Monday, April 23, 2018

Desert Trail: Borrego and Sonora Deserts

My trick in all this, I'm not letting you know what's real. And it's because I don't know what is real. it's not you, really. I slip into my own reality. Then, I step foot out on trail.

The border feels uneasy, mostly because of our political state. It's probably hyped up more in my head, or it's because I can't fathom a wall being any bigger without it symbolizing tyranny or racism. So, I shoo my mom away quickly, telling her to scurry back to the highway. 'This is no place to fuck around,' I tell her. I spot a border patrol jeep hidden under a canopy of an oak tree. We both see it. She abides my shooing and I try to get her to crack a smile. She does, then she leaves. I start northward walking through a small, dusty border town of Jacumba Hot Springs. At the railroad crossing I decide to take a foot path paralleling the rails. Abandoned, I encounter old rail cars. I knew of this place and I had a keen interest in seeing this place. Graffiti painted on the side of the rail cars, quite beautiful and colorful, yet I see the empty red cushioned seats, the shattered windows, the pried off doors, and the long echoing and hollow corridors and I cannot help but envision what once was. Maybe that's why I'm so enthralled by the desert, the ability to take things and people all away. Machines, towns, mines, communities, homesteads, water, all gone in the wind and the fiery sun. Bodies were once in those seats. A conductor pushes the train across precarious trestles above the deep Carrizo Gorge. People were smiling; the scene is exceptionally apocalyptic now. The wind whistles a seepage of moans, the ululations of ghostly gasps eerily through the rail cars and I leave. I cross trestles still heartily in tact, hovering above steep and incised gullies. I even slip through a tunnel or two.

This easy walking and I cannot help but start on a random thought. Lately, some close friends have or are going through some sort of mental disease or some other and I stop and look around and wonder what has me here and not there. I don't know. Maybe I'll never know. Maybe I don't give myself time to think. 'Just keep going,' I tell myself, 'keep the mind busy.' Then my heart will take care of the good stuff. Yea, that's my notion. But, I feel so much empathy out here in the emptiness of the Carrizo Gorge. Like, this is the only place I could feel empathy. I get it: balance. And I only feel it when my life is on the line where the next second in the moment matters.

I step on a large boulder and it is loose. My shin slips off and the rock scrapes off some skin. I catch myself amid a tangled mess of mesquite. I'm okay. I'll take better care of each step. I notice a couple gashes on my right hand, bleeding and smeared with dirt. I am part of this whole thing already; the desert. The ruggedness in this gorge is crazy. It is a real fight in here. I climb and push through tamarisk that choke the channel. A few pools linger while the slowly evaporate under the desert sun, sludge-filled with gunked up algae. The thicker of impenetrable tamarisk is flanked and guarded by hordes of low and brushy mesquite and rip-tearing catclaw. Slow progress ensues and I show no teeth. I plod and swipe and push. Everything else pokes or jabs and it's not long before I'm part of the trail. Blood smears and runs down my shin. No matter, I need it.

I find a ramshackle camp underneath two very large boulders. The hollowed out camp has a colorful hand woven bag, green with a strap and some serape--type designs used for sitting on and carrying provisions. Lying next to the satchel is a couple burnt out ravioli cans and a wad of toilet paper with shit caked on it that lies next to a covered up and stamped out fire pit. Adjacent to all of this is a burrowed out fat stem of a barrel cactus and a mangled deer carcass. This migrant knew what he was doing. No wall big enough will stop the tenacity of a people trying to find a 'good' life, no deserts or mountains will evaporate the deaths of people; they'll never stop. If you want something bad enough, your back against the wall, you will go to extreme measure to attain it.

I camped stealthily on an island above two creek channels behind a large boulder buried in the compacted sand. The wind howled for most of the night as I laid on the top of my quilt feeling the cool desert air. I hardly slept, but I was tantalized by the stars above.

