Our pace became consciously quick in an effort to reach the desert floor by dark. For awhile the trail crossed over the ridge to the slope away from the valley. Vegetation drastically changed for the better. Trees and green grass spotted with arrays of fire colored flowers all stood out beautifully in the long light of the afternoon. The abandoned jeep road that was gradually becoming a single tread trail descended efficiently toward the flat plain.
We came off a rather steep section of knee pounding descent. In the distance, partially obscured by trees, I could see, and hear, four people and what looked like a picnic table and small camp. There are these camps periodically, sometimes with picnic tables. The trail is closed to motor vehicles; so, some poor ranger has to pack in any accouterments on horseback and assemble them. The effort is appreciated as the tables especially make comfortable places to cook, sit, and remember a more civilized life style. These people, more hikers I assumed, seemed, as we approached, to be especially attached to this lone piece of human construction. They didn’t seem to have any gear or packs with them. We were, however, only about five miles above a paved road. They could be day hikers getting a late start back. As we came out into the clearing two of the group rushed toward us. A third, wearing an, “Excalliber. Las Vegas.” hat exclaimed, “You’re about to meet four of the biggest idiots you’ve ever met in your life!” The fourth, and so far silent, of the group spread a wide shit eatin’ grin and took a long pull on a beer.
” Do you know the quickest way to a road or civilization, a hotel… anything?” We showed them three point village on our maps. A three mile descent and four mile road walk away. They were noticeably relieved and repeatedly offered us beer. We refused the diuretics, the only liquid they had among them, but gladly accepted some string cheese and processed cheese spread they had in the cooler on one of their extremely stuck four wheel drive vehicles. High centered flat tired stuck with no way out. Both vehicles. “We didn’t know we were on the Pacific Crest Trail. I don’t know why on earth we came this far. You know its funny, my cell phone works pretty good up here. I called my mom in Chicago because today’s mothers day you know and its not like I was gonna’ get to a pay phone. It doesn’t really do us any good though. I can’t call and ask, ‘Where are we?’” I was impressed. They had managed to squeeze through trees and narrowly avoid high centering all the way down half of the first switch-back to the desert floor. Not a predicament that just anyone could wind up in. These people, as we were told, were from the eighty second air borne. Long after we left them behind we could hear their song wafting down through the twilight from the trail above. “Oh… I want to be an airborne ranger, I want to live a life of danger, I want to go to Viet-nam, I want to kill some Viet-cong.” Everyone is an idiot once in awhile.
Today we are on the long desert march. In the belly of the Mojave. The terrain is utterly flat. A road used to service the L.A. aqueduct is substituted for trail. It is absolutely strait for miles and miles. Gale force wind was welcome this morning as it kept us cool. Eventually, however, the sun emerged victorious. It is now plain hot. The wind is hot. With the help of a pre-dawn start, we have most likely done fifteen miles so far. I dragged along through a depressing landscape of barren desert and trashed out trailer lots along the cemented over aqueduct. The totally ruined shell of an old blue bus beckoned to me as a place to rest. A place out of the sun. My resistance fragmented and I sheepishly pointed out the possible rest spot. Dylan quickly agreed as he too had been longing secretly to take refuge in the strange wreckage. Tired and hot, we now are taking our siesta beneath broken windows amidst a pile of random trash and electronics. A cobweb covered 16mm movie projector is my footrest. An old boiler is my desk. It is a fitting place to eat and regain strength on a day surreal in its bleakness and hostility. We have especially enjoyed the privilege of throwing our lunch trash wherever we pleased. Significant displays were made of jettisoning food wrappers around the bus in a sort of slap stick delirium. Wind rocks the bus back and forth. Squeaks, groans and fluttering paper are our soundtrack. I have adorned my hat with Christmas lights and capacitors and tried to fix my breaking pack with super glue and scavenged scraps of metal and plastic. Precious water robbed from once fertile pastures to the north heads south to Los Angeles in an inaccessible pipe buried in the ground and paved over for emphasis.