1999 - 2000: 350-Mile
Death Valley to the Mexican Border
From The Daily News
A test of Will -
Adventures survive 34-day, 365 mile trek
Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer
PALMDALE -- Antelope 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.
Bergthold, an 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
"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
They were out of water and the nearest place
to get it was the desert town of Baker, Bergthold said.
Long after 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.
"My 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 they
Also in Death Valley, they encountered the cave of a
mountain lion -- containing the bones of two bighorn
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 motorhome towing a
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
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
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