Saturday, day #5, was planned to be the shortest and easiest day of the walk so far and I was looking forward to it.
Starting in Desert Shores and walking north only 12 miles to the Whitewater River channel was planned to take only 5 hours. “Easy”. I was able to sleep-in until 6:30AM and would have the entire afternoon to rest, eat, sleep, or do whatever I wanted.
When I did the planning for the walk I could have made today the finish – a 20 mile day, instead of 12 miles Saturday and 8 miles to the finish line on Sunday, but I knew that by the 5th day both the crew and I would be tired so I decided to finish with the last 2 days being short ones. I’m glad I did. I needed this rest and I was looking forward to the afternoon.
Just like Day #4, I don’t remember much of the day. Brain-burn, sleep deprivation, and overall exhaustion was starting to creep up to me. As I write this and reflect on the day, I have only small glimpses of memories of what took place that day. I don’t remember waking up, I don’t remember what was for breakfast, I don’t remember being driven to the starting-point in Desert Shores. The rest of the day is only fuzzy memories, mostly jogged by photos and video that I have saved.
First on the schedule for the day was a live phone-in radio interview with KNews 94.3, a local Palm Springs station. Standing in the parking lot of the Johnsons Landing RV park where the motor home and my team stayed for the night, I waited for the radio station to call. Right on time, my iPhone rang. Before I could even say ‘hello’ the show producer very quickly said something about speaking clearly and loudly, and before I could ask any questions, I was connected to the show’s host, the name of which I cannot remember. I don’t remember what questions he asked and I don’t remember how I answered. I do remember that toward the end of the interview the host, who had just admitted to being new to the area and a bit ignorant of Salton Sea, asked or said something about Salton Sea being “dead, ugly, and smelly”. I remember that I got a bit pissed off, and started to rant about people being ignorant about Salton Sea and went on about the vast bird life, plant life and overabundance of tilapia, and yah, “sometimes it does have an aroma”, the “smell of adventure!”. The only other thing that I can remember is that the interview went on for 18 minutes. I am told by a few of the people that listened to the show live that it went well. Both educational and entertaining, so they said. I’ll take their word for it.
Starting the day
Not long after the radio interview I filled my backpack with water, strapped my mud-shoes to it, crawled into the Jeep and headed to Acapulco Lane in Desert Shores where I finished day #4 the previous evening.
By 9:30AM I had already walked 2 miles and the temperature was approaching 100°F. The heat wasn’t bothering me much but I was already feeling the effects of brain-burn and sleep deprivation.
While walking through the marinas north of Capri Road, a spot that I had just re-scouted 6 days prior, I got myself “lost” in the maze of marinas. If you are familiar with this area which is well-marked, you will probably realize how ridiculous that sounds, but it illustrates how poorly my brain was functioning. After zig-zagging and back-tracking several times and adding at least an extra mile to my walk, I finally made it past the back of the Fire Department building and back onto the shoreline, walking past a now land-locked marina with a beautiful yet eerie red-algae bloom.
As soon as I reached the barnacle covered beach I really started to feel just how tired my body was. Each step felt like my feet were full of lead and I had to fight my urge to stop and rest. I wasn’t out of breath, my heart rate was not high, and I was barely even sweating, yet all I wanted to do was lay down. I knew this feeling. I’ve felt it before. It was ‘the wall’. No more energy. Even though it looked like I still had plenty of ‘reserve’ energy on my belly hanging over my belt, my body had decided otherwise and was telling me it was done with this 5 days of nonsense. I ate a snack and kept moving, but at a pace far slower than on any previous day.
It was beginning to warm up, and I was feeling bad. Tired, lethargic, and just plain yucky. After about 6 miles, roughly half-way into the day’s walk I posted my first and only video update for the day.
Walking along this section for shoreline between Desert Shores and the Whitewater River channel was uneventful, or at least, I don’t remember anything unusual. This section is a mixture of deep barnacles, swampy areas and mud, but only mildly difficult and with only small water crossings. Unfortunately, roughly half of the canals and water crossings that were in this area when I scouted it in 2014 were now dry.
As with most of Salton Sea, I came across a few boats and at least one good spot to rest.