A rivulet of a pink ray peered over the jagged ridge line. I startled up as I felt the morning light grow behind my closed eyelids. I set off early and before I knew I was at Box Willow campground, which had a water spigot. But not before I startled a coyote family of three, the little one unawares of my arrival, so he darted off with his tail between his legs yelping a low chirp. I packed out 2.5 gallons of water for the 35m stretch, not knowing if that would be enough, for the temps around 830am seemed to dictate a hotter day ahead of me. 

And Arroyo del Diablo proved no less. Within the eroded time-froze mud walls the sun bore down like a beast's breath over the neck of a prey. The hot wind blew off mud caked flakes from the walls. Temps soared and I couldn't stop drinking my warm water. With a swollen tongue I muttered a word. Only a raspy and gravelly voice sounded, although I do not know what I muttered. I just remember muttering. The balls of my feet burned and salt crystallized around my neckline. My eyes burned. My umbrella, useless. While keenly aware of my condition I paced out my steps conserving energy and enduring the sweltering heat. My water ran scarily low, so  went down Fish Creek Canyon towards a quicker route towards water, rather than up canyon towards the eventual Hapaha Flat and Harper Canyon. I was aware what was going on, of my state and staggering. I kept wobbling down the wash but the heat was overwhelming, confounding. My water kept hot, shade laid scarce. Finally the cool of the evening came as I sinewed down the tall narrows of the canyon. The geology of the canyon took my mind off things, yet I was reminded of time, or the age of things. Then, I looked up and saw that night was encroaching like any last light of day, the end. The wind picked up, quite gusty at times, as I kept on until I found a spot with cover. I nearly collapsed from exhaustion but I urinated first. A brown, murky piss came stiffly flowing out. I knew what that meant. I slugged a half liter and I flopped down. I fell right to sleep on my pad and woke about an hour later in pitch blackness. Beautiful out, with the twinkling stars and the eerie yet luminous layered shadows of the high walls and ridges above me, a bat flitted across my night line and I plowed into some beans and chips. I laid back down, my kidneys cramping in my lower back. I forced a snore.

The next morning things were cool. That is until I neared the open desert. Huge clouds of whipping sand mushroomed up in the sky. The wind fiercely blew and drove the loose sand towards the Salton Sea. At one point, I hunkered down in a ditch beneath the sparse canopy of a greasewood to avoid the blowing sand. Gusts kicked up easily over 50mph. The dust storm passed and I heard a tiny beep. To my surprise, a truck stood nearby, the driver mouthing words that I could not hear. Larry asked if I was okay. I told him, 'Yea, but I won't turn down some water.' 'What about breakfast?' Turn down that?"


At his compound, high powered trucks lined under car canopies. Men were scrambling and preparing for what I knew not. Larry said this was a place that worked on souped up trucks. But I became suspicious when everyone called the charismatic Boston cat 'sir.' Even the blokes in sheriff's uniforms and and the military men in fatigues. Computers lined long rooms with manned stations. Radar looked present. I thought Larry was Hannibal of the A-Team. He totally charmed me over and helped me out of the brain dump. To be honest, he got my mind out of the sun-exhausted and wind-blasted muck from that morning and the previous day. Feeling full of food and motivated he dropped me back off. I figured later on that day that that operation must be there for drug running purposes. But what a shift in mentality Larry provided.

Across the Borrego Badlands through a wind and dust storm, I squinted my brow and forged ahead. My left ear filled with dirt, my nose became a bit caked with dirt boogers.Then, I applied my buff to replicate a turban. Cross country I went through the badlands, tip toeing on ice cream ridges, mounds of pink and orange mud baked well done every second of every day. The lion within roared. Under 5 Palmas a calming sensation occurred within me. I relished in the shade while the blowing fronds lulled me to a meditative sleep with my eyes open. After a highway crossing, I filled up with 2 gallons of water from a cache I stashed there. I battled the screaming wind on an exposed ridge, then played a fun game of climbing steeply up loose hillsides, scampering over broad mesas, then back down gravelly rims and slopes. The end of day three, in a tight wash, quiet save for the ringing in my ears, I laid down tiredly. The absence of wind made the ringing quite loud, like a shell shock, a mad lullaby, a chiming chaos, and I toyed with the volume in my head trying to control the cacophony.

