Tag Archives: travel

Day 7. Roadwalking

Miles: 24

Total: 161.7

As soon as we start walking this morning, Dillon’s feet are hurting very bad. His Achilles on both feet are being rubbed raw by the thick plastic in the back of his La Sportiva shoes. He tries fixing it by cutting off the “stabilizers” which are just thick plastic pieces but it’s still hurting him. 

Early in the morning we make it to a riparian area which is essentially a wash that still has a little stream of water running down it. It’s nice cold and clean water too. After a break there were have to walk down the wash for many miles. It’s very slow going because the terrain is loose gravel which moves and gets into your shoes. It’s pretty awful to walk in. Eventually we are able to bypass some sections by following dusty cow paths. There are cows everywhere in this area. Some moo at us while others don’t even seem to mind us getting 15 feet away. 

Our little stream is barely alive

Around noon we make it to a dirt road that eventually leads to the highway. Just before we get to that point we see Roswell eating lunch. He’s the first hiker we’ve seen since Lordsburg! We eat with him and then we all start the long 13 mile road walk on the highway. It’s real hot and sunny and brutal on our feet and bodies. Walking on pavement is the worst thing for a hikers body. For some reason it just shreds tendons and breeds blisters. It takes hours to walk on the road and by the time we make it to town we’re ravaged. 

This is the striped whipsnake 37 trillion. Poor little guy was run over by a car

Butterflies like to suck on turds for their mineral content

I book a motel room for the 3 of us and then we drink some mimosas as a celebration of our completion of the section. Then we go and get an 18 pack of beer and start shotgunning them. It gets a little crazy and we start reenacting fight club by punching each other. Then we finally go to the only bar in town open late. It’s some dance club out in the middle of nowhere and there’s a whopping 4 other people in this place. We get some beer and start playing pool. We befriend the only other people there and hang with them all night. Then we hitch a ride with them to McDonald’s but when we go inside there’s too many cops staring at us and we decide to just walk back to the hotel to crash.  

Day 6. Burro Peak

Miles: 27


It’s a cold and cloudy morning but we both slept pretty well. My leg is hurting pretty much right off the bat. This makes me sad and I look at several different “out” points. I can get off at the highway and then a few miles after that at an RV campground or something like that. 

We stumble up to the highway where we see a sign indicating trail magic! And it is some serious trail magic! Sodas, bread, peanut butter, veggies, snacks, etc. a sign says it’s trail magic from Genie. We delightfully eat some peanut butter and mustard sandwiches which turn out to be a pretty good combo! Just as we’re about to leave a truck pulls up and out hops Genie the trail angel! She’s super energetic and is reloading all the snacks and putting in some cold beers. We each take a Budweiser which we will carry until later. Genie tells us how she’s going to pick up an injured hiker from some road and then back to Silver City. Revitalized by the snacks and with morale high I decided not to hitch into town but to push through the pain.

There’s a 2000 foot climb up Burro Peak, an 8000 foot mountain, our first one, and it’s steep. It’s still cold and cloudy out and we crush up the mountain. I think the varied terrain is good for my leg muscles. Constant flat walking is miserable. We power up to the top in no time and I’m feeling pretty good! At the top we take a long break next to a huge anthill. We toss some crumbs and food bits in their path and watch them team up and slowly drag their treasures into the hive. I drink the Budweiser from Genie while watching the ants, it’s very entertaining to watch! 

Finally in forest!

The way down the mountain the sun starts to come out and the rest of the day is a very pleasant mix of clouds and shade. We come across our first natural water source, a small creek which disappears underground after a hundred feet or so. The water is cold and tasty! My legs feel good until the evening. I find a beer sitting on some rocks near a crossing of a dirt road and take it with me. 

The first natural water

We finally find a good place to set up camp just before dark. We set up our shelters and then eat a bunch of food and cheers to camaraderie with our beers. The full moon is coming out and it’s going to be a bright night. 

Day 5. A Monster and It’s Cold! 

Miles: 25.8

Total: 110.9

It’s a 3 mile roadwalk out of town. It’s much cooler out today and there are lots of clouds around. The trail goes into some rangeland and then very gradually climbs the slope of the mountain range we are entering. 

