Walking Around Salton Sea On The Roads

I just finished reading about Dinesh Desai’s walk around the Salton Sea. As far as I can tell Dinesh Desai is the only person ever to walk the Salton Sea on foot.  To make his walk more challenging, Dinesh did it during the heat of the peak summer season.

Dinesh decided to do his walk on the roads that encircle Salton Sea instead of the shoreline like we are planning. Dinesh had this to say about trying to walk the shoreline:

My plan was to encircle the Sea by walking on roads rather than along the shoreline. There was just too much mud, too many barnacles and dead fish, and the usual man-made structures that blocked the path.

I have also had concerns about the mud (aka quicksand) as well as structures or other obstacles that might block our way.  So far we have completed only one scouting-trip to look for obstacles (will need several more scouting trips to survey the entire shore) so I sent Dinesh an email asking about any specific obstacles that might block the shoreline.  Dinesh did not remember any specific things blocking the path along the shore, but our plan will still include some buffer-time just in case we run into something that we might have to walk around in the desert to get past.

So far our biggest concern is getting around The New River that flows into the very south tip of Salton Sea.  Any other small creeks we could probably wade through if we needed to, but the New River is reportedly so polluted with farming-runoff that during some times of year the water can literally burn your skin.  We’ll plan to say away from this one.

Picture of foam in the New River

The water in the New River is reportedly toxic.

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!

The biggest issue that Dinesh writes about is the heat and humidity.  Having camped at Salton Sea during the summer dozens of times as a kid, the heat is something that I am fully acquainted with. Temperatures regularly reached 120F and have been reported as high as 124F.  To make things worse, the heat evaporates the water right out of the Salton Sea making the area very humid.   As the heat and humidly rise, the “heat index” or “feels like” temperature can soar.  Anything over 105 is heat-stroke weather. Any prolonged physical activity in anything much higher than that and things can get really ugly. A heat-index of 120F or more will not be unexpected during our journey.

We aren’t planning our walk for the peak of summer, but we do expect temperatures to reach above 100F, so this is something we have to take seriously.  Since we will be walking along the shore we will have the option of taking a quick dip into the water to cool off (as long as we’re a long way from the New River!) and we also plan to have a ‘support team’ nearby for heat or other emergencies.

In order to combat the heat, Dinesh calculated that he would require about 3 gallons of water per day.  To carry all this water (over 20 pounds!) Dinesh fashioned a water-carrying  cart out of a three-wheeled baby jogger.  This allowed him to carry all of the water he would need for each day, refilling at night.  Because we will be on the shore instead of on the roads, anything with wheels is or that is not strapped to our backs will be out of the question.  We have not yet engineered our water-solution yet, but it will likely consist of carrying at least 1 gallon on our backs, and meeting a few times per day with our (as yet undefined) support team for refills.

Food, snacks, and beer!

Ok, no beer.  But diet our will be important. I did not realize just how important until reading about issues that Dinesh ran into after the first day of his journey:

As I entered the [hotel] 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.

Not even Dinesh had planned for this – He had drank so much water to stay hydrated that it had washed out the sodium and other electrolytes from his body. If this were to continue it could quickly lead to coma or death.  Luckily this is easy to combat – now that we’re aware of it.

Dinesh completed his walk around Salton Sea as planned, in 6 days.  Since we will be walking along the shoreline instead of further out, on the roads our journey will be a few less miles, but will have it’s own set of challenges.

Stay tuned while we figure out how to deal with those challenges!

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