Ah, the next morning was grand. A slot canyon entrance guarded by a large catclaw the size of a small tree had a mylar balloon saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY pried within the talons of the giant shrub. For all I wished the balloon said GO FUCK YERSELF. These are all too common in the desert east of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. Attaining a sky line after Wonderstone Wash I was afforded views of the Coachella Valley. After walking all day I got to my first town stop. People lined up at a Starbuck's drive thru, and I fund irony in the people of the desert, blazing hot, looking to get a hot cup of joe in broad daylight. I waited until dusk to walk out of town. The Friday streets of Mecca lined with Mexicans all said hello as I strolled by. I hoofed it out carrying a gallon of water in hand. Sleeping on the Coachella irrigation canal under a dazzling night sky I couldn't help but think of those buffoons at the famous music festival and here on this canal I had the whole valley and the lights of the sky to myself.

The Orocopa Wilderness had a maze of canyons and washed within tumbled mountain ridges pirouetting from the main axis of Orocopia Peak. The landscape showed utter erosion scraped clean from fast moving water, although rare spectacles as those floods may be. Transitioning from the Sonora to the Mojave Desert has been fascinating. From palo verde to ironwood, to ocotillo blending in between with red blooms around 2000ft; greasewood toe creosote, various chollas to yucca, the fan palms and oases disappearing while the jojoba and the occasional juniper appear. Even the rock is different, more volcanic and less-sea bed quality. Either way the wind howls and I am grateful for it. Water is non-existent, stretches between replenishing my bladders is 50m, over and over. I'm pushing it to say the least. But the mornings and the late afternoons are of dreamboat material. And I walk through puzzles of drainages, pour-offs to navigate keep me focused until I hit wide open country and let loose in singing, no, screaming out loud, letting it all free from what ever is diseased in me. Alive I feel, maybe that's how I keep my sanity.

The desert evokes a fear, deep inside of us, even me, a lover of the desert. You simply do not know what to expect. No cover, no shade, utterly exposed, only left to talk and think among the many selves of you. It can drive a man to insanity.Everything is so bare, so eroded, naked. It's the deepest crevasses of the human mind and spirit, all of it, like a desert. The desert shows us who we are, what we are afraid of. If we succumb to the fear, may the lion roar.

I don't know what lies ahead. Temps may get too hot and the water may be run dry. This sensibility thing, I know enough not to die no matter how hard I push myself. I've seen the brink, I know what I'm made of.

I'm the lone straggler waddling into the truck stop to eat food, wash  myself in the sink basin, and find a cubbyhole to hide my body to sleep within the desert fringe as the world moves slowly on. That thought, that empathy for what ails, the striving for balance, that thought has ended for now.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Forgotten Route: The Desert Trail

Along forgotten paths, I see human migration, abandoned industry operations, game paths leading to safety, to an unreliable water source, or to a lair. Most of all, I see human exploration coupling with an undying curiosity and love for a landscape. It’s more than a recreational endeavor, more than a notch to list off in this day and age of ‘me' and comparison. I can see the vestige of previous human existence. Overgrown grasses and shrubs carpet an old road, wheel ruts are gouged beneath the small canopy of sagebrush and creosote in time frozen. Rusted metal pokes out of the sandy ground, heavy cogs and corroded rotors bake in the sun, the maw of adits exhale a cold, deep-in-the-ground-breath. The wind whips up grit of tiny sand pebbles erasing the nostalgia of times past, that vision of thriving or bustling wiped out by immediate needs: lack of water, thirst, the blazing sun, the unforgiving wind, the eerie stillness of harshness. And I see the wavy lines of the distant horizon. I leave the forgotten area for an illusion ahead.

