At this point we are The Night Walkers. Very few other people are accomplishing what we are accomplishing, very few people seem to have been able to (or had the desire) push past that first night of walking all night and reap the benefits of night hiking. Night hiking is cool. You only have to carry about half the water you would have to carry during the day. You get to seen sunrise and sunset and a million stars. You get to witness the nighttime antics of the desert animals. You get to avoid the heat.
Last night we night hiked the LA aquaduct. It takes a couple of miles to get to the aquaduct itself, during which time we were treated to an incredible sunset show of colors. The sky was streaked with clouds of all different shapes and sizes. Some were wispy and thin, other dotted and orderly. Right down the middle was a huge fluffy one that had lenticular shapes on one end, and next to it an incredibly smooth cloud that looked like a whale in the night sky. Over where the sun was setting long tendril-like clouds snaked away from the horizon, like the Ocotillo Cactus. As the sun set over a forest of Joshua Trees every single cloud lit up a different color, their different textures taking the fading light and reflecting it in their own unique ways. The tendrils were firey golden rod and molten orange, reaching out of the heart of the sun, all the way up to the sliver of a moon that hung in the sky. On the other side of the horizon the abstract canvas of clouds transitioned from fuchsia pinks to lavender purples, and all the while the sky stayed the most vivid robin’s egg blue. Softly the color went out of everything, fading to grey and white, and we applauded, giving it all a standing ovation.
Around the time that the show ended we found ourselves on the aquaduct. Because it’s underground it is just like walking along a concrete road, stretching into the desert. Every once in a while you pass huge manhole covers and underneath you can hear the river rushing along. As we walked Cameron read the history of the aquaduct to us off of his phone, and what a contentious history it is. Shady things were done to the farmers of Owens Valley and to the environment in order to supply LA with it’s drinking water. Down here the drought is so felt. Everything is dry and every field we walk past, every hoveling farm house we saw, brought home how strange it was to be walking on top of a river of water, underneath the ground, encased in concrete, secreted away for the needs of millions of people out on the coast. It brought home the strange things we humans have done in the name of survival and money and power and privilege.
Last night we were not the only people night hiking, every time we turned around we could see a string of headlamps following us through the desert. Ahead of us were the blinking red lights of the Mesa Windfarm, all flashing in unison. There had been trail rumors that there was a wind advisory out, but when we looked at the weather for the surrounding area we didn’t see anything. There had been a pleasant breeze but once we reached the wind farm the wind predictably picked up, gusts blowing us off our feet. The giant wind turbines surrounded us, their huge blades making deep whooshing noises as they cut through the air, their outlines barely visible in the dark night. We hunkered down behind a building to eat dinner and then pushed on through the wind back up into the mountains.
Not only was it windy, which made it very hard to walk straight, but everywhere kamikaze Kangaroo Rats were trying to kill themselves under our feet. I am sure there is a scientific explanation for why they kept throwing themselves at us, having to do with us being down wind of them or our headlamps confusing them, but all that I know is you would see one and it would feign like it was going to run off trail and then at the last second it would pull a one-eighty and throw itself under you blundering feet. I stepped on two, which ran away, apparently unharmed, and managed to miss another which took advantage of Cameron’s feet behind me and ended up squished. That is the desert for ya, as if staying upright in howling winds wasn’t enough we had to avoid hundreds of adorable suicidal creatures.
We finally made it to the first of two camping options and we had a hard decision to make. The first option was possibly more sheltered from the wind and 1.2 miles closer than the second option but the second option, Tylerhorse Camp, had water, possibly more shade, and got us closer to our goal tomorrow. Even if we stopped early now we were going to have to pack up and move to Tylerhorse once our water ran out in the morning. With a big sigh we decided to push on and head straight there, which was a painful decision because it involved a steep 1.2 mile climb. It was all worth it in the end. We found some awesome shaded campsites to wait out the day in, right next to a real creek which we were able to wash off in. We fell into our tents, exhausted, around 5:30 in the morning, just as the sun was coming up. That is what it means to be a night walker.