Day 38 – May 11, 2022
Mile 608.9 (Landers Campground) to 638.4
29.5 trail miles | 29.1 tracked miles | 6,563 ft elevation gain | 57.2 F / 14 °C
I might be approaching the Sierras, but the desert once again unleashed its might and fury today. Without the generosity and dedication of trail angels, carrying water for 40 miles would have been a challenge.
I started my day descending into Butterbredt Canyon. Although the path was relatively smooth and well-maintained, my hike was punctuated by cold temperatures and brutal wind gusts.
A few hours later, I reached Kelso Road, where I found a well-organized water cache maintained by a local trail angel named Devilfish. It’s always a bit surreal to see an abundance of water jugs in the middle of the desert.
While poorly-maintained water caches are frowned upon as they’re likely to generate trash and waste, the Kelso Road cache was a model of organization. Devilfish uses only large, reusable 5-gallon containers, which were all sealed and date-stamped, long with a dispenser to help minimize waste.
As it turned out, I didn’t need much water at all, given the downhill terrain and lower-than-average temperatures. I’ve learned to optimize my water carries and intake. Sometimes, I feel that I’m pushing the boundaries, yet I always end up with extra water to spare.
The ascent on the east side of Butterbredt Canyon was a treat. The winding path took me through dramatic and inspiring desert landscapes dotted with Joshua and yucca trees. Pictures cannot do justice to the scenery.
Further along the trail, 15 miles beyond Kelso Road, I reached the Bird Spring Pass water cache, another gift from Delivfish to the hiking community. In addition to precious water, the cache had first aid supplies, hand sanitizer, and power banks.
To put things in perspective, in the Washington State where I live, a 15-mile water carry on the PCT is unheard of. Here in the desert, we tend to think in terms of weight and volume, rather than distance. 15 miles requires approximately three liters, which is a relatively easy carry. Without water caches, a 40-mile stretch would involve a 10 liter carry (including overnight), which would require excellent strength and appropriate gear. Some sections of the PCT would be virtually impassable if it weren’t for the generosity of strangers.
In the evening, I climbed Skinner Peak, which was the most challenging part of today’s hike.
We settled for the night at a backcountry site near mile marker 638.4.
Tomorrow, I plan to cover another 15 miles to the Walker Pass trailhead, then spend the night in Ridgecrest, CA. As I hiked through the freezing wind today, I couldn’t help but daydream about the hot shower and hearty meals that await me there.