Hotter than Death Valley?
A Summer Walk Around the Salton Sea
Joy and I arrived at the starting point of my walk, the corner of highways 86S and 195, in the town of Mecca, around 9 AM. Since the CHP officer in Indio had assured me that it was OK to walk along the new section of highway 86S, I was able to shave off about five miles from my original estimate of 120 miles. This cut my daily mileage for the first three days from 20 to 18.
I started by assembling my jogger. Once the rear wheels were snapped in, I positioned the 3-gallon jug, filled with ice and water, on a wooden platform attached to the jogger's rear axle. From the water jug's handle, I hung the insulated Thermasnap thermal bag containing my lunch, Gatorade and camera. Towards the front of the jogger was then secured another bag that held a repair kit for the jogger tires and other spare and emergency items. Finally, squeezed near the very front, was my upright satellite phone. Reflectix insulation covered it all and four bungee cords secured everything. I positioned my portable chair and the hat on top of the insulation and tied them to the jogger's brake handle. Meanwhile, Joy was busy reading her temperature gauge, which indicated a temperature of 94°F and humidity of 70%, translating into a heat index of 123.
Highway 86S looked just like I-5: two lanes in each direction separated by a 40 foot median, six-foot-wide shoulders, and a speed limit of 65 mph. The only difference was the smaller number of vehicles. My jogger worked perfectly. It moved easily on the paved shoulder, and by tying the bungee cord attached to the top of my umbrella to different spots on my pack I was able to shield myself from the sun no matter which angle it was at. The one worry I had, the effect of an upward push on my umbrella from the wind gusts created by passing trucks, was mostly unfounded: the umbrella moved very little. Also, the shoulder was pretty much free of broken glass. I was literally basking in the glory of my good fortune as I walked in the gorgeous setting of the large open space of the desert flanked on one side by the Salton Sea and on the other by the majestic Santa Rosa Mountains.
If you like desert, this is heaven. If not, it is a boring highway.
My plan was to stop and rest twice during the day, about every six miles. My Camelbak held 70 fluid ounces of water, but I drank most of it in less than two hours. Seven miles from where I started was the first major street, 81st Avenue, which I knew from my earlier kayak trip to have a grove of palm trees. Seduced by the potential shade, I continued for maybe another half an hour without refilling my Camelbak. I had a nice rest under a cluster of palm trees, sitting on my folding chair, drinking Gatorade, devouring trail mix and salty Cheez-It crackers.
I had been walking for an hour after my rest stop when my Camelbak ran dry again. Though refilling wasn't complicated, I did have to undo the umbrella from the pack, remove the bungee cord and the Thermasnap bag and maneuver the bladder under the spigot, which was only a foot above the ground. I had refilled the bladder without removing it from the outer pack to save some effort. Obviously, I had failed to fill it fully. Ominously however, as I squatted to fill the bladder, my legs seemed to cramp up. A feeling of slight worry raced thru my mind. I stretched and messaged my legs and the cramps went away. As I was on my way again, I surmised that I had become a bit dehydrated. I increased my water intake, but it was still another hour before I needed to pee. Still, I continued my walk without any further apparent problems.
My niece and her family had driven up from Yuma for the day, and along with Joy, they were waiting for me to arrive at the scheduled stop near Treadwell Blvd. The kids played with my jogger for a few minutes and then we all drove to Ray & Carol's motel room in Salton City, our home away from home for the first two nights. As I entered the room, I realized that my gait was slightly unsteady and I didn't feel completely well. I was not dehydrated, but drinking more water without a corresponding increase in salt intake had upset the fine balance my body needed to maintain. My niece had made a four-hour round trip to visit us. Very reluctantly, I stayed in the motel room while they all went out for dinner. I sipped two quarts of Gatorade and nibbled on salty snacks for the next three hours, followed by numerous visits to the bathroom to get rid of all that liquid.