There may not be water, but the desert is full of plant life.


Counting days is hard when you don’t have a 9 to 5 to synchronize you so I am going to start blogging in terms of mile markers instead of days.  Yesterday I camped just short of the 3 mile marker and today was a full day indeed.

I awoke at 3 AM rip roaring and ready to go… because I am still on East coast time. But I slept a bit more and didn’t roust until 4:45.  I slept quite soundly all night and even didn’t have any problem sleeping later.  It was well needed rest since the travel day was so brutal.

I ate an apple pie I bought yesterday and is was a good solid breakfast.  The moon was shaded by trees by the time I awoke, but to my surprise, the dawn was already glowing slightly.  By the time I got going at 5:30 it was full pre-sunrise brightness.  I crossed a railroad track before sunrise and it had a Disneyesque look to it.  It looked fake, but it was real indeed.

It looks like a Disney set, but it’s a real railroad running through a real desert.

The morning walking through the desert was quite cool but zero breeze at all.  The landscape was so foreign to me.  The plants were like none I had ever seen.  I saw two different shrubs that have blood red bark and the woody parts look identical but the leaves are totally different.  One has one inch oblong leaves like mini sea grapes and has small berries.  The other looks like juniper with nearly identical scaly leaves.

Such an interesting tree with blood red bark and green leaves.

One section had small flowers in bloom and the air was very sweet with their aroma.  Other sections with blooms had no aroma at all.

The desert had more flowering plants than I was expecting.

This shrub has whispy threads all over it. We don’t have these on the east coast.

One of the dangerous plants here is called poodle dog bush and it’s highly toxic like poison ivy on steroids.  It is green and stalky with purple flowers.  Looks harmless.  I had only seem it in the books, but I saw three different stalky plants with purple flowers.  One attribute of this plant is that is one of the first things to surface in a burn area.  Around mile 8-ish I entered a burn area and I finally saw it.  There were several dead bushes that looked like someone nailed them with herbicide.  But one of them had one green stalk and on it were purple flowers.  I am certain that it was poodle dog bush and the maintainers had killed them but that one bush had a single surviving stalk.  At least now I know what to look for.  I never saw any more.

Post Hike: This is the plant that I assumed was poodle dog bush, but the leaves are flat and curvy. I later saw the textbook perfect poodle dog bush. I still have not verified if this is a variant of poodle dog bush or not, but I don’t think that it is.

I started getting hungry and a little tired around 9 AM so I started snacking.  Since the day yesterday was so messed up and I never really ate dinner, I think I was a little short on juice.  At mile 20 was a campground and store that I wanted to reach for lunch and thought I would hit it at about 1 PM.

By 11:00 I came to a gully that was the end of a long descent and the start of a big climb.  There was a nice shade tree and a sunny patch so I laid the tarp out in the sun to dry and unrolled my pad in the shade to eat lunch.  I ate pepperoni and cheese-its and drank a whole liter of Powerade.  I lounged a good forty minutes letting my feet air out.

I set out on the climb knowing that the next five miles to lake Morena campground would tire me out.  It was warm out, but my hat and white long sleeve shirt kept me cool enough that I didn’t bother to use the umbrella.

The last mile into the campground I was hot and tired.  It had been about 17 miles and I got there at 1:45, pretty close to my estimate.

I rested a few minutes, then headed straight for the deli 0.4 mile down the road after hiding my pack in the woods.  I ate a cheeseburger and fries like I hadn’t eaten in weeks.  I ordered a BLT to go for dinner and bought a Squirt and a pint of ice cream for dessert.  I took the ice cream back to my pack to let it warm a little before eating it on my pad stretched out on a huge rock.

I napped about an hour until I loaded up and made my way to the restrooms where I could charge my phone.  All the excitement of the buses and hitchhiking yesterday had me down below 40%.  I charged a little over an hour while lounging under a tree and set out at 5 PM to try to bang out another five or so in the cooler air.

Looks like an inviting field to camp in, right? Not so fast! This grass has seed heads with barbs on it that tenaciously stick to and go through everything – including a tent floor. Camper beware.

In the afternoons, the breeze helps to cool things off a bit.  I think I made it another four or so before I was tired and just wanted to make camp and rest more. There is another campground about the same distance away tomorrow, so no need to go too far tonight.  Time for a BLT and some shuteye.