Ten Days in the Desert

Huzzah! Leila and I left from the Southern Terminus of the PCT on April 26th, 2017. We marked the momentous occasion with a rousing rendition of the Star Wars theme song on our Kazoos. (Everyone nearby was really pleased with our 7am Kazoo concert.) We’ve been hiking about 18 miles a day on average and arrived to Idyllwild, CA after ten days. We’ve been doing most of our hiking during sunrise and sunset hours, as the heat in the Anza-Borrego Desert in the middle of the day has been, as some might say, inhospitable. I believe Leila finds me mostly pleasant to be around except for between the hours and of 11am and 4pm when I like to talk about how humans and desert should never mix. Usually I find this place to be a magical land (something Leila reports on most days), but not, it turns out, at high noon. It’s during those hours that the desert changes from a magical land to a terrible, sweltering no-good death land.

But honestly, the hiking has been stellar so far. I’m making friends with the bunnies, squirrels, lizards, horny toads, birds, beetles, and all kinds of cacti and other desert plants. (We have human friends too.)

I am learning things about the desert. It turns out that it’s actually rather dry here. Man should not be able to thrive in this climate but somehow, it’s happening. I’ve been especially grateful for all the information available online and within the PCT community about water availability. If we had to rely only on natural water sources like springs and creeks we probably wouldn’t be able to hike this trail. There have been many times when a water cache stocked recently by trail angels or a pipe spring or horse/cattle trough installed decades ago by travelers in this region have been the only thing that have made our hike possible that day.

I have also learned that the desert is hot. I am so so pleased with my decision to hike with a sun umbrella. I named my umbrella Hank. Without Hank I would be frieder than a friend potato but instead I’m just healthfully bronzed. Hank is by far my favorite piece of gear I have with me. It also helps to have good lightweight long sleeve clothes and an ultralite backpack and setup so that I don’t have a lot of extra weight slowing me down.

So go figure that after ten days of sweltering, arid accommodations we’re now hunkered down in Idyllwild, CA for two days due to a blustery snowstorm currently rolling through the San Jacinto Mountians. It’s about 30 degrees and snowing here right now. But we’ll be out of here tomorrow morning at sunrise and will probably do back-to-back 20 mile days for a while since we’ve got ants in our pants waiting for this system to pass.

I could write lots more about all the antics we’ve gotten up to, all the beautiful things we’ve seen, challenges we’ve had, people we’ve met, and things we’re learning about ourselves and each other and this landscape, but pictures tell a thousand words so here are some photos from the first ten days:


At the Southern Terminus at the U.S./Mexico border.


First campsite of the trip at mile 20, Lake Morena. Turn your head to the left to view this scene the way I did…


Our friend Adam (Rosie) enjoying Doritos with a view.



Trail Angels Lisa and Sam brought water to a bunch of dirty, hot, tired, and thirsty hikers near Mile 90.


Magic hour in the desert grasses at sunset with Beast, a 23 year old Presbyterian firefighter from Eastern Washington and my new good friend.

Leila, AKA Gusher, enjoying the breeze and reasonable temperature of the higher ridges before we had to descend into the valley around mile 166 due to a trail closure for fire damage.


Our friend Ben’s mom lives in Idyllwild and was excited to meet us and feed us. She’s the sweetest. Also, as you can see, it’s cold and snowing now.

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Comments 5

  • Bruce H : May 7th

    HOORAY! Great to hear the trek is going so well.

  • Bruce H : May 7th

    & safe travels to you both!

  • Frances : May 7th

    Trail Angels help you, but you’re the Desk Angels that enable us to live vicariously (until our next adventures).

  • Zach : May 8th

    I would flat out melt under that desert sun, I’m sure of it. Thanks for the update!

  • Bri : May 17th

    Chee-hee!! Sounds like you, Leila and Hank are having a BLAST. Thanks for the awesome update. Love you!


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