There are all kinds of neat wildflowers blooming in this landscape. Many seem to only grow in washes. Prickly poppies Datura are especially showy. Lordsburg is visible almost all day in the distance, slowly getting smaller and smaller. 

Stinkbeetle! Face down ass up that’s the way these like to assume a defensive posture.

Lordsburg in the distance 

While we’re crossing one of the washes I spot one of the coolest animals I’ve ever seen. A Gila monster!!! It’s just taking a stroll in the cool shady weather! I drop my pack and take lots of photos of it. It’s hissing loudly and striking with its black mouth wide open. If that doesn’t scare off a would be predator they’re in for a world of pain and suffering because Gila monsters are venomous. They bite and hold on while venom glands in their mouth release the pain juice into the wound. Of course I kept out of striking distance and then we let him go on his way walking around looking for eggs to eat. 

Gila monster!!! 

The afternoon we climbed into the mountains where trees grew along the wash and on the hillsides. We looked around for a windmill that supposedly was pumping water but we never found it. Frustrating. We ran into a rancher on an ATV and asked him if he knew where it was but he didn’t seem to know. We decided to move on to the next water source with the hope it wouldn’t be dry. 

Getting water

By the afternoon my leg started to really hurt and that made me depressed. I really want to heal and not have to sit around in a town for days. But it is what it is. We hiked until it started getting dark and set up our shelters due to the ominous clouds and cold temperatures. It’s been straight up cold today! No sooner do we get our shelters up it starts to rain. We get in and go to sleep on a gloomy evening where it rains on and off all night.

Day 2.

Miles: 28.2 

Dillon and I wake up before the sun rises and hit the trail just before 7. It’s so cool out and it quickly becomes overcast to add to the relief. We pass Griggs who’s still asleep near the water cache. This morning is so nice and relaxing compared to last night. The CDT follows well marked dirt roads and single track all day long. This makes us happy because we can zone out and make quick miles. Around 10 the sun comes back out and it’s full force heat. 

A Cholla blooming with the big hatchet mountains, where we hiked from yesterday.

Salazon makes salted chocolate bars and they’re so freaking good. Everything a hiker wants: fat, sugar, salt and variety of flavors.

You can see the windmill far in the distance 
We get to a stock tank which we could see miles and miles away and are delighted to find it has a water trough full of crystal clear water and its gushing out of a pipe! I toss the cool water all over myself and my overheating body is instantly cold in the strong breeze which has been picking up. We drink several liters each over the next hour and a half as we eat in the shade of some trees near the little pond. Finally we both feel good and happy. 

Much of the afternoon is a mix of burning sun and cool shade while waking on easy flat roads. We carry more water than we think we need because we are worried some more crazy cross country travel could slow us down, but that never comes. We can see rain clouds and huge dust devils in the distance, silently swirling. 

Dust devils in the distance

An ironclad beetle!

In the evening we’re both crashing and hobbling towards a big water tank when I see a little western diamondback rattlesnake coiled up right on the trail! I snap some photos and then he had enough and started rattling and went into a rodent hole. A quarter mile later we made it to the water tank where we met some new hikers! Arrow, Greenbay And Moment. They seem like a friendly bunch and we chat for about 20 minutes until they move on. We rest for about an hour and then move on too. 

The evening is beautiful and the low sun plays on the mountains that surround us. We get a second wind and push to a saddle where the sun has just set. It’s got a great vista and it’s absolutely beautiful. We set up camp battered but in good spirits.  

Walking through the desert

Little diamondback rattler!

Continental Divide Trail Gear List and Food

Just over a month to go! I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. Here I have compiled a list of the gear I will be taking on this trip. I have my Base weight calculated (all of your gear minus the clothes you always wear on your body and consumables such as food, water and fuel). Some items will be variable such as how many water bottles I’ll carry, depending on where I am on the trail. I’m starting with 6 just in case in the desert but will only carry 2 in Colorado and probably other northern parts of the trail.

