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San Diego Trans-County Trail Gear List.

I’m starting my thru hike of the San Diego Trans-County Trail on Tuesday!

This trail is about 155 miles long and goes from the the Salton Sea in Southern California, through the Anza-Borrego Desert, into the actual city of San Diego and ends at the Pacific Ocean near Torrey Pines. The trail is really more of a route, meaning there is no trail at all for much of it but rather you use a compass and map to follow the route through washes and towards landmarks.My gear list for this hike contains much of the same items as the Colorado Trail hike I did earlier this year, with a new few bits of gear like the Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket that I’ll mostly be using as a wind breaker. I’ll also be carrying all this in a new backpack from Pa’lante Packs, made by my friends Handy Andy and John Zahorian. Together they make and just started selling ultralight, minimalist backpacks. These guys are monster hikers. Handy Andy holds the fastest known time (unsupported) on the John Muir Trail, hiking all 211 miles of it in just 3 days 10 hours 59 minutes! John Z just set the Colorado Trail fastest known time (unsupported) this summer while I was actually on the CT. He managed to hike the entire 485 miles of the trail in 9 days 12 hours and 32 minutes! He carried all his food from start to finish with zero resupplies. These dudes know what they’re doing. So I’m trying out one of their packs to see how it works!

Here’s what I’m bringing.

Backpack and Water Treatment and Storage:
Pa’lante Packs 40 liter backpack 13 oz
Sawyer squeeze mini 1.7 oz
4 1 liter smart water bottles 8 oz
Subtotal 22.7 oz

Sleep system
Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis tarp tent with insect netting 13 oz
6 Aluminum tent stakes 3 oz
Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20 degree down quilt 19.4 oz
Z Lite sleeping pad 10 oz
Subtotal 45.4 oz

Clothing in Backpack
Undershirt 7.2 oz
Long johns 6.9 oz
Go lite down jacket 7.5 oz
Spare socks 3 oz
Enlightened Equipment Sidekick booties 1.5 oz
Outdoor Research Helium II ultralight rain jacket 6.4 oz
Subtotal 32.5 oz

Miscellaneous Items
Head light with batteries 2.8 oz
Sunglasses .7 oz
Toothbrush and toothpaste 1 oz
Compass .8 oz
Tiny Swiss Army knife .5 oz
Sunscreen 2 oz
Tenacious tape, sewing needle and dental floss .2 oz
Subtotal 8 oz

Chargers 2 oz
Anker battery 15000 mwh 11 oz
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Camera, Raynox DCR 250 Macro lens, case, battery and charger 30 oz
Subtotal 43 oz

Total Base Weight 151.6 oz or 9.48 lbs

All the gear out of the pack!

Everything in the pack!

I’m very excited to get back into the desert and see all the different plants and animals. Also want to get out of the freezing cold and wet days here. I’ll be doing another daily blog for this trail so stay tuned!

Day 12. Collegiate East.


21.9 miles 

Twin lakes dam to Frenchman creek

We woke up from the cabin, ate oatmeal for breakfast and then the lady at the cabin drove us to the trail. The morning was warm and breezy. It’s fun hiking with new people and the ladies are a high energy, fun loving group. We hike until we reach the CDT/ CT branch point in the trail for the collegiate west and east routes. I decided to do the east route because my knee is still tender and if I need to get off trail there are many outs. Also if I do the CDT next year I’ll do the collegiate west route anyway. Mush decides to take the west route, while Rapunzle, Leah, Blistfull and I take the east route. We say bye and I think they’re going to meet back up in Salida. 

Sara (Blistfull), Rapunzle and Mush

Ohhh! A yummy bolete!

Never mind…..

Cool longhorn beetle

Rapunzle on the dry side of the mountain

Sego lily! 

The hike in the morning is in a pretty dry, sagebrushy area with cacti and yucca showing their faces on the decent towards clear creek. The air is hot and the sky is blue. We make it to clear creek which is a beautiful, crystal clear and fairly large creek and take a lunch break. 

Monument Plant

Bristlecone Pine

Then it’s a steep 4.5 mile climb up to the top of a ridge. My knee is hurting but not in the same place as before and not as painful as before. We take another break up top and look at the nice views. Then it’s back down 1000 feet and back up 1000 feet to the top of a second ridge where there are some bristlecone pines growing in the breezy open areas. Bristlecone pines as you may know are the oldest living non-clonal organisms on earth. Some trees in California are more than 6000 years old. There were still mammoths alive and walking around back then. 

I meet a hiker named Chelsea who looks like the classic hippy. She’s got dreads, piercings, and a chill happy go lucky attitude and rocking and old school military style external frame pack. She’s waking the trail after coming from the PCT where the snow in Washington was too deep to do anything. Since she had no maps she decided to hike northbound that way she runs into lots of hikers so she can ask where to find water, trailheads, etc. Whatever works! 

Great wildflowers were abundant much of the evening. Here are a couple of the lookers.

Whipple’s Penstemon

Silky Phacelia

We make it to the creek we wanted to camp by only to find no place to camp so we continued on another 2 miles to Frenchman creek where there is plenty of rushing water and campsites where 4 other hikers are already set up. We eat dinner together, chat and I help Rapunzle patch a hole in her sleeping pad. It worked! We snuggle in our shelters away from the abundant mosquitos and hit the hay.

Cranesville Swamp

I love going to places that are ecologically unique such as Spruce Knob and I asked my professor if he knew of any other cool places nearby I should visit and he told me I should swing by Cranesville Swamp. It’s on the border of West Virginia and Maryland. The drive out there was on some serious backcountry roads. No four wheel drive needed but the small roads go for maybe 20 miles and are just torn to shreds. Big potholes all over the road. 

Once we arrived we walked around trying to spot the 3 things I really wanted to see and I knew they were found here. They are the Round-leaf Sundew, Purple Pitcher Plant (both carnivorous plants) and the Eastern Larch. This swamp is the most southerly point of the Larch’s range.  Here’s what we found! 

LBM (little brown mushroom) fruiting in the bog.    Sundew in the sphagnum peat moss.    I may have sacrificed at hover fly out of curiosity  Round-leaf Sundew with the digested husk of hover fly still stuck to the leaf.

   A Purple Pitcher Plant flowering!
 The lip of one of the pitchers covered with backward facing hairs that I presume make it difficult for an insect to crawl back up. The prey insects are attracted to the pitcher by a sweet scent and fall in where they drown. They then get digested by microbes living in the water in pitcher. The microbes release the nutrients that were within the insect prey and the plant then uses them to grow. Nitrogen is the main nutrient they are trying to obtain since soggy bogs are very low in it. The plants still photosynthesize and make their own sugars, they just need to eat animals for their nutrient needs. That is why most carnivorous plants live in bogs! 

    More LBMs!

   This spider wasp has stung and paralyzed this poor spider and is dragging it back to a burrow it dug where it will then insert an egg into the spider, which upon hatching, the wasp larva will eat the still living spider from the inside out, avoiding vital organs to keep it living and fresh. Then the larva will leave the husk of the spider, pupate and emerge as an adult wasp. The circle of life! 

For whatever reason I could not find any Larch anywhere šŸ˜¦