Reflections from the Southern California Desert

I hiked 563 miles during my first month on the PCT from the Mexico border to Tehachapi, California. As I transition out of the hot desert, I’m feeling confident and proud of my newfound identity as a thru-hiker.

The terrain here is unlike any I’ve hiked before. Winding across large canyons, my feet are still adjusting to hard-packed sand interspersed with sharp rocks. Long, flat stretches are broken up by occasional switchbacks over mountainsides. I summited Mt San Jacinto, rewarded by an epic 360-degree panorama at 10,834 ft.

Nearly all of the seasonal streams are dry this time of year. In some cases, the trail runs more than 15 miles without access to any water at all. “Cameling up” is a requirement, wherein hikers filter and carry extra liters of water from natural springs to make it through the heat. At one point, my pack was filled with six liters of water, adding a miserable 13.2 lbs.

Colorful cacti are abundant in the desert, as are rattlesnakes. I’ve encountered 14 slithering attackers thus far. I usually listen to one hour of music per day, though it’s dangerous to wear both earbuds. The snakes begin to rattle as humans approach and are difficult to spot with the eyes if you’re not paying close attention. Thankfully I haven’t had any close encounters. Nor have I watched all those YouTube videos about how to suck the venom out of someone’s leg.

Temperatures throughout the day range from the mid-70s to the low-90s. When it’s not too windy, I use a parasol to protect myself from the direct sunlight. I’m carrying three pairs of wool socks, which I rotate every two hours. Any longer than that, my shoe turns a into sweaty oven and blisters begin forming. Although some have formed, I haven’t had any blisters pop yet. I hang the sweaty socks on the side of my pack after removing them and they quickly dry out in the sun. I guess the system is working?

Coming up next: the long-anticipated Sierra. Along with comfortable temperatures and ubiquitous access to water, the next 400 miles feature:

– General Sherman, the largest tree in the world by volume
– Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America
– Mount Whitney at 14,505 ft, the highest point in the contiguous United States
– Yosemite Valley, containing high waterfalls.

The Sierra is home to three national parks, including Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Park.

So that’s a wrap! I plan to hike another 600 miles in June, so grateful to be out here.

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Comments 1

  • Just Bob : Jun 8th

    Keep rockin it !


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