Backpack and Water Treatment and Storage:
Pa’lante Packs Simple Pack with hipbelts about 15 oz
Sawyer squeeze 2.7 oz
6 1 liter smart water bottles 12 oz
Subtotal 29.7 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
Gossamer gear airbeam air mattress 10 oz
Polycryo ground sheet 1.6 oz
Subtotal 47 oz

Clothing in Backpack:
Patagonia Men’s Capilene Midweight Crew undershirt 6.7 oz
Patagonia Men’s Capilene Midweight Bottoms 6.8 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 31.9 oz

Miscellaneous Items:
Petzl e+LITE Headlamp 1 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
Mosquito head net .7 oz
Swing Liteflex Silver Trekking Umbrella 8 oz
Subtotal 14.9 oz

Chargers 2 oz
Anker battery 15000 mwh 11 oz
Olloclip macro lens for IPhone .8 oz
Sony Cyber‑Shot DSC‑RX100 II 20.2 MP 9 oz
SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger 4 oz
Subtotal 26.8 oz

Total Base Weight: 150.3 oz or 9.39 lbs
All my gear outside of the pack
All gear inside the pack!

The size of the gear I carry has shrunk considerably since my southbound 2012 Appalachian Trail hike with Buzz Lightyear. I think I was lugging about 45 lbs in my 85 liter external frame pack when I started that hike. I had a machete, fishing pole, slingshot and tons of other useless shit. We had no idea what we were doing or what we had gotten ourselves into! By the time we got to Dalton, Massachusetts my pack was a 30 liter day hiking backpack that weighed about 25 lbs fully loaded (thanks to Tom Levardi for taking us to an outfitter)!

atA happy fool

I am one of those manics that never cooks on trail, I’m way too lazy to want to lug around extra water for cooking, then have to set up a stove, boil things and then clean out pots covered in gunk. I’ll just get warm food when I get to town in a few days. It just makes it that much better! The plus sides of this is I don’t have to worry about refueling, carrying a stove, fuel, pots/cups, or even utensils. No chores or wait time in the morning or at night and I don’t send up a beacon of scent to all the animals in the forest. “If you don’t cook then what the hell do you eat?” I eat whatever sounds tasty at that moment. I have no meals planned out, just a big bag filled with all my food. When I wake up I might eat some carnation breakfast essentials, granola bars, fruit and nuts. In the afternoon maybe chocolate, nuts, fruit, jerky, granola bars, and then the same for the evening.

I bought food enough for 9 boxes to be sent to locations along the CDT where there is either no resupply at all or very meager choices (a gas station for example). That being said, I have stuck to a lot of my usual favorites again like various granola bars, pistachios, pecans, pine nuts, jerky, candy, dried fruit, as well as lots of freeze dried fruit this time around. I found a company that sells freeze dried fruit in bulk for very cheap by accident a few months back. Its called Emergency Essentials and it is really more geared towards filling up your nuclear bunker than for hiking, but the freeze dried products are useful just the same. I have tons of freeze dried strawberries, peaches, raspberries and cinnamon apples. They weigh almost nothing but do take up a good amount of space. And don’t worry about not using them for awhile because as the bottom of one of the cans read, “best if used before May 2039.”

One of the items that I’m super excited for this time around are a variety of Salazon chocolate bars. They were created by a thru hiker and all have salt in them. The idea was that tasty chocolate could also be salted to help keep a hiker’s electrolyte levels up while at the same time eating one of  a hungry hiker’s favorite foods. They taste so freaking good.

I’ve also got a new camera this time around. Its the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 ii which is the camera Twinkle Toes and Bigfoot use on their adventures. I’ve played around with it a little bit and am stoked to use it on trail.

Less than a month to go! I can’t wait to meet other hikers and get back to doing what feels so right. Walking slowly across the varied surface of a planet and observing the other organisms that we inhabit this rock with.

Day 8. A Soggy Finish


Distance Hiked: about 12 miles

Got up at 5 am and got my pack ready for rain. At 6 there was a continental breakfast so I ate some waffles, bacon and lots of juice. Then it was back to Carl’s Jr. to fill up my water bottle with a liter of Dr. Pepper. I requested an Uber and was back at the trail before 7. 

