Snooze is my best friend, so I just indulged myself by hitting it for an hour this morning. Up at 430a, hiking by 5a. Close enough.
Most of my hike across Panamint Valley was quite pleasant. When the sun rose, it got hot quickly. Up to this point, my itinerary had worked out pretty well. I started late in the day on Wednesday. The sun was low in the sky, which meant that Badwater Basin was comparatively cool. I hit Telescope Ridge in the afternoon yesterday, and it was plenty warm up there despite the wind. As I lost elevation in Tuber Canyon last night, the sun was setting, so it cooled off as I descended into the valley. All part of the plan.
As I’d feared, my shin splint was back in full force today, which made for some pretty brutal hiking this morning. I’d hoped these would be quick miles, but I kept a conservative pace to nurse my injury. I’d been using Aleve to manage the pain, but it wasn’t very effective, so I switched to Ibuprofin in Panamint Springs. They’re both NSAIDs, but Ibuprofin seems to be working better for me in this case.
The last couple hours into Panamint Springs Resort were hot, but I still managed to avoid the true heat of the day. Upon arriving, I plopped down in one of the lawn chairs in front of the convenience store. It was so nice to sit in a chair! (Little victories, you know.) First things first. After I collected myself, I went into the convenience store for some chocolate milk. No dice, so I settled for a little Starbucks Mocha Frap bottle thingy. It totally hit the spot. Next, burger and a beer for lunch. The bar tender called me “one of the crazies” and assured me that it wasn’t uncommon for “us” to stop in for lunch and a shower en route to Whitney. Quirky dude. I enjoyed him.
(Note that Panamint Springs uses satellite internet, so their plan is limited. Please be respectful as a hiker. Don’t use up their plan updating your social media and blogs. Do what you need to do, and try to remember that there will be many more of us as this route becomes more popular. We represent all of the hikers who will come behind us, and we don’t want to abuse this wonderful oasis. For example, I sent an email to my mom to let her know that I was ok, then I ate my lunch and headed over to the shower.)
The shower system is amazing. You pay three dollars for a shower pass, then you can shower as many times as you want for as long as you want all day long. Bliss. After my shower, I headed back to the convenience store for a milkshake, then went over to the campground to charge up my electronics – so many freakin’ electronics – and take a nap. Finding outlets and a shady spot was a total snap. I’d only been in “town” two and a half hours, and I was already feeling pretty refreshed. Still, I wasn’t in a rush to bolt out of there while it was still so hot out. Ended up staying until 5p, a total of five hours for my little siesta.
There was a short road walk along Hwy 190 to start out of Panamint Springs, then a dirt road/trail up to Darwin Falls, which I almost skipped. But I was feeling great. And I figured for an extra mile and negligible elevation gain, it would be silly not to check it out. So glad I did. It’s a beautiful little spot.
I considered continuing along the alternate route, but then decided I’d rather keep it simple with the sun setting and night closing in, so I backtracked to the main route and climbed a gentle slope to gain the ridge overlooking Darwin Canyon. I still had 12 miles to go, which ended up amounting to 6 hours of hiking. Not too shabby for cross country route finding in the dark, though.
When I finally arrived at Saline Valley Road and Hwy 190, I found my food cache totally demolished. I knew when I cached it that this might happen, so I tried to mitigate the likelihood by completely covering the box with rocks. (I know; shoulda buried it. Some lessons we gotta learn the hard way.) It worked at Trona-Wildrose, but not here. The only things the little critter hadn’t gotten were two tuna packets. Fortunately I’d had a big lunch at Panamint, so I’m content to just have a clif bar and go to sleep.
Convenient as that is, the question remains: What about tomorrow? Can I make it to Cerro Gordo on a couple bars and two packets of tuna? Well, yeah. No problem. But what if my cache there is also demolished? Can I make it to Lone Pine? Yeah, I bet I can. The only other option is to try and hitch from here to Panamint (or Lone Pine) to resupply and get back. Doesn’t feel like it’s worth all that trouble; I’m not that concerned.
Another imperfect day. I wouldn’t have it any other way! The troubleshooting, the never knowing how things are going to go- those are some of my favorite parts of backpacking.
Miles Hiked: 29