Tribute to the Millenium
- 2000: 350-Mile Exploratory Trek:
Death Valley to the Mexican Border
A test of Will -
Adventures survive 34-day, 365 mile trek
By Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer
From The Daily News
Valley adventurers Lee Bergthold, Christine
Bowers and Al Caler are back from a 34-day, 365-mile
trek from Death Valley to the Salton Sea.
On the way they
encountered thirst, hunger, bruised and blistered
feet, sand dunes, rocky ravines -- even a fox
that invaded their campsite one dinnertime to
chew up gear and steal a glove, and a lunar
eclipse that covered the moon they were using to
see and navigate.
The trip wasn't a
casual backpacking vacation.
Antelope Valley College assistant professor of
photography who has hiked mountains and deserts
for 50 years, lost 25 pounds. Caler, 61, a
Palmdale resident who was just back from the
Brooks Range in Alaska and has hiked with
Bergthold for 15 years, was similarly emaciated.
"We would be
under way by six. We would go until after dark,
when we couldn't see anymore," said
On their longest
day they hiked 25 miles, on two cups of water
each. They were out of water and the nearest
place to get it was the desert town of Baker,
nightfall they reached the home of a man who sold
ice. He came out and turned a spigot on for them,
and they camped outside the wall of the school
office on the outskirts of town.
legs were cramping and buckling if I stopped, so
the best thing to do was not to stop,"
Bowers, a 36-year-old photo lab aide and student
at Antelope Valley College, said of that day.
Before getting out
of Death Valley National Park, they fell behind
their schedule by getting into a canyon that
ended in a waterfall they couldn't get around. So
Also in Death
Valley, they encountered the cave of a mountain
lion -- containing the bones of two bighorn sheep.
Toward the end,
they were pushing for 15 or 18 or 20 miles a day,
walking until after sunset, then eating dinner,
then setting off again under the full moon.
One of those
nights, four days before they reached the Salton
Sea, was the lunar eclipse, which they mistook
for clouds covering the moon.
"It was pitch
black," Bergthold said.
They ended up walking in a circle back toward 29
Palms. They discovered their mistake when they
saw a vehicle in the distance and it turned out
to be a motor home towing a boat.
They had a self-imposed
deadline because Bergthold was due back Jan. 25
to teach his first class of the spring semester
at Antelope Valley College. Bowers had a class
Jan. 24 that she missed.
Friends often wish
Bowers a good time when she leaves on treks, or
ask her whether she had fun when she gets back.
"I tell them
over and over, it's not a vacation, it's not a
picnic," she said last week. "In fact,
I need a vacation now. So why do it?
It's partly the opportunity for photography, she
said. And it's partly a challenge to herself.
"It forces me
to stay out there and deal with whatever comes
up," Bowers said. "It's what I call a
mental discipline for myself. Sure, it's very,
very physical, but without mental discipline you
wouldn't make it."
Photos Covered by International Copyright Law.