As I made my way north toward the Whitewater River my pace slowed dramatically and I found myself almost 2 hours behind schedule. The plan was for the camera crew to make the 2-mile walk from Lincoln Street along the river channel and meet me at the shore. After some scenic long-distance shots of me approaching and drone-shots of me crossing the river we would make the 2 mile walk back to the vehicles and head back to camp for some lunch and much needed rest.
Heat of the day
By now the heat of the day was coming on. Along the shoreline where I was walking the temperature was a ‘balmy’ 105°F. Comfy by my standards. Temperatures just a few hundred yards inland, and along the road that parallels the Whitewater River channel the temperatures were a bit higher, and by the time I arrived were approaching 115°F. On the road which is like a giant sun-reflector the heat ‘bounces’ off the hard surface, making it feel like walking on the inside of a broiler.
I was accustomed to temperatures as high as 120°F, as was Blake, the film producer. We had both been training in the heat during the last year, and although not always enjoyable, we were both well acclimated to the heat. The rest of the film crew however, freshly shipped-in from Washington state were not as well acclimated nor trained on how to prepare for temperatures and humidity at Salton Sea in the summer.
What would happen next is still a bit hazy in my memory. I remember seeing the film crew on our shared GPS trackers already at the Whitewater River when I was at least an hour or more away. I remember thinking something to the effect of “I hope they brought enough water” and “I hope they wore hats this time“.
I made it to the Whitewater River at least an hour late, but I can’t remember actually crossing it, although I know I did. I also remember seeing the film-crew, carrying no water, and without hats and chuckling to myself. After that I remember starting the walk up the road along the river toward Lincoln Street and how hot it was – probably the hottest so far, with no breeze and no shade trees. It was hot. I remember that it was hot.
This is the post I made to Facebook regarding what happened next, made just a few hours later:
Today cameraperson Taylor learned what heatstroke is!
..at the end of my walk this afternoon Taylor (camera person) and Corbin (director) had to walk the nearly 2-mile road down to the mouth of the Whitewater River channel to get some film of me crossing the river. Temps were about 107°F, and with the heat reflecting off the hot dirt road, my thermometer read 115°F. After walking 2 miles down the road, standing around taking video of me in the sun for at least 45 minutes, then starting to walk the 2 miles back to the closest area we could get the Jeep, she reported that she was feeling sick to her stomach.. after a quick rest (in the sun, as there is NO shade anywhere nearby) she resumed walking and then started feeling chills.. soon after she had to stop and was not able to continue.. Blake (producer) and I were walking about 1/8 mile behind after seeing her sit down and start walking again several times, and then NOT get back up we knew exactly what was happening. That ground was far to hot for anyone to want to stay down on it.
Blake and I both know what to do if either of us were to get dehydrated or heat-stroke while walking.. We quickly grabbed one of our towels for some makeshift shade, got a salt-cap into her, and started pouring our remaining drinking water over her to get her cooled down. Blake (the hero!) then ran the last 1/2 mile to the Jeep and grabbed cold gatorade and water and brought back to her. after about 30 minutes she was feeling well enough stand up (insisting that we NOT call 911.. even though both Blake and I had our finger on our 911-speed dial buttons) and we were able to help her back to the Jeep that John had already gotten pre-cooled with the air conditioner.. I’m happy to report that after a few hours in the air-conditioning, some rest a cool shower, more water and food, Taylor is ready to come and film me at the finish line tomorrow!
I took this video with my iPhone after Taylor was able to sit up and speak. About 30 seconds into the video it begins to break up and ‘pause’ because my iPhone was getting too hot and starting to overheat. Only a few minutes after this the iPhone fully overheated and stopped working until later when I cooled it down in the Jeep.
Thankfully, only a few hours later Taylor was back to her old-self and ready to get back on the shore.
Only one more day
The remainder of the day went as-planned: resting, eating, sleeping, and resting more.
Day #5 and 94 miles were now behind me. Beginning the next morning, the last day of my walk, I had only 8 more miles to go and I knew that this would be the most difficult 8 miles of the entire walk. Day #6 would not be easy and the only thing on my mind was the mud and “death beach” on the schedule for the next morning.