Lambert Rocks to Leslie Gulch
When in Rome, as they say, I spent a few hours going over my exact schedule and water stops for the next few days. The heat is no joke and there is no getting help out here, so I need to take this seriously. The heat has killed my appetite (as expected), but I can go with a calorie deficit for a while. I can’t, however, go without sodium and electrolytes. My nutrition strategy consists of a steady intake of gels and Nuun throughout the day plus a plain tortilla if I can stomach it. Forgetting to eat is not an option this trip. My new focus becomes drinking and keeping my heart-rate down. No powering up hills, no running down them. Safe and slow.
At night, when temperatures are slightly cooler, I try to catch up on calories and force myself to eat cold-soak bean burritos. This works well; I keep hydrated, keep my energy up, and feel good and strong despite the heat.
The sagebrush plain slowly turns into red-rock spires that jut up out of the brown hills. I’ve made it to the Owyhee Canyonlands. The most impressive section of the entire ODT, and surprisingly, the largest unprotected area in the lower 48. The ‘easy route’ is blocked by private property, so my route takes me instead through a canyon with cow-trails I can only imagine are created by cows channeling their inner Alex Honnold.
I distract myself from the exposure by breaking my no-rock-collecting policy for the trip (every gram dedicated to water). Jade-colored rocks litter the ground and I pick up and leave behind different pieces until I have the perfect one for my ODT rock shelf. Before I know it, the canyon is navigated and I’m at the swim portion of the ODT.
I am delighted to be at the Owyhee again. The shore is marked with giant walls of rocks and a clear stream makes the perfect place to rest after traveling the canyon. There is a game trail one could take if one preferred not to get in the water, but I’ve been talking this part up for the past six months and it’s 100 degrees and I didn’t buy and carry two whole roll-top dry bags all this way to not get in the damn water.
“Here it is. Hope I don’t die,” I say to my video journal before packing my phone up and jumping in. Honestly, not that bad. The only mistake I make is breaking my own water crossing rule: always wear your shoes. Thanks to my decision back on the shore to attempt this section in sandals, I end up slicing my foot on a rock.
At the shore the exhaustion finally hits me. I never stopped today. From the road walk to the canyon to the swim, I was so focused on the route I didn’t stop once. I sit on the shore with my sliced foot and fantasize about someone driving up and offering me a ride the rest of the way.
I’m in a bad mood now. Hungry? Of course, I’ve eaten nothing but running gels and two tortillas. Angry? Yes, I broke my shoe rule and now I’m cleaning up and bandaging my foot due to my own hubris. Tired? I’ve been hiking since 4:45 this morning, it’s now 6 pm.
Ok, easy fixes. Snack, Aleve, and an hour nap at the campground. Walking out of Leslie Gulch provides a perfect end to the day with the towering walls around me. I walk bathed by the red-glow of the sunset folding into lavender and indigos as the night falls.