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Begins: Apr 3, 2019
Date: Thu, Nov 14th, 2019
Start: Dos Cabezos
Daily Distance: 13
Trip Distance: 2,038.0
Entry Visits: 387
Journal Visits: 41,029
Guestbook Views: 666
Guestbook Entrys: 25
The wind picked up overnight out of nowhere and with the tent flapping and
excitement of finishing I slept terribly. We started as early as we could
without headlamps. Although we only had 13 miles to the border we knew some
of them would be hard, we weren't sure how many exactly and we had a tight
timeline with a friend coming to pick us up at 2pm and needing to get back
to San Diego to get her kids from school.
We started up the canyon and were very happy to find a small but very good
trail up the bouldery canyon. This was the kind of walking that would take
forever and instead was much much easier with a tiny use trail from the
many people hiking towrds the famous Goat Canyon tressle on the railroad we
wanted to walk but couldn't. It was a beautiful final morning as the sun
rose over the desolate valley below and we made it to about 3,200' before
our way diverged to continue over and up towards a high saddle, now with no
trail. The initial part was side hilling which was slow and no fun, I think
we should have probably just climbed straight up to the ridge and walked
the ridge but we were following a route from a previous hiker and figured
it was best to stick with that for now. She knows this area better than we
The side hilling wasn't too long and we topped out on a 4,000' saddle and
started down following many 2 rock cairns trying to stick to a very vague
game trail. It really barely existed but with the cairns and GPS track we
mostly stuck to it. So far the hiking had been slow and it was tough to
tell if we were going to make it by 2. How much tough stuff was left? It
was a fitting end to the Desert Trail, slow but beautiful walking! About a
mile into the cairns the trail out of nowhere got way better, no idea why.
That dropped us into a wash and then after a mile we climbed out and
followed a maze of bouldery little ups and downs like a mini badlands. But
we kept finding these tiny use trails we were guessing were coming from the
hot springs resort we were heading towards. So that made things easier as
long as we could keep to them which we mostly could.
We were tiring but we had to push on, no rest for the finishers! It really
was a cool walk, our final miles through Anza Borrego and this was the
classic boulder mountain look the park is famous for. We popped out at the
hot springs resort, crossed under I-8 and decided to walk the abandoned RR
tracks a mile, connect to a quiet powerline road into Jacumba and then the
final 1/2 mile down the road to the new slatted border wall. It's a big
We took selfies and were relieved and excited to have made it. The end of a
hike always seems anticlimactic and this was no different. Although I knew
finishing this trail was an accomplishment more than usual, it didn't
really feel any different. It's really the collection of crazy stories and
amazing hiking we have from 4.5 months on the trail that we'll remember.
Next year when hiking we'll have so many "remember on the Desert Trail
when...." stories to rehash.
We are the 3rd and 4th finishers of this Mexico to Canada route, just like
the Hot Springs Trail from 2 years ago. That must be our sweet spot! I
can't possibly put into words a good summary of the hike. I can say it was
the hardest hike I've ever done. It was also definitively the most scenic
2,000+ mile hike I've ever done and most adventurous too. Heather and I
will be back in 2020 for our next hiking adventure. For now instead of
carrying 2 gallons of water at a time, I plan to drink endless diet coke
If there's one thing I did learn this year it's that you can pretty much
walk anywhere you want. The desert is an incredible and open landscape and
if you can look ahead and see it, you can probably find a route through it.
It opens my mind to what is possible for the future.
As the Thank You's go, the trail was created by a multitude of people from
as far back as 40+ years ago but to keep it short I think it could be said
there's no way this trail would exist without Steve Tabor. His routing
through California and most of Nevada and his incredible set of guidebooks
were our constant companion for many months. In the more recent history, we
owe thanks to Bruce "Buck" Nelson who extended the Desert Trail from
mid-Oregon to Canada and then was the first person to hike from Mexico to
Canada in 2012. I don't think we'd have done this trail without his
creative routing and pioneering thru hike.
I plan to hopefully substantially add to the available resources to try and
keep the DT alive. I plan to make a mapset from our GPS track (non ground
truthed), provide a summary of all our resupply, list of caches and how we
did it and update the water info from the past hikers. My winter project
for fun. I'll also add a long summary and planning article to this journal
in the coming week or so.
The Desert Trail is a 2,000+ mile route from Mexico to Canada through the deserts of eastern California, western Nevada and eastern Oregon and Washington. Originally conceptualized in the 1960s this rugged, beautiful and almost forgotten route visits Americas greatest desert landscapes and wilderness areas.