I think of the Desert Trail as the Forgotten Route. The excitement that Russell Pangelly must have had in the early 1960's in potentially establishing the DT as a National Scenic Trail must have been fervorous. He evisioned a trail, with little signage and little actual trail path, and route finding navigation by map and compass. He scoured over maps to determine a route through a continuous desert environment on public land. He patterend his idea of the DT around the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails, which at the time were the only 2 National Scenic Trails. This interesting and unique concept of the DT is that the common geological, biological, historical and scenery would integrate the common theme of the desert ecosystem spanning from Mexico to Canada, close to 2500m. The essentially unspoiled landscape, in particular a public land landscape, would be open to hikers to roam and explore. The DT promoted a wide-open space for hikers to explore and relieved pressure off of well-trodden and heavily impacted trails like the PCT and AT. An immense wilderness, a trail corridor, protected and backed by Congress, a National Scenic Trail that embodies the iconic West? What happened to this idea, this incredible concept? I imagine back in the 1960's the notion of a thru-hiker must have been far-fetched. Maybe it seemed more feasible in 1975 as Pengelly's son hiked the Oregon Desert section in 35 days and some 452m, which spawned parts of the eventual Oregon Desert Trail in its seedling days. In this day and age, with the popularity of trail culture and long distance hiking, even with craze of conservation, the concept of an actual Desert Trail, in a country with the greatest trail system in the world, seems unreasonable, a forgotten idea and a dream.

'Trail contruction will be minimal. Instead, the path can be marked in areas simply with cairns and it can be a point to point route.' excerpt from Backpacker article in 1976 by Betty Tucker, Building the Desert Trail

The Desert Trail Association formed in 1972 in Burns OR by Pangelly. He began ceaselessly writing letters to congressmen and officials at the USFS and the BLM, along with letters to wildlife and recreational groups, and conservation and hiking groups. Enthusiasm built and a year later, along with public land managers, the DTA scouted and hiked the first 30m of the DT from Diamond Craters to the Steens Mountains in southeastern Oregon. Pengelly's dream had legs. The proposed route described high desert peaks and barren yet brushy basins stretching from Southern California to northwestern Nevada. old stands of pinyons, ancient bristlecones and mountain mahogany stood watch over carpeted basins. Alkaline flats shimmered in the distance, the trail stumbled upon oases and thermal hot springs in random and remote locations, even shallow lakes squawking with waterfowl are abundant. The desert changes crossing volcanic lava fields, skirts craters and tip-toes over abrupt escarpments. Even water flows in some areas and you wonder while you pass old mining camps and caves, tramping near ancient indian camps and finding fossils and arrowheads, who survived here, thrived here so long ago. 

Interest ran high, but little was done in implementing the route further than a route description. Legislation even introduced to Congress in 1973 and 1975 to become a NST became unsuccessful. But that didn't stop the DTA from trying to keep establishing the DT corridor and route. Over a period of years the DTA began devloping and scouting routes in California and Nevada, with the section north from Diamond Craters in Oregon to and through Idaho and up into Canada never scouted or walked. Individuals of the DTA kept the vision alive and painstakingly placed cairns in lonesome ridges or plotted routes on maps or walked seldom-seen drainages and braved the lack of water and heat to do so. 

Original Desert Trail sketched route

The Desert Trail was a work in progress. As a matter of fact, it still is. Maps have been developed by the DTA with original maps from High Rock Canyon in northwestern Nevada to Diamond Craters published by the DTA throughout the 1980's at various times. The USFS and the BLM even have plotted the DT route on some maps with advanced planning in mind. I have even seen the DT signified in the Nevada Benchmark atlas maps in the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge Area. Then another group emerged into the picture, the Desert Survivors, a desert conservation group. Steve Tabor of the Desert Survivors worked with the DTA and developed the exquisite and incredibly informative Desert Trail Guidebook series of the California and Nevada portions of the DT in the late 1990s. Then, George Huxtable of the Death Valley Hiker Association published a guidebook of the Death Valley section in 1999. 

