A Blistered Kind of Love
Excerpted from A Blistered Kind of Love by Angela & Duffy Ballard
On the morning of May 21, I was roused from my own dreams by an angel's chirps.
"Happy berrrtday, Duffy! Happy, happy twenty-eighth! Happy berrrtday!" Angela repeated, delivering a compact pat to my bum. "Rise and hike, berrrtday boy."
It was a comfortable morning at 7,500 feet in the western San Jacinto Mountains. We'd camped on a flat bed of pine needles under the cover of Jeffrey and Coulter pines. It was a beautiful spot, filled with an invigorating pine scent, and we broke camp in a jovial mood. We had our sights set on a birthday celebration at the Pink Motel, the junkyard trail angel refuge that Meadow Ed had described to us at Kamp Anza. It would be a twenty-one-mile hike, but entirely downhill. We were somewhat low on waterthree liters for the two of usbut I wasn't particularly troubled, even though we faced a sixteen-mile waterless stretch. Of course, it would have been nice to fill up before we left, but this campsite offered no such opportunity.
Only the strong survive
The night before, I'd accidentally marinated our instant potatoes in a Dead Sea-like salt solution, and we'd each needed a liter and a half of water to counteract the brackish spuds. Angela lobbied for a two-mile detour to Black Mountain Camp for more water, but I convinced her that it was unnecessary, reasoning that we'd handled the San Felipe Hills with an equivalent amount of water and that today would be easy downhill walking. What I failed to figure into my blasé calculations was that the farther we descended toward San Gorgonio Pass and its 1,000-foot elevation, the hotter it would get. In fact, for every 1,000 feet of elevation lost we should have planned on a gain of three to five and a half degrees. In just six hours we'd drop from our comfortable mountain perch into a smoldering valley inferno.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication