Death Hike

I’ve been absent awhile–crazy busy with work and art and family, but I’m taking a few minutes to share an adventure with you that was pretty scary at the time.
We have some German friends that we take into the desert when time and opportunity permits. We’ve always taken them to places that we have scouted out first and have run out of those, so Randy decided he wanted to see if we could get to the river from Lake Mead.
Several years ago, this would have been impossible without a boat, but the lake is down by more than 100 feet, so it isn’t anything like it used to be. There’s actually a sandbar you can cross to reach a point where you can see the river.
We first unloaded at a spot we could hike from, set up and ate lunch. Then we headed out across dry (or not so dry) lake bed, thinking we had about two miles in and two miles out. That’s what google earth showed, anyway. Turns out to be way more miles than any of us had anticipated.
Let me interject here: our friends are 70 and 73 and we are 63 and 62–not young ‘uns anymore, but not cause for alarm at the beginning of the journey. They live at the edge of the desert and take long walks when temperature and weather permit. But, neither had hiked for several summer months.
After crossing the lake bed, we encountered an area overgrown with Tamarisk trees or bushes really. These monsters were imported for erosion control and have taken over the water ways throughout the southwest, choking out native vegetation and destroying native habitat. Well, they nearly destroyed us.
After we fought our way through the bushes, I and the Germans decided we didn’t want to see the river afterall. Randy suggested we cut across and then head back along the lake shore, as it looked easier. Looks can be deceiving.
Randy headed for the River and we cut across the old lake bed completed congested with Tamarisk.
Part way through, I discovered that our male friend had mild diabetes and didn’t have any water with him. He began to stumble and fall and I began to get worried. In hindsight, I sould have insisted we go back, but it seemed like this was an easier choice–turns out we were caught between a rock and a hard place.
We often encounted areas where there was still water and fisures where the mud had dried and shrank up. Let’s not even talk about the branches that grabbed, tore at and tripped us up.
About two-thirds of the way through, I started to get really concerned for my friends. I made haste to the shore where Randy waited for us. Bu now it was four o’clock in the afternoon with only one-and-a-half hours to dark. Randy took off for the car and flashlights and water and we trudged along the shore.
Our friends were already exhausted and out of water, but there was nothing to do but carry on. The terraine was so rugged that I knew we would never make it out before dark and I was worried about getting the 73 year old diabetic out. He had fallen many times. And his wife was complaining about cramps in her legs. She, too, had no water.

I moved to the head of the pack and scouted easier routes for them, all the while getting more and more scared. Not of wild animals, nor of spending the night in the desert, but of losing our way or of my friends giving out. As night fell–thank god we had a full moon, the way got harder and I felt lost in the wilderness.

My friend shook his head and said that we were going to die out there. I don’t remember ever feeling that way because I knew that Randy would find us, but I just didn’t know if we were where we should be. Finally it got too dark to carry on and I knew we needed to stop and stay put if we were to be found that night.

My friend insisted we walk 300 more yards and it’s a good thing we did. Over the crest of the hill I could see a light coming our way. Until that point, I didn’t even know if we were headed in the right direction. Once Randy reached us with water and lights we headed out again, my German friends supporting on another and Randy and I leading the way. There we three huge ravines to cross and an uphill climb to reach the truck, which Randy had pointed out way and left running.

My trust in my husband was rewarded, but I’m not sure my friends will ever want adventure again, and I can safely say that I don’t want that much adventure either. The truth is that we could have died out there. One of us could have fallen and gotten seriously hurt.

Please, if you head out on a hike, make sure you are prepared for anything that might happen. And listen to your gut. If I had, we would have turned around and been safely at the truck long before nightfall. As it was, we hiked at least 6 miles in unforgiving terraine. Amazing what you can do when survival is at stake.