This route presented several challenges that I enjoyed resolving:
-Vehicle Staging: there is no parking at the trail head near the Colorado River in Nevada. I rented a parking space at a storage facility in Fort Mohave, AZ, and left my vehicle there. This added 6.5 miles to the front end of the journey. That additional distance is not included in the total.
-Returning to the Vehicle: the End Point is not in the Middle of Nowhere, but you can see it from there. To return to my vehicle at the end of the journey, I first hiked 7.8 miles towards Barstow, CA. This additional distance is not included in the total. At that distance, a passing driver was kind enough to pick me up and take me into town. He dropped me at an intersection near the freeway, and from there I walked to Wal-Mart, which I knew would have an interior dining area where I could rest and eat. In the afternoon, I walked from Wal-Mart to the Amtrak station in Barstow, which was only a couple of miles, and then took the train to Needles. This train comes daily, and arrives in Needles at 12:20 am. My taxi arrived at 1:00 am, and took me to the storage facility in Fort Mohave, about 15 miles to the north. Of course, the gate at the facility was locked until 5:00, so I slept on the ground near the parking lot for a few hours. I anticipated all of this, so it was part of the adventure.
-Hydration: this journey required two attempts. My first was unsuccessful, because I started from the storage facility in the morning. By the time I reached the Start Point, it was already hot, and I had already hiked 6.5 miles. By the time I reached my first water cache site, I had covered close to 20 miles in increasing heat. I had only staged enough water at each drop point to fill my empty bottles, so I knew I could not continue. I waited in the shade of my tent rain fly (as planned) until late in the day, and began to hike back to my vehicle. The next day, I addressed my shortages of water along the trial.
-Cache Sites: Initially my water cache sites were well-distributed, and each held about one gallon of water. This was not nearly enough, so after my first attempt I added sites and added water. For my second attempt, I had 14 cache sites and almost 30 gallons distributed along the trail. That did the trick.
-Timing: My first attempt was headed for failure from the moment I started in the morning. To mitigate fatigue from moving from the Staging Area to the Start Point, I rented a room at a hotel near the Start Point and spent the night there. In the morning, I drove my car to the storage facility and walked back to the hotel. After checking out, I waited in the lobby until the afternoon, and then moved to the Start Point, a distance of only 2 miles. This allowed me to start at 6:30 pm and hike into the coolness of the evening, rather than start 6.5 miles from the Start Point and hike into the heat.
-Shade: My daily rest stops were planned around locations with natural shade, however small, so that I could avoid the direct sun during the hottest phase of the day. This often led me to small spaces between granite boulders, or shallow hollows in rock faces. The discipline required to make progress when moving matched the discipline required to tuck into these protective areas, sit for hours, and wait for the sun to dip.
-Equipment Failures: The longest distance between two water cache sites became 20 miles after I reached a midpoint where animals had gnawed into my water sources. Two consecutive locations with foiled water and I probably would have had to stop. The first time I used my shade tent during my second, successful crossing, one of the poles snapped, which meant that I had to rely on available shade for the final 54 miles of the route. Thus, I increased my night hike efforts to reach a safe rest area, and finished one day earlier than planned.
-Navigation: I used printed maps found online that depicted the route, usually showing 4-5 miles of the trail per page. I also used the Gaia app on my phone, which was about 90% aligned with the printed maps and the actual trail. Cairns marked most of the trail interchanges, and many sections can be completed simply by following the tracks made by vehicles.
-Execution Technique: A typical day began around 4:30 am, well before sunrise. Moving as soon as possible, I always stopped at a cache site or at least a spot with shade before noon. I preferred to wait until at least 5:00 pm before moving again, and would typically travel well into the night. Because I had previously driven most of the trail to distribute water at cache sites, I was familiar with long sections and confident with night navigation. I usually ate only when stopped mid-day and at night, but carried a gallon jug of water in hand along with the bottles in my pack.
-Elapsed Time: Because I started at 6:30 pm on 24 June, and finished at 1:37 am on 30 June, the total time of 5 days, 7 hours, 7 minutes initially looked a little wonky. When I measured it via Excel, the numbers made sense. My Garmin tracks can be found at: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/profile/839cf780-2eb4-4dc3-8015-36c8f0e7ce70
Summary: The scale of terrain and abundant greenery in the desert was shocking and beautiful. I had “fun.”