Distance Hiked: About 22 miles
We woke up at Coughee’s house at 5 am and had a quick breakfast and then hit the road. Coughee’s buddy Shane drove us down towards the Salton Sea and we cached water about 15 miles from the trail starts that way we don’t have to carry water the whole 38 miles to Borrego Springs. After hiding 4 gallons in the bushes we drove back to the main road and to the “beach” of the Salton Sea.
We thanked Shane and said bye as we walked down to the Salton Sea’s shore. This “sea” stinks like ass and fish. It used to be fresh water after humans accidentally let a river pour into the valley, filling it and making an inland sea. It became salty because no new water flowed into it and no water ever left it, so as it evaporates in the burning desert sun it concentrates all the salt in the water that’s left. The shore is lined with piles of old barnacles and petrified fish. Some pelicans and seagulls and a heron were in the water. There was a coyote and a dog running around the shore line as well.
We walked until we hit the wash we’re supposed to take and hit the trail. The morning was chilly and cloudy and the walking was easy. We walked under the highway and ate some snacks when 4 dune buggies went flying up the wash. The scenery got interesting as there were cuts in the sides of the wash. Crazy rock formations were sticking out someone carved one into a dick.
When we cross countried from wash to wash the area was absolutely desolate. Just rocks on the ground everywhere as far as you could see. Eventually we made it to our water cache and ate some lunch as we filled up all our water. Then we walked towards some badlands and snakes our way through the crumbling, painted hillsides. I didn’t even know there were badlands out here! It was beautiful.
We hopped out of the badlands and walked towards a mountain we knew was in the direction we wanted and crossed more rocky areas where we came across a bomb that had been dropped out of a plane! It was just an empty shell so I’m assuming it’s some kind of practice bomb. Looked like it had been there a long time. As the sun started to set the lighting and the clouds became unbelievable. Lenticular clouds formed over the mountains and the sun began to shine. We walked until it was dark. 5 pm. Set up a cowboy camp and ate dinner. We had some service and looked at the weather forecast. Probably no rain but we had a high wind warning. 30 mph winds with 60 mph gusts on the desert floor starting tonight until tomorrow evening. As we got in our sleeping bags the wind began to pick up. Let’s see how this goes.
We wake back up around 9:30 pm to the wind blasting us with sand and dust so we try to tuck ourselves in our sleeping bags and just hunker down. After about 20 minutes of this we both agreed it was hard to breathe because sand and dust was just pouring into all the cracks and crevices of of our bags. We got up to pee and the winds picked up to probably around 50 or 60 mph. My pee blasted away into just a mist. The full moon was out so we could see that the entire desert floor was just cast in a sandstorm. If you faced the wind, sand and dust pelted your eyes and got in your mouth and nose. It’s still about 15 miles to Borrego Springs, and 10 miles to the nearest road. Unfortunately the trail to Borrego Springs takes to head on into the blowing sand and wind. We came to the conclusion we couldn’t stay where we were. It was just too exposed and if this was supposed to last until 8pm the next night, we’d choke on all the sand. If you’ve never been in a sand storm before, I think you can imagine how shitty and scary it really is. We had some cell service and got a call out to a Borrego Springs deputy, letting them know we were out there but not in grave danger, but in trouble.
We threw all our gear into our packs haphazardly and started walking west with our heads down into the sandstorm. The sand stings when it hits you and our eyes got full of sand and you could feel it all stuck under your eyelids and scraping your eyes at the same time you’re eating and breathing the sand and dust. Shitty. If only we had goggles and a respirator, we’d have be okay. Finally after about a mile and a half of walking, the winds calmed a little and we could walk without our eyes being pelted. We found a big bush in a wash that blocked the wind almost perfectly and decided that we were safe there and could camp out until morning. We tried calling the deputy back to say we’ve found shelter for the night but we couldn’t get through. Finally he called us and said he was near us, and that he still wanted to talk to us and make sure we’re okay. He drove up the wash in his 4 wheel drive Ford Expedition and told us he recommends we leave with him because it’s about to pour down rain in the mountains and even the desert. Our bush in the wash would be flooded and then we’d be stuck in the blasting wind and rain with no trail to follow, as the trail is this wash almost all the way to Borrego Springs. We take him up on the offer.
He goes flying through the washes in his car at crazy speeds, clearly enjoying cruising around the sandy bends. As soon as we reach a paved road it starts raining. He says he can drop us off at the campground near Borrego Springs but doesn’t recommend it because it’s going to flood everywhere and be windy. He says, “Sure you don’t want to go to a hotel?” We agree, let’s go to the hotel. He drives through town and then out to a dirt lot and stops the car. He asks us if we need to use the bathroom. There is a pit toilet there and he opens the door and says here you go. Uhhh is the hotel around here? He says nope this is Hellhole Canyon. Then he asks us for our IDs and spends about 10 minutes typing stuff into his computer while we stand in the stinking pit toilet to get out of the cold, windy rain. Finally he comes back and says we’re good to go. “I thought you were taking us to a hotel?” He says, “Oh yea, I can do that.” Ummm okay. I guess he forgot where he was taking us. Anyway we hop back in and head back through town. He’s a nice guy and we chat him up about how often he gets called to pick people up out of the desert. Says he gets lots of Europeans who want to experience the desert in the summer and end up roasting out there. Finally we get dropped off at the hotel and we check in to a room. The lady is very talkative and we chat about what just happened to us.
In the room we scrape sand out of our ears and the corner of our eyes. Boogers that are mostly stone are mined out we hack crap out of our lungs. We take quick showers and hit the hay. What an insane night it has been. A whole new terrifying natural disaster to experience. Still happy though!