It rained a ton last night and I figured I’d be seeing some flooding because the trail follows a creek all the way to the coast. The moisture brought out some life as well. I saw hundreds of snails all across the trail. Some of these happened to be engaged in a courtship dance like these here. Snails are notably unusual to us because they’re hermaphrodites. That is, every individual has male and female sex organs. To make things even weirder, they are sizing each other up and aiming to shoot a “love dart” into the other snail. A love dart is a sharp calcified spear that when fired into a mate, introduces a hormone like substance into the recipients body that opens the copulatorty canal and increases the likelihood of sperm reaching the sperm storage area rather than being digested. Both snails can fertilize and lay non-self fertilized eggs this way, although some snails try to actively try and avoid being fertilized because it’s costly to form, lay and sometimes care for eggs.

I had to take a few alternative routes around the flooded portions of the trail like this, but they were all very easy to get around. 

It got to a point where keeping your feet dry was no longer possible. There were a couple of unavoidable fords and then it began raining hard anyway so I just hopped into the puddles and streams. 

Lots of the morning was walking through oak canopies and pretty meadows. The Penasquitos preserve was a beautiful place to walk even in the pouring rain. I never saw another person on the trail all morning.

You’re supposed to be able to cross the creek just to the right of this waterfall but it was well underwater and raging today. 

Some mushrooms were even out and shedding spores!

All the other crossings were flooded and under runnng water. I could see that I could just follow the trail on the south side of the creek anyway so I didn’t bother crossing.

Prepare to have your minds blown. I found this African clawed frog after all the rainstorms we’ve been having in San Diego county. This is one of the few areas of the United States where this species has established itself in the wild. Now get this, the African clawed frog was introduced all over the world because it was used a pregnancy test for humans from the 1930s- 1960s. The urine of a suspected pregnant woman would be injected into female frogs. The human placenta produces the hormone Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) which is present in the urine of pregnant women. This same hormone also induces African clawed frogs to lay eggs. So if the frog laid eggs, it was a positive for pregnancy. This was an improvement on earlier pregnancy test which used mice and rabbits which had to be killed an inspected for ovarian changes after being injected with a lady’s urine. The frogs would survive this procedure to be used again and were much cheaper. These frogs were also kept as pets as some of you I’m sure have had them. Inevitably some of these lab and pet frogs were released and managed to establish populations in the wild. Now here’s another crazy result of this. The African clawed frog is a carrier of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis which has been obliterating amphibian populations around the world. The African clawed frog is resistant to the fungus because they coevolved in Africa. Dozens of species of frogs and toads have been driven to extinction by this now worldwide fungus. Human pregnancy tests are linked to the worldwide extinctions of amphibians. Everything is connected.

I came out of the little canyon and into town for a little bit. Walking past some more office buildings and a little restaurant where I got a big chicken quesadilla. I chowed down on this while I walked down the road. The road eventually ended in a pull out with a fence and a sign warning of this area being a big drug use area. It didn’t seem any different from anywhere I had been before. The road eventually crumbled and led to a single house. Just past the house a single path led into the shrubs with a marsh off to the right. 

Not long after getting on this path it dipped in and out of deep puddles where the nearby marsh had devoured the trail from the flooding. This time it wasn’t just sloshing through puddles, it went waist deep for long stretches. I was already soaked and so excited that I was only about a mile from the ocean I just went for it. 

The trail goes underwater and stays there until the bend up ahead.

Into a salty marsh! Herons were feeding here.

I must be close!!!

Glasswort is back! 

Out of the marsh and over a rise to the road and there’s the Pacific Ocean! I’m smiling all the way to the beach. It’s breezy and raining a little, but I just finished my hike! I walk down to the beach and into the ocean. I’m soaked already and the salty water helps get the gunk off my shoes. A few other people on the beach watch me and probably think I’m nuts. I may be nuts, but I’m happy. And that’s how I wanna stay.

