Practice Mission #2: The Worst 8 Miles Of My Life

This morning I met with Blake, the producer of the documentary film about my walk around Salton Sea.  He will be making much of the trip with me on foot and he wanted to come along with me today to get an idea what he was in for, take notes about the location, etc.

The plan was to walk from the (new) North Shore Beach & Yacht Club north, toward Mecca to the Whitewater River. Total distance would be about 18 miles. Not a cake walk, but based on practice mission #1 a few weeks ago, it should not have been too bad.  The temperature was predicted to hit 106°F, so I was prepared to turn back early if necessary since I’m not as acclimated to the heat as I would like to be.  We left the parking lot at about 10:30AM, with a temperature of about 90°F.

The first mile was uneventful – almost easy, but that slowly started to change.  The further north we got, the deeper the barnacles got on the beach and in a few spots, our feet actually went right though the barnacles into the hot, black, stinky mud below.   I was forced to stop every 5 or 10 steps to pull barnacles out of my shoes.

By the second mile our pace had slowed from the brisk 3 miles per hour that we started out at, down to one mile per hour and it got even slower as we had to stop to find our way around several swampy/muddy irrigation channels.  Most were passable after finding a narrow spot and jumping or walking through them, but a few had deep mud making them a bit hazardous.

Video of walking through the deep barnacles

By mile number 4 the temperature had risen to well over 100°F and the slow trudging had tired us both – we were starting to feel the heat.  We came upon a large (30-40 feet wide) irrigation channel that required us to walk several hundred yards through the desert to the farmland areas in order to get around. As we walked into the desert area the temperature went higher (no cooling breeze from the water) but it was almost worth it as we did come across this surprise – an old paddle-boat, stranded in the desert where there was no doubt once a shallow marina.

A paddle boat in the middle of the desert at Salton Sea

The paddle-boat to nowhere

Knowing that we still had not yet even hit the hottest part of the day, we decided we should start heading back.  Walking through the deep barnacles and thick mud had taken it’s toll.

The next few miles were uneventful. Hot, muddy, and slow, but uneventful.  But at the last mile or two, our chit-chat came to and end, and we both started focusing on only one thing: How much further is it back to the Yacht Club?

It had gotten hotter, and more humid and we could feel it.  We had to stop for several “cool downs”, which in the blazing 106°F sun and with no shade for miles is not easy.  We would drop our backpacks, pour some (precious) water over our heads, and get a few minutes of relief.  By the time we made it to the parking lot we were both overheated and beginning to show some of the beginning symptoms of heat stroke.  This was, by far, the toughest 8 miles I have ever walked. Thankfully, ten minutes resting in the shade with some cool water from the ice-chest in the car, and we were both as good as new.

Even though we (thankfully) cut today’s mission short, and flirted with disaster, I still call it a success. I’ve got several more miles of beach that I am now familiar with, I know about a few new obstacles, and I am reminded that walking around the entire Salton Sea is not going to be easy.

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