A Farewell to the Desert
We're off to see the Lizard,
the wonderful Lizard of Mojav, EH!
Hello again! We've been singing that jingle to the sound of the Wizard of Oz for a few weeks now and figured we had to share. Our days in the desert are coming to an end soon and I feel the need to share some of what we learned while living in this powerful landscape. We have experienced weather of all sorts - much of which was unexpected, we learned how to thrive from the animals - primarily lizards, and have been awed as well as attacked by plants - quite literally.
The very thought of a desert conjures thoughts of extreme heat and sun exposure for many, although for some folks it even comes to mind as quite cold and even snowy. It all depends on the time of day and elevation. In our month of desert travel we have experienced windless 100 degree days, waterless expanses stretching over 40 miles, windy nights below freezing that left our tents coated with ice and hoarfrost, and even thunder-snowstorms that we waited out in the comfort of a cave as 3 inches of snow piled up. Lenticular clouds will sometimes form in a saucer-like appearance over low peaks, and sometimes it will rain for days, but will always be followed by more hot sun.
The heat and intensity of the sun have an effect on the way most travellers hike and we are no exception. Early on in the trip we began to see lizards of various sizes skittering between the rocks and bushes. As we thought more about lizards we started to consider why they move as quick as they do and came up with realization that being so small and cold-blooded they can only be in the direct sun for very short periods or they won't survive the heat. From that point on, we began to "move like a lizard", hiking quickly but smoothly from one area of shade to another and then resting and cooling our blood in the shade like a lizard.
Beyond the challenges of weather and learning to outsmart the heat like a lizard, we found that this landscape is as beautiful as it is aggressive. I'm not referencing the wildlife, but rather the plant life. The sweet scent of sage fills our nostrils as we admire the many flowers of the desert in bloom, such as yucca and indian paintbrush. All the while that we are admiring the beauty, the sharp needles of cacti and pokey leaves of desert scrub oak attempt to rake our skin. Poison oak and poodledog bush seem to be reaching out across the trail to get us with their oily tentacles that could leave us with itchy and painful rashes. The desert in bloom is an astonishing sight, one that is best looked upon, not touched nor plucked.
The next leg of our journey will take us out of the desert and have us hiking into higher elevations through the dense forests and tree-less alpine expanses of the Sierra until we eventually stand atop Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous USA. While the challenges are likely to be different, we know that a thru-hike often requires us to utilize the skills we learn along the way many times throughout the journey. We will be ready for what comes because of what we have been through.
Paul 'Spice' Twedt