Thanks to Handy Andy and John Z at Pa’lante packs for making a killer pack and letting me use it for my hike! The Pa’lante packs are minimalist backpacks for the ultralight backpacker. This model has no hip belt, at light weights, it supposedly isn’t necessary and I found that to be true! Only time it was a little painful was when carrying 4+ liters and few days of food, but this much of a water carry was rare. It was very snug and stable against my back too, it didn’t sway at all. They have one large pocket I use for my “camp gear,” things I only need to pull out at the end of the day (sleeping pad, quilt, extra clothes, etc.) a huge elastic pocket on the outside that I kept my food, maps, sunscreen in, and an elastic pocket on the bottom of the pack that has a large capacity and which is intended for on the go snacking. Just reach behind you and grab your food without even stopping! This is one of my favorite features. The pack is made of lightweight X-PAC fabric and is also durable. With all the bushwhacking I did, dyneema fabric would have been shredded. This bad boy is alive and well. Overall I think the pack is perfect for a lightweight backpacking. I could see it being the ultimate Appalachian Trail pack, where bulky warm clothes and sleeping bags are unnecessary much of the hiking season. Very well built, looks sleek, super light, great product guys!

My Sheriff Woody action figure that I take with me on my hikes. He’s comes with a bunch of little interchangeable parts like the famous “hentai Woody” face and different hands. You can also change the direction of his eyes. He helps me laugh at myself when I’m out there alone.

Fun fact: Kelp is not a plant at all but a protist. It’s close relatives are fungi like plant pathogens such as potato blight, which killed all the potatoes in Ireland, causing millions to starve or emigrate to other countries. 

After hanging out on the beach and walking around for a few hours I decided to head to Del Mar, a nearby town about 2 miles to the north. The walk was beautiful and went up in elevation and therefore gave some nice views from the cliffs. 

Once in town I stopped at a Starbucks and just hung out and enjoyed the internet for a few hours while I waited for Jr Sr. He’s picking me up and dropping me at the airport. 

Jr Sr picks me up and we head to a bar for a celebratory drink and a game of pool. Then it’s to the airport for the flight home. 😊

Day 7. Great Urban Hiking


Distance Hiked: about 10 miles

Slept way in after our late night of poker and beer. Had a huge sandwich at Jr Sr’s and then left to the trail at noon. I have accumulated an extra day into my schedule by having larger mileage than expected days so now I’m slowing down. I’ll only be hiking about 5 hours today and then getting a hotel, leaving me with about 12 miles or so tomorrow to the Pacific Ocean. 

Finally off of utility roads, the trail heads almost directly west towards the coast from here. It rained last night so the ground was moist and the air was full of planty smells. Some of the trail was also very eroded by the water. But it’s sure nice to be on single track!

Sweet single track 

Offices and shopping centers in the distance! 

Prickly pear flower!

Nobody is licking any white dog turds! 

Costco is just a half mile or so from here! 

The castor bean. This plant grows all over subtropical parts of the world as a weed. It is also the source of the toxin ricin. Ricin is one of the most toxic chemicals produced by any plant. A few grains of salt worth of ricin is enough to kill a person. It’s also been used as a chemical weapon. In World War I the United States looked into coating bullets and bomb shrapnel with ricin so that even a normally non-leathal wound would lead to death by poisoning. Thankfully this never made it into any battlefields. More notably in 1978, a Bulgarian dissident and writer was assasinated by Bulgarian secret police who had modified an umbrella to shoot a small pellet laced with ricin into the man’s leg. The man died a few days later, unaware that he had even been shot by a pellet, which was found upon an autopsy. Humans are always willing to find new ways to kill each other. 

Under the highway 

Eucalyptus flowers

So ummm, where ya hiking?
One of the great things about urban hiking is that you have many opportunities to get to food from stores. This leads to very lightweight packs and warm food and sugary soda all day 🤓

7-Eleven food and Dr. Pepper break! 

The evening went through wet meadows 

Near the big bridge was a little memorial area with rocks with people’s faces and names on them. 

Ran into a bunch of teenagers hanging out under the bridge, many had climbed way up on the arches. Typical hangout places 

Some of the bridges have been washed out. Is a bit of a jump to keep dry feet. 

After I got about half a mile past the highway overpass, I was able to walk up to a road that meets up with Mercy rd. a busy street next to neighborhood. I got an Uber and within 10 minutes I was on my way to the hotel for the night! And just in time too as it began to storm and downpour all night long. A Carl’s Jr. right next to my hotel became my feeding grounds. Next I slumber. 

