I met a trail angel at the Warren Springs community center who goes by the name, “Lawerence The Spring Guy.” He had been out checking the water supply and to see whether or not the springs were flowing. After making the rounds Lawerence The Spring Guy updates his results to a website we hikers use to plan our route. The web site informs us to which sections of the trail are wet (water is available) or dry (no water available).
Finding water on the desert, after the rainy season, is a challenge for thru-hikers and we rely on volunteers who support us along the way. Hiking long stretches of trail in a hot, dry climate require a hiker to carry a heavy supply of water. Water weighs 2 pounds per liter. I like to carry 4 liters for every 20 miles I walk. I carry more if I know I will be sleeping without a water source.
There are times when there is no reliable water source for more then 25 miles. When that happens a hiker must be cautious and conserve. A hiker may be camping dry, with no extra water to spare for washing up or brushing teeth. You go to sleep thirsty and wake up twice as thirsty.
Lawerence showed me his results. We marked up my trail maps with circles or arrows indicating flowing springs and creeks. Some springs are quite a distance off the trail and often hidden in overgrown foliage. I learned a lot about the water supply from Sir Lawerence. I let him know my gratitude and thinking aloud said, “I should volunteer my time that way.” Without a blink of an eye he came up with two jobs for me to do.
The next morning Lawerence met me at Lost Valley Spring, about 15 miles north of Warner Springs. He hiked in from a nearby road with a shovel, post holer and bail bucket. Lucky, another hiker, kindly hauled the heavy, post holder down to the spring and loaded up with water for an upcoming dry section.
I left my pack along the trail and hiked down hill to the spring. We pulled the cover off to see that, while there was plenty of water it was filled with decomposing leaves. There were little frogs swimming about and the spring was nicely cold. We then noticed a huge red rattlesnake sitting quietly above the spring watching us. The snake was cold and coiled up to conserve heat. There was no way for us to clean spring with a rattler only a foot away from our work space. It was no doubt it’s territory and it didn’t seem inclined to leave.
I was thinking how my friend, Audrey, would pick it up and move it off. I suggested that idea to Sir Lawrerence and his reply was, “I’ve never done that before.” To which I replied, “That snake is cold and Audrey says rattlesnakes are babies.”. Note that I, myself, did not offer to remove the snake but Lawerence did. He carefully scooped it with the shovel. It began to rattle and act annoyed. The snake stretched itself across the shovel. I shouted, “Quick, before it coils around the shovel, throw her.” I don’t think he needed my prompt because that snake was soon airborne and over the hill.
We went about clearing the spring of leaves. We cleared the drain ditches that help the water run away and downhill from the spring. The next job was to drain the spring and scoop the sediment from the bottom to allow the water to come in clean.
I learned a little history too. The spring was along the old California Horse and Cattle Trail. It was established in 1945 and through the years the spring was altered to serve people, cattle and horses. The C.C.C. poured a concrete trough and it was raised three times since then. The Pacific Crest Trail was once merged with this trail but was changed in recent years. The trail constantly changes as private land is made public or fires demand a new route, for a new course, for example. We added a post to the trail to clarify that the trail was the CA Horse and Cattle Trail.
As Lawerence set about draining the water he let me know that I had helped “enough” and was free to hike. I had some distance to cover and while this was a good distraction Canada is a good distance north of Lost Valley Spring.