Monday, June 4, 2012

Day 44: Landers Creek to Bird Spring Pass

We woke thirsty. With only a few ounces left, finding water was our first priority. We reached the outlet of dry Landers Creek within a few minutes, and stopped to consider the murky brown puddle of stagnant seep. We considered drawing water out of the puddle by the cupful, but ultimately decided to continue on and hike to a piped spring less than a half mile up the trail.  Although the side trip to the spring would add mileage and time, fresh water would be worth it.

Reaching the Piute Mountain Road crossing, we spied a familiar figure walking down the road from a white Ford truck. Honeybear!

Honeybear pointed us to the truck, which had a 2.5 gallon container of water perched on the side. An injured hiker, Woolly, was taking a few days off to recover and had driven in to meet a few hikers with food and water. We filled up our bottles, chatted a few minutes, then continued down the trail.

The trail passed through a beautiful pine forest, with soft pine needles several inches deep blanketing the ground. Then we passed through a burn area and marveled at the wildflowers, especially the colorful variety of lupine in deep bluish purple, magenta tinged violet, and bright white. The deep shaded pine forest had choked out the wildflowers, but they were thriving on the sandy exposed hills of the burn area.

But the burn area soon transitioned into desert, with sandy brown hills covered with sage, brush, and Joshua trees. We stopped for lunch on a hot, shadeless patch of sand next to the trail. Then we climbed into the trees onto the flanks of Pinyon Mountain, beautifully decorated with rugged granite and pinyon pines.

"Shhhh! Look at the rabbit!". Sierra whispered up the trail. Catching up to where she stood, I scanned the sandy hillside for the rabbit. Suddenly, the bush next to our feet began to rattle. We jumped away and quickly scrambled up the trail, the rabbit forgotten in our haste to escape the angry rattlesnake by our feet.

Continuing to climb, the trail began to feel like a sand dune at the beach, our feet constantly slipping backward in the loose sand. And then the wind came. At first a welcome gentle breeze, the wind slowly picked up speed, eventually working itself into such a fury that walking into the wind felt like entering a wrestling match.

As I was contemplating our limited camping options for the night, I spotted a lone hiker walking toward us. My father! He confirmed that all of the campsites at Bird Spring Pass were exposed and windy, and that the water cache usually found there was empty.

But my father came equipped with water for us and several other hikers, pizza, and a ride down the hill to more sheltered camping behind a small stand of Joshua trees. We watched the moon rise behind the silhouette of the hills topped with Joshua trees, then went to bed.

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