Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Noise... An Axe Handle... And Fear... Deep in The Mojave Desert

On several occasions, I've told a particular story about my Mojave Desert running adventure. As the 7-year anniversary of that run approaches, I thought I'd share it.

The 506-mile Mojave Desert route that I ran all alone in 2011 consisted of Arizona, Nevada and California. This is a desert where you can find Coyotes; Bighorn Sheep; Mountain Lions; Mule Deer; Bobcats; Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes; Desert Kit Fox; Pronghorn Antelope; Bats; Red Tailed Hawks; Desert Tortoise; Black-tailed Jackrabbits; Tarantulas; Scorpions; and more!

After logging a 40-mile day in very difficult windy and sandy conditions while pushing my support stroller weighing about 100 pounds (6 gallons of water, food, gear, camping equipment, electronics, etc.), I settled into my tent just prior to sunset. My location was about 90 miles from the nearest population. After gazing upon the most magnificent sea of stars, I zipped my tent closed and laid down to get some rest. I drifted off to sleep quickly. However, I was awakened by a sound that truly startled me!

I distinctly remember hearing a "Grrrrrr" sound which appeared to be very close to my tent. The only protection I carried with me in the Mojave was a 3-foot hickory axe handle, which I kept right next to my sleeping bag as I slept. Upon hearing the sound, I sat up in my sleeping bag and grabbed the axe handle. I sat silently... listening for whatever it was to make another sound. Then, I heard it again! I was in the one-man tent which is shown in the photo accompanying this writing. I believed that whatever it was -- perhaps a bobcat -- was immediately to the right of me on the other side of the tent's nylon. I held firmly to the axe handle, ready to thrust it at anything that may try to claw through the tent.

As I sat there gripping the hickory handle, my focus was to stay still and quiet. Then, I heard it again! Well, that time I figured out exactly what it was that I was afraid of. It was ME! The sound I was hearing was my stomach growling! I remember that I laughed out loud and then laid the axe handle down as I reached for a granola bar. Yep... my hungry stomach woke me up and made me believe that a wild desert animal was about to attack me! I must have been really tired after that particular day of running... and apparently quite hungry!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com