After a Week, the What Ifs Fade Away

We just hit Southern California after a three-day road trip from Nebraska and here are Michelle’s thoughts.

What if…

I get bit by a rattlesnake. 

A bear mauls me. 

I run out of water and die in agony. 

I somehow get an extremity stuck in a rock and have to cut it off with my tiny pocketknife. 

I can’t get past my fear of shitting in the woods and implode. 

Nolan catches me having a successful shit in the woods. 

I run out of food and have to eat Nolan, whom I love very much and do not want to eat. 

I run out of money and can’t get home and have to resort to prostitution. 

I get lost and am never found but am alive and waiting for someone to find me but they’ve all given up and moved on.


But what if…

I make it the first 20 miles. And then the next. And then the next. And so on. 

The rattlesnakes slither away and the bear doesn’t take notice of me and I never know that the mountain lion was even there. I don’t run out of food and bring the appropriate amounts of water so as not to die a slow, painful death. I don’t have to eat Nolan. No extremities are sacrificed. I don’t have to become a prostitute. Shitting in the woods proves to be not so bad after all. My family and friends never give up on me, presumably dead or very much alive. 

What if I make it?

Week One

Well, folks, we are still alive! For now. 

We have survived our first week on the trail.

Day 1, day 7:

We started day one a bit behind schedule. Pictures needed to be taken at the terminus, tears needed to be shed, and in true mom fashion, Linda J. needed to drive back one last time to ensure that we had enough water and that Nolan’s GPS was on. It wasn’t. 

We struggled that first day but wound up taking our first break next to an incredibly inspirational SOBO hiker whose courage and optimism validated all of the reasons we have chosen to do this. Check out her story here. After saying our goodbyes, we hiked a few more miles and began to set up camp as the sun set, feeling rejuvenated and excited to truly begin this journey. 

We made it to Lake Morena, Calif., before deciding that our bodies needed rest and hydration. We took a day to recover and drank lots of milkshakes at the Malt Shop. We loaded up with water and were back on the trail bright and early on day four. 

We spent the rest of the week slowly trucking our way toward Julian, Calif., where we planned on splurging on a hotel and resupplying food. We made a quick stop in Mt.  Laguna, Calif., for lunch and to pick up a few more snacks.

We quickly learned the importance of rationing our water. Water sources are few and far between at times during this desert stretch and the sun can be unrelenting. Once, early in the day, I found myself down to half a liter with a little over eight miles to the next reliable source. While attempting to find a closer water cache we decided to hike down to the nearby highway and happened upon a couple of butterfly photographers just unpacking for their hike. After talking with them for a few minutes they insisted on refilling every bottle I had, even with the water they had iced in their cups, before beginning their hike. They also tried to find their two remaining apples to give us. We will forever be grateful for their kindness. 

Luckily, the weather has been nice and the steady breeze allows some relief while hiking. We try to find shady spots to rest during the hottest part of the day. However, if we could consistently get up and moving before 7 or 8 we wouldn’t have to spend so much time battling the sun to get our miles in. Due to our lack of training and late starts, on our good days we average 15-17 miles. We need to bump that up to the 20-25 mile range if we want to make it to Canada. We’re working on it, OK?


Other than buying a few more snacks, the food we started with lasted the entire first week meaning we brought way too much. At this point in our hike we hit towns often enough that a full week’s worth of food is unnecessary. We just had no idea how much we would need initially and estimated to the best of our ability. Lesson learned. 

We are still working out the best setting up and taking down camp system. I’m slow to wake but fast at packing up. Nolan is the first up but tends to be a bit slower at getting around. (P.S., we are currently debating the accuracy of the above statements.) With that said, we function great as a team and share all camp responsibilities. We are patient with each other and continue to discuss ways in which managing camp can run as  smoothly and efficiently as possible. We shall update.

Since we know you’re all wondering, no fights have ensued yet. Blame it on the honeymoon phase. 🤷🏻‍♀️ 

We have seen some critters along the way but the scariest thing for me so far has been balloons. Yes, balloons. Like four of them. Where do they come from? One night I had to pee and spent forever trying to find a secluded spot. As I wandered around looking for the ideal spot, I looked back and saw something red at the top of the valley that I didn’t notice before. I thought at first it was another hiker hidden by the trees. I started walking toward it and then realized how wrong I was. It was a balloon. A red balloon. That I was being lured to. I am certain of this. It is now what I think of at night. Not the scary mountain lions or the mice. Clowns. 

I digress.

Seventy-seven miles in seven days, including one zero day (rest or town day, no miles hiked) and one nero day (a few miles hiked but mostly an off day). Zero showers, dirty clothes, and four very smelly feet. 

Despite the achy joints, sore muscles, and hungry bellies, our experiences thus far have been amazing. By night seven we found ourselves camping a little over a mile from the highway leading to Julian, out of food, and very much ready for our first true town day complete with showers, a real bed, and all the food. Especially pie. We’ve heard lots of good things about the pie in Julian. We will let you know how it went. Cheers! 

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Comments 5

  • Mark Coady : May 28th

    Michelle and Nolan ; I’m going to follow your journey. It’s really quite interesting. I was always kind of an adrenaline junkie and this sounds like a real adventure. Is there anything special or rather, any place to follow your trek? Or are you just going to post like this post on FB every now n then?
    Good luck on your journey and be safe for sure. I can’t wait to see more pictures and I’m really curious about those balloon sightings. Lol 😝
    Enjoy the beauty of Gods creation. It truly is a miraculous planet 🌎 we all live on. God bless. Mark Coady

  • Mary Ash : May 28th

    This is fascinating! I love reading about your journey. Glad you have your GPS on. What an experience you are having and it’s so cool you are sharing. Take good care. God bless.

  • Wayne : May 28th

    Nolan does look pretty tasty, tho… #justsayin

  • Rolen Sell : May 29th

    Oh, Wow! What an adventure! It is so interesting to read about it. Thanks for sharing for those of us who are too old to make the trip. Travel safely and God bless you both. We shall be looking forward to ongoing updates.

  • Callum : May 31st

    Thank you for this post. Its very inspiring.


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