Tales of Little Morongo, Chapter 4: Dead Battery Hike, Part One

Dead Battery Hike, Part One

My car went “ngngnghhh.” Then “click,” with each subsequent turn of the key. Dead battery. Dammit!

This was one of my worst fears, dwelling way out in the middle of nowhere in my desert cabin. AT&T had never strung lines to this remote area, so I had no phone service. And this was many years before cell phones became ubiquitous. Short of sending up a smoke signal, I had no means for communicating my distress to my sister, at her horse ranch over eleven miles away.

I was stranded. I had food supplies to last six months, and enough water for at least a couple of months, if I rationed carefully. So I figured I could wait it out, until she decided to do a wellness check on me.

But after a few weeks I grew impatient. So one chilly, pre-dawn morning, before ol’ Sol could stoke his furnace, I set off on foot for her ranch.

This was a killer trek. It was three miles of open country and dirt roads, just to reach the mouth of Pipes Canyon from my cabin at Gamma Gulch. Then it was two miles up Pipes, to Indian Canyon. And those two miles offered mostly uneven, rough footing, scrambling up and down washouts from prior flash floods. Not like skipping down a smooth, concrete sidewalk.

I footslogged 2.5 miles up Indian Canyon, passed through Huckleberry Hound’s makeshift cattle gate, and then stumbled down to the bottom of Little Morongo Canyon by mid-morning. By this time, the mercury was up to the 90’s. My one-gallon canteen was pouring out dust, and my clothes were soaked with the water I’d already drank and sweated.

But Little Morongo Canyon is cattle country. Huckleberry Hound, the lessee of this Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, had set up watering troughs for his cows, at several springs. And I knew where those springs were, having once ridden this range with Huckleberry. So I was able to refill my canteen, and take a break in the shade of a thorny mesquite.

In 2016, President Obama created the Sand to Snow National Monument, with an executive stroke of his pen. The territory within this monument included upper Little Morongo Canyon, so it’s quite possible that cattle are no longer allowed to graze these lands. But at the time of my hike, there were plenty of them milling around, occasionally casting bored glances at me as I observed them from my shady resting place.

But I couldn’t sit around all day watching cows, so I finally got up and onward I traipsed, two miles to the Pierson Ranch gate. The gate was locked, but I found a way to get around it, while hoping the Piersons wouldn’t spot me and run me off with a shotgun. I splashed my boiling head with water from their spring, then carried on down canyon.

Staggering in the dirt down Little Morongo Road for about a mile-and-a-half, the canyon walls played out, allowing me to turn west for the final, half-mile leg of my journey. It was mid-afternoon when I wobbled onto my sister’s horse ranch, stinking from perspiration, and about two pounds lighter.

My sister’s first question, as she searched my dusty, sweat-drenched visage with astonished eyes, was, “Where’s your car?”

I told this story so that I could tell another story, which will appear in the next two, final installations of Tales of Little Morongo.

This is the latest installation of my six-part series, Tales of Little Morongo. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 5: Dead Battery Hike, Part Two . Click here to read the previous installation. Click here, to start at the beginning.

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