I hadn’t walked but maybe a mile last night, heading northeast after passing Hwy 191, and there is this huge dry lake bed. And I mean HUGE! And there was a sign welcoming me to the Wilcox Dry Lake Bombing Range. For goodness sake…a bombing range!? What else can this weird new world throw at me?
I looked over my map and sure enough there it was. I hadn’t really been paying much attention to what was out in front of me besides populated areas. I mean the Delorme Topo Atlas is really good, a Godsend really. But, I just wasn’t paying enough attention. My Situational Awareness just wasn’t where it needed to be. I calculated that it was about ten miles to cross it and if I got caught out there during the day I would be toast…literally. I had to come up with a plan, and the first order of business was water, lots of water. There was a stock tank about a mile or so off to the north so I headed over there to water up.
There was plenty of water still in the stock tank, and some cows as well. They were just laying around. As I walked up and they scattered like crazy. Beans loved it, she darted around chasing them like she was some kind of herding dog. She never got close enough to them that they could kick her though. Smart dog. I drank and drank and drank the water I had already stored up. I drank till couldn’t drink another ounce. I kept telling Beans to drink. She did at first, then she just ignored me. I filled everything back up. I wanted to me max’d out on how much water I had with me, in my belly and in my containers. With this dry lake bed, the bombing range dry lake bed, I don’t know for sure where the next water might be. I want to be prepared for the worst…I might just have a prayer for the best.
As I was walking back towards the dry lake bed, the bombing range dry lake bed, I wondered how exactly that worked. Here was one of the busiest sets of train tracks in the country and it ran through a bombing range. Am I missing something here? I guessed I would figure it out during the night.
About six hours later I was coming out of the dry lake bed. And no, I never saw the first bomb. The tracks kind of skirted along the northwest edge of the dry lake bed. I am telling you, if I had to make that crossing during the day I am not sure I would have made it…ten miles of nothing. Seriously, nothing but flat dry lake bed of sand; not a single bush, twig, or blade of grass…nothing. I would have cooked alive. Strange thing, I drank way more water than normal and I only peed once. It was as if the water was getting sucked out through my skin. I am glad I had as much water as I did.
I made it out the other side finally and along the tracks were little ponds of water, pretty shallow for the most part. The water smelled terrible and I have no idea what the Ph or alkali content was, but it was water. I filled up my empty containers, I am grateful for my nDUR safety straw, best little portable water filter on the market. I pushed on. I wasn’t going to make it through Wilcox tonight but I wanted to get close so I could take some time and see what I was dealing with.
I got pretty close to town and the sky was just starting to get light, I got this creepy feeling. Even Beans started acting kind of weird. I know her body language fairly well now. She walks really confidently…till she doesn’t. When she starts walking slower, sniffing the air a lot, and looking around, its time for me to pay attention. I didn’t feel good about what was happening or where I was. Here was the problem…no place to hide for the day, none, nada, nothing, zip. I had to back track about a mile to a clump of brush. Granted a big clump of brush, but nothing more than brush.
Off to the northwest, the brush was on the southeast side of the tracks, was a ranch complex. No lights, no dogs, looked deserted, couldn’t tell for sure. We watered-up, ate a little bit, and went to sleep. Yup, her head on my leg again. I scolded her a bunch, ended up with her foot on my leg. I guess that is her version of compromise. I finally went to sleep.
Intermittent clouds kept it from being a boiling/roasting kind of day. But here I am, waiting for dark. I am going to take tonight slow, do plenty of observing before I try to make it through Wilcox. The bad thing, rather another bad thing, about three or so miles on the other side of Wilcox the tracks are right on top of the Interstate. Looks like it is exit 344 and the area is called “Country Club.” Yeah, right…Country Club. The tracks run alongside the Interstate for maybe three miles or so. Granted, maybe a couple hundred feet from the Interstate, but that is still way too close for my comfort.
I better go do some scouting now and see what I am dealing with.
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