If you ever need to gain a deep appreciation for water, hike through the Mojave Desert in 100 degree heat.
Throughout the first four weeks of the hike up the Los Angeles Aqueduct, that was my reality. I relied on water caches planted and geotagged. The producer of the film, Angela, would drive up every weekend with two five-gallon bladders of water and a hiking buddy to accompany me for the week. Angela, hiking buddy, and I would venture out into the desert, off-roading in her Nissan Versa, dropping the water where we were scheduled to be every two days. At every water cache, I would say a little prayer that no thirsty animal or gun-crazed target shooter would compromise our cache. Then Angela would leave to go back to Los Angeles and hiking buddy and I would venture out into the desert, loaded up with 8 liters of water on our backs.
Walking through the Mojave Desert in 100 degree heat with eight liters of water on my back gave me a brand-new appreciation for water as a life source. Every single moment, I wanted so badly to take giant gulps of my water, but that 8 liters had to last me two days of drinking and cooking. Walking, resting, setting up shots, no matter what I was doing all I could think about was water.
Every morning I would tally up the amount of water I had left in my pack, which would determine whether or not I ate a hot breakfast. If there wasn't enough water, it meant dry granola or jerky. I would start walking and every sip I took, I counted. I would religiously chant the number to remind myself how much water I had left in my pack. *sip* 1...1....1....1....1.... *sip* 1,2....1,2...1,2...1,2...1,2...This might be TMI (too much information) but during the Mojave Desert portion of the hike, I would only urinate once a day.
When we would eventually hit that water cache, a great relief would wash over me. I would once again be at ease, happy, and carefree. These were the best times in the desert, sitting around the water cache, giggling, playing cards. Because each cache held five gallons, hiking buddy and I would be able to fill up with 8 liters each, and still have some leftover. We would feast on the nights of the water cache, catching up on all of the hot meals we missed.
But these joys were fleeting. The next day we’d be out in the 100 degree desert heat once again with only the 8 liters on our back, counting the sips with every step. *sip* 1...1...1...1...1...*sip* 1,2...1,2...1,2...1,2...1,2...
I came across the first trickling creek on Day 32 of the hike. I was supposed to go much further that day, but instead I sat next to that creek for hours, marveling at the sight of the running water. I reflected about my time in the desert without running water, and how really, truly marvelous it was to feel the icy cold flow running though my fingers. How truly marvelous if was to reach out, scoop some up into my pot, and whip up a batch of hot cocoa. How amazing it was to be able to quench my thirst on a whim.
This creek made me realize just how much I took my water tap in Los Angeles for granted. The day I met the flowing creek was the first day on my hike that I felt comfortable. That I felt at ease. From that point on, I knew I was in the land of water. Hell, isn't that why Mulholland and Eaton started gobbling the Owens Valley over a century ago?