Day 6. The Descent 


Miles hiked: about 18

I slept in for once! Got up and out and hiking just after sunrise. Probably for the best, make it easier to see where I’m bushwhacking. Thankfully all the shrubs from this point on were hip height or lower! Making for much easier and less frustrating hiking. To make things even better, someone marked the “trail” with some cairins, though it was obvious where the peak was. 

I like that boulder, that is a nice boulder.

A party balloon near the summit of El Cajon. When they fly away, the end up somewhere, I often find them in bushes in the desert.

A few feet from the peak I stepped on a rock which moved and made another rock smack me right in the ankle which hurt like hell. Luckily it only hurt for a few minutes before I forgot about it. The summit was beautiful. Silent except for a cool breeze. I stayed up here enjoying the highest I’d be for the rest of the trail. The Pacific Ocean clearly visible, with some big rocky islands off shore also in the distance. 

The hike down was well marked but holy hell was it steep. The steepest marked trail I think I’ve ever been on. Glad I had my trekking poles to take the strain off my legs. I passed two older ladies in their 60’s that stank of some dank weed cruising up the mountain, then I started passing lots of folks as I neared the trailhead. Just as I reached the pit toilet and water faucet near the trailhead, I got service on my phone and a message from Jr Sr from the Pacific Crest Trail saying he was down to meet up and hang out! I forgot he lived in San Diego! Hell yea I wanna hang out with Jr Sr! So after I get done hiking today I’ll call him and he is going to swoop me up.

Very rugged and steep trail down! Is would be one hell of a day hike!

Rather eroded 

This mushroom was under the chaparral all over he area 

After the trailhead, I walked down wildcat canyon road instead of bothering jumping around through neighborhoods again. It was a pretty busy road with a small shoulder some of the time. It’s kinda interesting what things people throw out the window. Tons of mixed CDs, one says 2009 pop. Of course I kept this one. It looks dirty and scratched as hell but I really liked that year. I also came across literally hundreds of Pokémon cards. Someone had just been throwing out bags of them. I sound them strewn over several miles, with big bunches of them in spots. There was also the usual trash, tons of casino cards, booze bottles, fast food, etc. 

After wildcat, the road went into a small community with lots of horses. I walked a quarter mile off to a Circle K and got a big hotdog and a sprite. Sweet sweet sugar water. Back in the road it was a very pleasant walk past all these houses and horse fields. I wrote a blog post along the walk. The trail then goes past some industrial park and then meets highway 67. I walked along the highway up the hill for several miles. I was pretty happy to get off the highway and onto some utility road that went into the chapparal. It was easy hiking but I started feeling sketchy. These looked like roads that go to some backcountry houses. I could hear cars driving around on the roads and didn’t want to be seen so I hid behind a bush and watched. Turns out it was a construction crew working on the highway below. I walked right past them and they hardly looked up at me. I called Jr Sr for that pick up and he started heading my way. I reached a fork in the road where I could be easily picked up. I hid up the hill from an intersection and watched the people from my hiding spot for half an hour.

I hope it works! 

Spirit left my spirit animal 

Walking a few miles on the highway

Walking utility roads

Jr Sr showed up and we were off for a night off trail! He’s such a funny guy. A dog trainer, gambler and magician. Always looking for the next hustle. We first head to the YMCA where his buddy was practicing some soccer moves and we join him for a session. Ricocheting the ball and just messing around for about an hour. Then we go to have a feast at Costco. They have crazy deals at the food court and we eat huge pizza slices, hotdogs and churros. I’m so happy and fed. Next stop is Jr’s buddies bar that he’s an investor in. We get hooked up with beers and then play cards all night! I love playing cards, is a family tradition at the Berger’s. We play hold em, gin rummy and Egyptian ratscrew for hours. It’s a great time. We get tired and head back to Jr Sr’s house and hit the hay. 

Jr Sr!