Another desert themed concept sprouted up in the mid-1980s with the forming of the Oregon Natural Desert Association from a diverse group with a shared love of the Oregon Desert. In 2010, Brent Fenty, ONDA's executive director, envisioned a route across southeastern Oregon connecting the wild places he and ONDA cherished so much, which eventually ONDA dubbed the Oregon Desert Trail. In 2011, ONDA took on this initiative and concept to make that desert landscape accessible and to become even more protected. The ODT spanned 750m and is still a work in progress having been hiked and explored by lovers of the desert, day, section, and thru-hikers alike. The ODT overlaps with the DT in the Pueblo Mountains traversing rugged hillsides under cliff faces scampered by bighorn sheep, across the barren yet colorful Alvord Desert, up in to the craggy Steens Mountains where one my encounter snow and brushy overgrown paths, all the way to Page Springs near the southern boundary of the Malhuer Refuge. In 2013, Sage Clegg, first hiked, even pedaled some, the entire 750m or so length of the ODT. Then in 2015, Renee 'She-ra' Patrick began working for ONDA as the ODT Trail Coordinator, as well as hiking the totality of the route and scouting further routes for the ODT. These accomplishments and She-ra's hiring are quite notable since Sage and She-ra are Triple Crowners, which brings critical attention and validity to the route and brings more eyes, ears, and feet to the desert.

'The biggest challenge is water.' Favorite line from Backpacker's 1976 article

The DTA still remains the de facto organization supporting the Desert Trail. At one time, 400 members supported and promoted the route. But just as the route lost steam from Highway 78 near Burns OR, the DTA did as well. Members aged, public attention shifted to popular hiking trails and more 'scenic' areas, and volunteer numbers dwindled. In 2007, momentum finally hit a wall and the DTA took a 7 year hiatus. In my eyes, from a desert lover, the route vanished because no one walked it. From my outside perspective, the DTA deteriorated in a similar light. Organizations need people, trails need walking. Although the DTA is an aging group, enthusiasm has grown and gained some steam slowly. In 2014 the DTA rebooted and 100 members now exist with the number of members and volunteers slowly growing. Besides the work of ONDA and She-ra for the ODT, the DTA is kept breathing by Dan Chamness, who provided me with some DT maps and is the editor of the quarterly newsletter Desert Trails. The DTA, Death Valley Hiking Association, and ONDA provide guided hiking trips, as well. Even trail work opportunities construct and support the life of these desert routes. It seems the DTA and the DT are survivable, but in my opinion, no one brought more critical attention to the DT than Buck Nelson. Simply put: he walked it.

In 2012, Buck hiked the then 'offical' Desert Trail route from Jucumba Hot Springs at the CA and Mexico border to Highway 78 near Burns OR. The route to that point was roughly 1500m. Buck's plan was to pioneer a route, roughly another 700m, to Canada. He eventually did. His route north from Highway 78 in central OR through the Blue Mountains, the Columbia River Plateau, through Spokane and up into the Selkirks and the Salmo-Priest Wilderness is now adopted by the DTA as the 'official route.' What Buck did was to complete a vision held by Russell Pangelly back in the early 1960s. Suddenly, the Desert Trail was not forgotten.

Buck Nelson on the Desert Trail in the Mojave Preserve
Buck's idea sprang from his work as a wildland firefighter and in the wild horse program across the expanse of the West's deserts, mountains and basins. He dreamed of a another route from Mexico to Canada in the West. Then, he stumbled across the DT in his research for a route. In the summer of 2011, he began planning in earnest. He received the guidebooks, the maps, and schemed up a route to connect to Canada with as much of a desert theme as possible. After all, the DT was to mimic the PCT and AT in stature, though slightly less stature. I asked both Buck and Dan Chamness, DTA secretary, why the original idea and sketched route of the DT stopped at Highway 78. Both wrote to me telling me the DTA planners ran out of steam. Private land posed an issue as well, and the route never got hiked. Buck came along with tons of outdoor and long distance hiking experience. A Triple Crowner himself, he developed a strategy and timing, scoured over walkable areas on maps, researched resupply options and caching points, and communicated with DTA folks, especially Dave 'Seldom Seen' Green, who at the time was the DTA chair. Most impressively, Buck spent a month caching food and water along the route, in particular in CA and NV, the first 1000m of trail. Water sources are scarce and unreliable in these vast areas, and the food hauls long and far apart. Caching food and water might be a painstaking and an exhaustive effort but it was important to Buck to lighten his pack, to be self-sufficient and reliant. I believe all this planning also showed his committment to hiking this route successfully. Then, as he walked, he tracked his route on a GPS and Google Earth and developed an actual walked route. From March to July in 2012, he hike the length of Mexcio to Canada, some 2223m, through a desert landscape. He finished the Desert Trail at a lone obelisk right near the triple point of the WA, ID, and Canada borders.

