Let me just preface this with the fact that Dave tried to kill me…again! The Wave experience started the previous morning with a lottery. The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) holds a daily walk-in lottery to select ten people to receive permits to go to The Wave. Ten more people are chosen four months ahead of time through the Internet lottery. This is a total of only 20 people per day allowed to go. Only one lottery entry (or application) is allowed per group no matter how many people are in your group. But if a group of six is drawn first, only four more slots remain. This time there were 30 groups and it went in twos and one single person. We were the fourth number chosen for a total of eight people. Next a single was drawn to make nine. One more number was drawn but they would allow a couple to take it (for 11 total) because they said it is too dangerous to go out by yourself. He also recommended the single guy to go with other people that were chosen. Before we could enter the lottery, we were told it is physically strenuous, all sun with temperatures that can reach into the 100s, and the trail is not reliably marked. He didn’t say the words that if you do this you will die, but he did say something to that effect, stressing that day hikes have turned into tragedies there. He wasn’t kidding. Every year they have deaths on this hike. It is not well marked and the sun is scorching, anyone not in good physical shape is at risk. That would be me. We were warned to bring a gallon of water per person, sunscreen, hats, good hiking shoes, and extra food and water and anything else you may need to spend 24 hours in the high desert. We all laughed and we promptly ignored the warnings, but luckily I am here to tell you: It is no joke.
Here is an article on the deaths that occurred in just one month.
Dave took this picture to make fun of me, but after blistering my feet yesterday I decided to wear socks with my Tevas for this hike. Why Tevas, you ask? Because I was stupid and forgot my hiking shoes by the door in Big Bear. I also forgot to bring a hat or any sunscreen. Yep, that pretty much sets the stage.
It happens to someone else, not us, right? Not exactly. We knew how to find the trail. It starts in the wash that we hiked the day before. Then it turns off and goes straight uphill in soft sand. Dave said the hike would be shorter and easier than the one we did the day before and I blindly followed him like I always do. But I could see right from the start that this hike would be harder. We had elevation climbs and there was zero shade. I totally recommend slot canyon hikes. You are in and out of shade and the shaded rocks are cool to the touch.
First of all, we should never have crossed this part of the desert, which we did almost right from the beginning. We ended up in a canyon and we kept trying to find the right landmarks, but we were getting more and more lost.
When we realized we were in trouble, we tried to find a way up out of the canyon to get back. Every route we tried was a dead end.
We finally decided to completely retrace our steps and go all the way back to the beginning. It was about this time that Dave nearly walked into a rattlesnake. It was in the only shade under a bush and Dave didn’t see it. But as Dave neared the bush it shook its tail to warn Dave that it didn’t want to share its shade.
I don’t know how we did it, but we did find the path we took out there. Dave spotted other hikers up on a ridge and that was when we realized we should have gone up rather than down. So we retraced our steps as best we could, but ended up in another area. We knew we still needed to be higher, but we didn’t know how to get up there.
We saw some great sights on our detour, but we added an extra four miles onto our hike. I have to admit, I was getting very worried. My feet were already blistered from the day before and we started out tired. I haven’t been hiking since I blew out my knee in Dominica, so I am not in the best shape for such a long hike.
Each direction we looked gave us a little different perspective and it was all fantastic.
It literally took my breath away. Or maybe that was just the hike there that nearly killed me.
I have never seen anything like it and likely won’t ever again. So I am glad we made it.
This is the famous spot. When you Google it, this is the spot you are most likely to see come up.
I’m assuming this is a slot canyon that water runs through and that most of this was worn into shape by water. Whatever did it, it is simply amazing. The only problem was that we had to hike at least three miles back and that’s only if we didn’t get lost again.
So we tucked into the tiny bit of shade available to rest a while. There were a couple other hikers there that donated some water to our cause. I’m sure we looked in pretty bad shape. We were burnt to a crisp, exhausted, and pretty dehydrated by the time we arrived. Unfortunately, they were leaving right away and we couldn’t follow them. I had to rest. I could barely stand.
Eventually, we had to leave. It was sheer determination that kept me moving. I would have happily spent the night in The Wave, except that it gets down to 54 degrees F at night and we were not prepared for the cold. We had no food and no water to spare. Yep, time to go. We did take a couple accidental detours along the way, but soon backtracked if it didn’t seem right. Then another couple showed up on the trail and pointed out the correct way, which we didn’t know of course because we came from totally the wrong way.
It is so good to see the signs telling you that you are on the right track. This one was at the beginning of the trail and I was about to drop by the time we reached it, but its amazing how you can push yourself beyond anything you think possible in the name of survival. Just down from here was the wash. After 1/2 a mile or so in the wash we would get to our car. It had to be done. I thought I was going to throw up! Every tiny sip of water threatened to come back up. But I still wanted to chug my ice cold Gatorade waiting for me in the car. That was the one thought that kept me moving. Honestly, we made the hike much harder than it needed to be. But it is not well marked and it is very easy to make mistakes.
It said to look for twin buttes, for instance. We saw these and assumed they were the twin buttes. How wrong we were. But everything looks similar. I can see why people die out there. Truly it is no joke. It is a challenging six miles in direct sun if you do everything right. Our hike was over 10 miles and I am so grateful to the couple that donated some water to us. We definitely needed it. Big lesson learned — until we do the next dumb thing.