Warner Springs, Mile 109
Editor’s Note: All updates to this site, be they posts or design, are done via my droid phone. I’m only able to post at the mercy of cellular reception and battery life. Also, I currently have no way of transferring pictures from my camera to my phone, so all I can currently post are shots I take with my phone, which I typically don’t do. I may later update posts with pictures from the camera once a computer is available.
It’s now been a week of walking on the old dusty, and the routines of trail life are starting to set in. This stretch, and the next few hundred miles to boot, are through the desert and pretty rough. Technically very little of this is true desert, and for the upcoming Mojave we only walk about 12 miles of it and skirt around the outside for many more. Still, it’s been plenty hot enough for me, typically somewhere in the 100′s and 90 in the shade. To avoid baking all day, everyone out here wakes up anywhere from 3am-6am and walks in the cool morning pre-dawn until things start heating up around 10am. From here it’s a battle to find shade, where hikers will usually hunker down until 4pm-6pm, at which point things have cooled just enough so we can put in the rest of the miles for the day until dark. Alternatively, there’s night hiking, and while it is cool in it’s own right, you miss everything except for what your headlamp illuminates directly in front of you.
What has surprised me most about this first hundred miles is the variety we’ve seen in the flora. There’s been arid desert, pine forests, rolling plains, burned swaths of land, and a patch that reminded me of Australia complete with eucalyptus.
Out here the big essentials are water, of course, and shade to wait out the heat of the day. Water is, I’m told, quite plentiful this year in relation to prior seasons. There are many little streams that are typically dry this time of year, but their character is questionable. Often cows pollute the streams that they too drink from, and mice have often been known to fall in and drown in water tanks. Treating all the water is essential unless you’re looking for a case of the tummy grumblies.
Since there are often stretches upwards of 20 miles between water sources, there are some trail angels who supply water caches, bringing many gallons of water to especially dry sections of the trail to avoid having to carry 30 pounds of water between areas. Still, even though the angels may bring 100 gallons or more to a cache, once the herd (the large middle pack that constitutes the majority of hikers) comes through, it can be quickly wiped out and therefore hikers are told not to rely on them.
We’re currently somewhere in the middle of the herd, so there’s lots of people everywhere now until the different paces spread people out more. It’s easy to find people to walk and camp with, as everyone usually starts within a one month window and kickoff sees the biggest number of hikers off at once.
Almost everyone section hiking or thru-hiking takes on a new handle, known as their trail name. When introducing yourself to other hikers, trail angels, or even town folk, you use your trail name. There’s no hard and fast rules on trail names, they can either be chosen yourself or given by other hikers. If you don’t like one that’s given to you, you need to find a replacement quickly before everyone starts calling you “Thunder Butt” or the like.
While there are a few great trail names out there, mostly they are a result of some item that that person is associated with. If someone is cold one night and busts out their space blanket for warmth, they run the risk of inadvertently adopting it as their new moniker. My issue is that most people who don’t have a trail name are almost immediately appointed one by their fellow hikers, regardless of the quality.
As expected, my trail name came as a result of my ukulele. The name had been kicked around a little earlier, but when the trail angel Sugar Momma threatened to dub me Baby Face, I quickly took the name of Jamz. I’m not super jazzed on it, but it could be much worse. Most of the time when I introduce myself people hear James, but once they hear it right I get all kind of responses. Like kick out the jamz? Like the old shorts? Like jelly? Like NBA Jam? Yes, yes to all of the above.
I’m currently hiking with Crasher, SpoonMan, Cerveza, and recently left behind Low Card and Axel Rose (not a trail name). Some others that come to mind are Dirt, Backyard Boogie, Serenity and Three Times a Lady, Mowgli, Pinky, Soft Walker, Happy and Gigi. I think my favorite name I’ve heard thus far was for a rider on a gluten-free diet, the Breadless Horseman.
We’re currently staying in a resort in Warner Springs, where six of us packed into a room for a day of rest. When you take a day off entirely and don’t walk at all on the trail, it’s called a zero, as in zero miles walked. If you only walk a short distance before resting, like we did yesterday, it’s a nearo. It’s been a bit strange coming back to civilization after a week living in the desert with ridiculously stinky hiker trash.A flush toilet actually looks foreign. My friends look completely different once a week’s worth of filth has been washed off.
We’re back off to the trail now, which I don’t mind in the least. This bed is much too soft.