Pacific Crest: Mile 547

The aqueduct cuts across the desert in a straight, determined line. Nature doesn’t draw clean lines. It is an unnatural river of concrete flowing into L.A, pumping like a giant artery into a city that shouldn’t exist, a city so lost in the desert that it needs an artificial river to feed it. But it wasn’t an engineering marvel today, it wasn’t the lifeblood of a thirsty city, it was a simple metal and concrete raceway for a long game of tag between me and the sun.

The game started with the first crow of a rooster in the morning.

“The sun is coming,” the rooster seemed to say.

The next cry seemed more urgent.

“Didn’t you hear me?” it said. “The sun is coming. Run!”

I bolted up, stuffed my sleeping bag away and slung my pack over my shoulders. I could barely see, but I knew what lay ahead–sixteen exposed miles across a desert.

The aqueduct made finding the trail easy. Follow the open concrete river, turn left at the huge welded metal pipeline, then right when it transforms into a concrete tunnel.

The sun began to reach me as I walked on top of the tunnel. I felt the heat began to wring sweat out of me and I listened for water moving below my feet. I could hear it, but it was useless, trapped underneath a thick slab of concrete, saved for the thirsty city that shouldn’t be. It felt strange to run out of water standing on top of a river.

The sun’s chase continued until I reached a bridge spanning the long dried Cottonwood Creek. I dove underneath and hid in the shadows while the sun scowled at the world outside. Like a child angry at losing its toy, the sun kept following me, seeking me out long after I thought we finished with the game. It was slower this time, creeping inch by inch underneath the bridge, eating at my shadow.

I watched it come, silent and searching for me. It slid closer, reaching for my little toe.

Four hours and twenty feet later, it was time to leave. The sun’s heat was spent and heading for the horizon, our never-ending game of hide and seek put on temporary hold.

But not over. Never over. The game never ends out here.