Day 5. Bushwhacking


Distance Hiked: about 29 miles

I fell asleep quickly for once last night but woke up ice cold and shaking. I hoped it was at least 2 a.m. It was just 10 p.m. My sleeping pad had almost no effect against the icy ground. It was cold to the touch. I sat up and warmed up pretty quick. The air isn’t unbearably cold, it’s just the ground sucking my heat away. I can’t stand 8 more hours of cold and shaking so I formulate a new plan. There’s still a good bit of traffic on the main road here, I could hitch into Julian but I don’t know where to stay. Because I have no phone service and none of the wifi networks at the restaurant, campground or tackle shop work, I can’t look up prices for hotel rooms. My only alternative is that the public bathroom for the campground is open. So that’s where I go. It’s not heated at all, but it blocks the wind which has been getting stronger. Also the ground in there is dry and not made of ice. 

I set up my sleeping pad and quilt on the ground near the sink and fall asleep fast. Wake up and it’s 4 a.m. Yes! Finally some good sleep! By then I’m shivering here too. It it’s so close to morning that I hold out until 4:45 when I pack up all my gear. 

The morning hike is cold and my hands are bright red. The hike to engineer road is lined with big oak trees, manzanitas and other shrubs I don’t recognize. 

Once the trail met engineer road, it was roads all day. Walking down down down the mountain, there were some Coulter Pines growing along the road. These trees are super cool and notable for having the heaviest pinecones in the world at up to 11 lbs! They’re dense like a block of wood and have jagged spines on them to boot! These trees have a very small natural range and only exist in isolated groves in California. They also occur along the Pacific Crest Trail where I found some even bigger cones in 2014. I also wrote a blog post about them which you can read here >>>> Coulter Pine

Coulter Pinecone near Cuyamaca Woods. This is a “small” one this one was about 4 lbs

Here’s a bigger one I found in 2014 on the PCT.
And an even bigger one from the PCT!!!
Little skinny acorns are new to me! I’ll have to look up what species this is. 

A cool burl on an oak

The trail briefly enters the Inaja Indian Reservation for a few miles. I didn’t see anyone around here and only a few isolated houses, one with all the windows smashed in.  

After walking through some ranch land, the road meets trail for a short stint that descends to cedar creek waterfalls and the back up and out to civilization. The trail here is well maintained and cruiser. Had a good time flying down the mountain and had a snack at the bottom. After that I ran into a fair amount of day hikers heading down to the waterfalls. I listened to Disney songs and flew up the mountain. At the crest of the hill, you can see a building and a bunch of palm trees. Right over the top you get a view of a bunch of houses and roads that lead towards the city. I eat lunch at the picnic table there and use the pit toilet which is the cleanest one I’ve ever used. 

The trail skirts down the mountain to the valley floor and up to the left

A very cartoony cactus

This is where the day took a turn for the stressful. I followed the trail on a bunch of dirt roads that went into rural neighborhoods and then the route the trail takes on my maps and gps end at a guys house. The gps track takes you right into his fenced backyard where a bunch of adolescent emus or ostriches were running around. He’s also got a sign that says no trespassing right on the fence. It looks like the road used to connect to another road there but you can’t get to it without hopping in people’s yards with beware of dog signs. I say what the hell and have to backtrack a half mile to get to an alternate route that drops behind the people’s houses on national forest property. You’re free to walk wherever you want there, but unfortunately it’s a bushwhack with steep terrain and many gullies had formed from water rushing down any topography. These were hard to get into because thy were filled with shrubs and loose rock. I walked around awhile at the first one trying to find a way into it. Just as I was getting frustrated, a coyote appeared and looked at me, it was on the same side of the gully as me and then ran down into it and right up the other side in almost sheer scree! I followed where he want and then slid down the gully and walked right up the steep scree too! It looked too steep to climb but you could dig into the loose wet scree pretty well and climb out! My spirit animal showed me the way. I went in and out of about 10 gullies like this before I finally made it back to the truck trail away from private property. 

