Hotter than Death Valley?
A Summer Walk Around the Salton Sea

Day 2

When the alarm went off in the morning, I had to make a decision. Was I recovered enough for another long day's walk in the heat, or should I recuperate for another day? I walked around the room for a few minutes, but when one hasn't had enough sleep and food, it isn't easy to gauge how one feels. Joy was obviously worried, but she mostly kept quiet. She knows that I don't take undue risks, but also that I don't give up too easily. I was in a tough spot but I really appreciated her not making a decision for me. In the end, I decided to continue. I assured her that I would not hesitate to abandon the walk if things didn't go well.

We walked over to a small café nearby only to find it closed for vacation. Luckily, my niece had brought some muffins, but I certainly missed the caffeine high that coffee would have provided.

I made two changes to my routine. I kept a bag of salty Cheez-It crackers handy, which I ate every time I sipped some water, and I refilled the Camelbak as soon as it was empty and used the stop to take some rest; I didn't wait for a shady spot or a certain time. I also followed the three Cs of urine output: it has to be clear, copious and continuous. In the heat index level I was experiencing, I interpreted continuous to mean about every twenty to thirty minutes.

I felt good, and after an hour, I stopped to call Joy. The 4-room motel had no phones in the rooms, but she had our cell phone. The Salton Sea area is sparsely populated and I wasn't sure whether there would be good cell coverage for her phone. A friend of mine, who works for Globalstar, a satellite service provider, had arranged for a loan of a free phone for me. Yesterday, I had tried to call Joy, but we kept getting cut off due to poor cell coverage. So, today, my first words to her were "I am feeling great." Later, I had to resort to calling the motel office phone to convey a message to Joy.

Satellite Phones

Satellite phones are useful in places where cellular and landline phones are unavailable. Since the transmission is via satellites, in theory, it is possible to make calls from anywhere on this planet. However, since a clear view of the sky is essential, the phone cannot be used inside buildings or in dense forests for either the outgoing or the incoming calls. On the other hand, for outdoorsmen such as hikers, fishermen and mountain climbers, it can be a real life saver. The cost has come down considerably: in 2005, a bare-bones plan with voice mail can be had for under $50 a month.

I made good progress, though I felt a lot hotter due to a total absence of any wind. I tried wetting my Packtowl, supposedly made of some very absorbent material, and wrapping it around my neck, but the relief was short-lived. In less than 15 minutes, it was dry. There was nothing but unrelenting desert for miles, and I found myself daydreaming. At times, I found the jogger drifting towards the traffic lanes, but luckily, I could always hear the oncoming cars well before they were any threat to me. Besides, most vehicles gave me a wide berth by moving to the other lane. A few would even "wave" to me by tooting their horns. Incidentally, on most days, that was my only contact with humanity.

bleak, empty highway ahead

Only 80 miles to go.

Yesterday, I wore a new pair of running shoes, a brand I had not used before, and I had no problem with any blisters. Today, I wore my old pair and developed a hot spot. So much for the tried and true. I stopped and applied 3M's Micropore tape to the problem area. Each subsequent day, I applied the tape before starting my walk, and used only the new shoes. I had no more blister problems.