Fear & Loathing In The Desert

16 12 2012

Awhile back I went on something called a “Moonlight Hike”.  The premise is fairly simple, you go out into the desert and hike at night using the light from the moon.  The full moon unobstructed in the desert is a decent light source… Unless it’s cloudy.

I was invited by a friend who I work with and actually do a lot of hiking with.  The rest of the party consisted of a 50 year old Hippy, a Mormon couple, a female survivalist, some dude who thought he was Davy Crockett, and another co-worker, fresh out of college, with a bottle of Sutter Home in his backpack, and me..

I should have known this was going to be an irritating disaster as soon as I looked up and saw the massive overcast blocking out the light, which was supposed to be provided by the moon…

9:20 P.M.  We started walking from the road to reach the trail head, almost a mile since the trail was closed.  Awesome, big fan of having to hike to the hike.

9:30 P.M.  The survivalist power couple give advice to the Mormons to flip off their headlamps and conserve energy as the moon makes a brief appearance.  Apparently a brand new 9 volt Lithium Ion battery only lasts 20-30 minutes when powering LED lights… I have my first of many eye rolls.

9:40 P.M.  Certified female survivalist punts a Jumping Cholla with her foot while walking.  Apparently is survivalist school they recommend hiking at night with open toes sandals.  I offer up my Leatherman pliers to help pull the needles out, but she opt to go by hand.  Second eye roll ensues… (Jumping Cholla is a nasty barbed cactus)

9:46 P.M. In an effort to salvage her credibility, Survivalist throws this gem out to the group. “Just pay attention to the city lights and you can’t get lost.”  You guessed it.. Eye roll.

9:50 P.M.  Davy Crockett has decided to set some sort of new Alpine record pace to the top.  In addition he’s doing a really annoying “Apache War Cry”  in the dark so we know his location… At this point all I can think about is punching this condescending doucher in the face.

9:55 P.M.  Just out of college guy pops the cork on the Sutter Home as if to give a big F-U to the rest of the group… In this act of defiance, he immediately becomes my favorite person on this hike.  The rest of the hikers are in shock and concern that someone walking at just over 2 mph at night can drink wine and walk at the same time. “Uhh hello??? how do you think homeless get around”   There concern is so great they sprint out in front by a good 10 minutes.

9:56 P.M.  In the silence of the night desert, derogatory comments can be heard as everyone sprints ahead, except for the wino and myself.  Apparently at this point I’m guilty by association and could really care less.

10:15 P.M.  I hear the distinct sound of a mosquito buzzing by my ear… Not happy.  I was not prepared for this, its always been my experience that mosquitoes hang out around areas of stagnant water, not the dry desert.

10:20 P.M.  The trail starts to get vertical, and I realize that you can’t stop or you get swarmed by mosquitoes.  Awesome… It’s like hiking with a gun to my head.

10:55 P.M.  We reach the rest of the group who is discussing making some sort of a run at the top… Couple problems here, One we’re on the wrong trail to attack the summit and two, everyone has depth perception retardation due to it being dark.  The top is easily another 2-3 hours away.   To tired to roll my eyes, so I do it in my mind.

At this point 24 year old wine boy and I decided regardless of what everybody else is doing we’re heading back.  As it turns out we both had grown up navigating through forests as young kids, hiking , paying attention to land marks, and just using common sense.  You can’t teach a lifetime of tracking, camping, hiking and hunting in a class…

I’ll  sum this up by saying we finished at least 15 minutes in front of the “experts” with no flashlights, no cactus barbs in us, and without the use of the Apache War Cry…

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