Day 1 Quiet miles and a noisy night

Miles: 15.4
Water carried: 5.5 liters

I’m all cozy in my tent with tired feet. Border patrol helicopters are making regular passes over camp at Hauser Creek, a reminder that not all walk these paths equally. A sign a mile backed warned, in Spanish only, of the dangers to be found in the desert: unforgiving heat, snakes, and strangely drowning though I pass nothing but dry creek beds choked with poison oak today.

The trail from the monument was gentle, but water is heavy and there is none to be found for the first 20 miles. My gear is light, but water is not. And carrying a day’s worth takes its toll. Overburdened hikers I will likely never meet leave traces of their struggles. At mile four, just before the first real incline, neat piles of discarded gear dotted the trailside. Green shoes and extra shoe laces. A dish scrubbie and two pairs of socks. A luxury looking sleep mask dangling from a bush.

I had a later than ideal start with hopes of getting some sleep and leaving at least partially rested. But I woke up at 5:30 am after only three hours sleep with toilet paper on my mind. Specifically that I had not yet packed any, and my brain was too busy to rest.

I walked in the heat of the day, in a semi-daze of sleep deprivation. The fine sand of the trail is laced with something golden, and when I free my feet of sweaty socks at break, my dusty toes sparkle in the sunlight. I notice the the trail is also often covered in busy red ants, and that it has been carefully raked in places. For maintenance, I wonder, or to better track you with? I realize I have been staring at the ground exclusively for at least the last Look up! I think. You are missing it. Though what, I do not quite know.

The trail weaves together landscapes, both human and non. Over roads, under massive power lines, over traintracks, under oaks. In the late afternoon I stop for food, stuffing down a tortilla, some dates, vegan jerky. Nothing tastes right. I am tired but have only gone 9 miles. I have not seen anyone since the monument. No sign of the descending hoards of “Wild effect” hikers, though a gate bears a sticker that reads: Cheryl Strayed drives me Wild”. I keep walking.

Just before six, I hear voices near the creek that is not a creek, and join four other solo hikers, worn from first days on the trail. I am still not quite convinced I am here, doing this walk. I guess I will sleep on it, helicopters permitting.




5 thoughts on “Day 1 Quiet miles and a noisy night”

  1. already with the toilet paper concerns on day 1! i can tell this is going to be a legit hiking blog πŸ˜‰

    very curious about the raking, i don’t recall any of that. i do remember the helicopters. so many helicopters. and stories of people who encountered DHS employees in trees, watching hikers/people with binoculars. it’s such a weird land southern california just north of the mexican border, and so very dramatically different from washington state south of canada.

    i also liked watching the ants, and attending to all the other little things that make the trail edges their home. i seem to remember those first miles being full of tiny holes — snakes? rodents?

    sounds like you’re having a good walk so far. you’re doing it! i’m so jealous! hope the food starts tasting better. i’m sure it will πŸ˜‰ and, thanks so much for taking time for the update. I know it can be tiring to write every day (as clearly evidenced by my own never-finished blog). this was really nice to read today!


    1. Thanks Ellie! It is a strange land and stranger still to be in my backyard. Hoping I can keep blogging – comments are the best encouragement!


    2. “The Devil’s Highway,” By Luis Alberto Urrea

      Drags are created by bundles of five car tires attached to a frame, looking somewhat like the Olympic rings. Every few days, a truck chains a drag to its back end and drives the roads, ironing the sand into a smooth surface. The drags tend to cut east/west. Since the illegals head north,they are forced, sooner or later, to cross a drag. The Devil’s Highway itself is the Mother of All Drags.

      The fiendish ploys of the Coyotes offer you many opportunities to hone your signcutting skills. The whole game for their team is to pass by invisibly, and the team on this side is paid to see the invisible. The Coyotes score when they make it, and the Migra scores when they don’t. Like pro wrestling, there is a masked invader who regularly storms the field to disrupt the game. This, of course, is La Muerte.

      The illegals try to leap across the drags, but the drags are often wide enough to make jumpers hit the ground at least once. They walk backward, hoping to confuse cutters.ou have to be good to confuse a veteran. An Indian reservation cop says, “Them trackers can probably tell you what color the guy’s hair was,and that he had eighty-nine cents in his left pocket. Then they can tell you the last time he got laid.”

      Lately, foamers have been walking the desert. Foamers tape blocks of foam rubber to their feet, thus leaving no prints. Or so they think. Foam blocks make small right-angle dents in the soil at their corners. And sooner or later,the heel of the walker will wear through the foam,and the cutter can see a weird pattern, like a small half-moon hoof in a picture frame. Your classic foamer sign.

      Every Coyote team relies on the old Apache trick of the brush- out. Last man through walks backward,brushing the tracks away with a branch of some bush. It’s such a standard move that Border Patrol agents call giving civilians and media types evasive answers a brush-out. The Washington, D.C., desk jockeys are considered the ultimate brush-out masters.

      There is room,in this desert world,for scholarship as well as sport.

      Cutters read the land like a text. They search the manuscript of the ground for irregularities in its narration. They know the plots and the images by heart. They can see where the punctua- tion goes. They are landscape grammarians,got the reading dirt.


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