I followed this trail into the evening and planned to camp where I saw a nice flat spot on my map before the steep bushwhack up El Cajon Mountain in the morning. Before I could get there though,  the road was blocked by a gate saying private property, beware of dog. It was getting late and now I was worried I wouldn’t find a flat spot before dark. The alternative route was to follow the spine of the mountain for a mile and a half or so. This was the thickest of all the bushwhacking which dense shrubs 10 feet high. After shredding my arms and legs for over an hour I could see a spot where I could drop back to the truck trail on apparently public land? I had to climb down these big round boulders and try not to trip and snap my leg in the middle of nowhere. Once back at the road I followed it past some old rural folk refuse. Old washing machines, machine parts and a flipped over car. Once again I came to a fence blocking the road. I was right at the spot to bushwhack  up the mountainside. Only about half a mile of whacking but it’s super steep and there is of course no trail. I figured I didn’t have much of a choice. I ate a bunch of candy and powered up the mountainside. It was tough but not as bad as some of the earlier bushwhacking. Exhausted and mentally worn down I used the little daylight I had to set up my shelter and snap some photos. I was right at the crest of the mountain, with only another mile and a half of bushwacking In the morning to go. Then I got paranoid that being on the crest of the mountain I was going to be blasted by wind all night keeping me awake and cold. The only flat spot was a slab of granite so I weighed down my stakes with rocks. The shelter was sturdier than I ever have had it before. Then I thought about all the deer I saw on the way up here. Then I thought the mountain lions must be up here too. All the caffeine I had during the day had me edgy to start and then the stress of bushwhacking alone all evening resulted in me having anxiety all night. The caffeine kept me awake and the stress kept me uncomfortable. I talked to friends and family on the phone to kill time and then listened to podcasts until I finally drifted off to sleep. 

The climb down the boulders to the road


Super tired, but man what a sight

Day 3. Desert Hills


Distance Hiked: upper 20’s

Woke up at 5 and was walking at 6. Watched the sunrise as I walked through downtown Borrego Springs. I can see snow dusting the tops of the mountains I’m about to climb, but it’ll probably melt by the time I get up there. The temp seems to be in the low 40s but it’s comfortable walking with the sun shining. The hike up the mountain was reasonably steep, a gain of more than 3500 from the hotel. Little moss and lichens are very green and seem super excited from the rain. Up the mountain I moved from desert floor plants to hillside plants like ocotillo, barrel cactus, agave and teddy bear cholla to junipers, manzanita and other shrubs at the high elevations. Some snow did last until I got up there! But not much. 

All the sand and dust that didn’t wash out of my hair has made it feel gritty and look crazy

Sunrises for days

Cold morning walk through Borrego Springs

An ant empire. Their monumental construction project casts a shadow with the morning’s first light.

Good old teddy bear cholla

These lichens that bake in the sun for 99% of the year look visibly happier from all the rain

Pretty little mosses rejoice too

Some clever caterpillars snuck into the fortress of a barrel cactus’s spines to pupate. Looks like the one on the right may have been attacked by some smaller insects

That farthest hill in the upper middle of this photo is right near where we got sandstormed and the Salton Sea is barely visible just beyond that.

There’s a spine in my hind!

A little bit of snow 

I got to Pena spring and found some flowing water deep among some willows and shrubs. The water was great, a little peat aftertaste but not bad. The ground was frosty here too. You skirt the top of the mountain for a bit and then descend into grapevine canyon, which is beautiful and an easy walk. I passed by Stuart spring which was a piped spring with a trough, which was full and flowing. Soon after that was Angelia spring which was near some cottonwood trees but I couldn’t see any water there. I didn’t look for long though, I’m heavy with water. 
I think there’s a more legit flow somewhere around Pena spring but this little grass flow led me to a spot good enough

Stuart Spring, full trough and flowing

This is an old fruit of the wild spiny cucumber (Marah macrocarpus) 

In the evening I dropped down to a highway and then slowly up and through a mountain pass/ wash that was packed with cool plants and cacti. It was steep on both sides and water clearly had just rushed through it yesterday. I ran into a guy with an RV there and talked a bit about hiking. Once I started coming down the other side of the wash it was getting dark at 4 pm. Winter sucks. I rushed down into the valley with the idea of leaving mountainous areas for the wide open desert where I figured less large animals would want to bother me. I set up camp at 4:45 just as it was getting too dark to see and ate dinner. Then curled up into my sleeping bag for the night. I love sleeping in the wide open.

Lots of barrel cacti in the canyon! 

Other side of the canyon opened into flat desert