Saturday, December 08, 2007

Hitch #4: Santa Rosa Mountains

For our 4th hitch our goal was to locate and document natural water sources in the Santa Rosa Mountains. We were given aerial maps with approximate spring locations marked on them. In addition our GPS device had those approximate locations loaded in the navigation feature. Basically each day we walked up a different canyon using our GPS device to locate one or more possible water sources.

In each case finding the spot marked in the GPS device meant leaving the relatively easy terrain of the canyon and path finding up the canyon walls. Some situations were more difficult than others. Our first canyon was pretty rough. After hiking up the canyon about 3 miles our teams split into two groups so we could attempt to document groups of water sources in two different areas.

The farther group of water sources was another 3+ miles away and it was already past noon so we knew fading sunlight was going to be a problem. We decided that Kevin and Rosy would jog to the water sources with minimal supplies and I would following up at a slower pace with extra gear.

They jogged off with one liter of water, the GPS unit, a layer of warm clothes and few emergency supplies. I followed with all my stuff and extra water. Our plan was for them to mark where they left the canyon floor. Using that point I would then attempt to intercept them on their return from the water sources.

It was fun for me to track them through hard packed sand of the canyon floor. Unfortunately I was concentrating on it so hard that I missed their sign. To complicate things I found tracks that kept going that must have been someone else's. I followed those tracks until I lost those as well.

After wandering around a little I realized how inadequate the aerial map was in my situation. I pretty much had no idea how I would intercept them. I headed back to where we left their packs to meet them. I waited for about three hours as the sun went down and it got cold. I was pretty worried because I thought they should be back sooner and I knew they didn't have much water.

I finally started walking back up the canyon to see if I could find them. After 30 minutes of walking I saw their headlamps rounding the bend. It was a relief, but it wasn't over because we still had 3 miles to walk in the dark. It was a long day but we made it back safely.

That was our most intense day by far. The rest of the hitch was interesting as well. Kevin and Miz both had to leave the field with injuries after the second night so Rosy, Monika and I hiked the rest of the canyons with help from a BLM employee one of the days.

Left to right: Rosy, me, Monika

Climbing a dry waterfall in search of water.

It rained all day for one of our hikes. Luckily it wasn't too cold because each of us got wet, despite having waterproof gear on. We hiked into a canyon as far as we could go and came across a pretty cool oasis. There was no standing water despite the lushness.

Faulty waterproof jacket

Tomorrow we leave to do more water monitoring near Needles. It actually snowed at my house today. I didn't know that could happen in the desert. Hopefully we don't get rain on this trip... or snow!