“In the desert near Agua Dulce, north of Los Angeles, hikers along the Pacific Crest Trail who reached mile marker 502 encountered a cistern of water that smelled bad and tasted worse, with a dead rat floating inside. They got out their filters and refilled their bottles anyway. “Will update if I get sick,” one wrote on a message board to those coming up behind.
The message was just one sign of how global warming is affecting life along the trail, where, during a hot season nearly devoid of rain, water tanks and caches were more important than ever, the last line of defense against dehydration. At least some hikers willing to take their chances.
Thru-hikers on the P.C.T. spend up to five months walking from Mexico to Canada, through a landscape that ranges from high desert scrub to giant sequoias, basalt craters and alpine meadows. The route changes slightly each year, meaning that the trail’s official length, 2,650 miles, is really only an estimate.”
The first time I backpacked in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains was 40 years ago. The last time was a year ago when I still lived there and it was depressing. There were a lot of standing dead trees killed by bark beetles, a lot of dead and dying seedlings. There were giant trees knocked down by a freak wind storm, winds of more than 150mph. After that I hiked through an area burned by the Donnell Fire. By far the most trees you saw there were blackened skeletons. The streams ran anemically due to minimal snowpack. After these new hotter fires the forests don’t seem to be recovering. Same with places like the Amazon, the forest becomes savanna. This kind of devastation is being observed in so many ecosystems, from corals to kelp and mangrove forests, etc etc. Everything we need to survive is starting to crash around us and we just keep on walking into this future with our eyes open.