I think Buck's timing was perfect. New technology in mapping and research, the popularity of long distance hiking in the U.S., even the trend of route-invention to extend past the popular trails and areas, along with his outdoor experience all influenced and enabled him to complete the first ever 'thru-hike'of the Desert Trail. And now, I think the DT needs to be acknowledge, verified, and validated by other hikers to celebrate a different type of landscape, one that has a fear associated with it. Dryness, heat, lack of water, poisonous snakes, death----even more inherent fears of the desert stick in the mind. My intention is to hike the DT in a traditional thru-hiking fashion, carrying the long hauls of food and gallons of water on my back. I think I can do it, because I believe this is a route worth fighting for, worth walking, worth exploring. In totality, the desert is in me, more than what you think, even what I think. I truly hope to re-create Buck's route and/or modify the route to make it better, more walkable for others. The Desert Trail is a work in progress, certainly, and I aspire to push that progress towards something more real, more attainable, in the eyes of hikers, let alone the mindscape of our population.

The Desert Trail is mainly a trackless route across the deserts of CA, NV, and OR. Barren and wide open views, to say the least, with remote walking across basins, through sandy washes, and lonesome ridges. The DT consists of 656m in CA, 685m in NV, and about 159m more in southeastern OR until Highway 78. Included in the adopted route of the DTA is Buck's 723m extending to Canada. Most of the route is what I described in the beginning of this article, at least in my vision of what I drum up in my imagination. I cannot wait to re-create what I have in my mind, to solitary walk what I have been dreaming of for some time. 

The Desert Trail is an original idea that uses no other defined or named trails, a concept within a harsh landscape within a now popular trail culture: this route should be on the map of the mind of experienced long distance hikers. The route is a forgotten trail. Pushed and failed in legislation, an again and fading membership in a once-defunct organization, private land issues hindered a route further north, diminished public interest in an inhospitable place, environmental and mental obstacles in hiking the route complete, other cooler and more scenic trails gained in popularity like the PCT, and no one hiked it until Buck in 2012 all contributed to the lapse and fading memory and construction of the Desert Trail. Maybe that was the original intent of the DT----to have the ephemeral characteristic of a desert implanted in the underlying theme of the route. Trail-less, sign-less, lonesome and isolated, challenging and threatening, the vestiges of thriving times and ages extremely susceptible to the harshness of the desert, the boom and the bust---the bonanzas and the borrascas---the fat and the lean. All I know is my footsteps will remain temporarily, swept away in an ethereal air never to be seen again. One day my bones will be out there drying and baking in the sun, buried in the sand. The desert is here and now. The Desert Trail still is and, for me, not forgotten.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Desert Reflection

In the looming distance. abrupt angles signify a rise in the desert, a hazy butte wrestling with the veracity of what water formed; I relentlessly walk towards what I am not sure exists. What is it about the desert that validates my existence or what can be tangibly manifested from a force of nature? In contrary, what is it about the desert that validates nothing, that emboldens the void of a vacuum? Gazing at the blurry butte wondering if what is in front of me is simply created from my imagination deep within me or if the phenomena of the sun is an emblazoned mirage of something falsely physical, either way the impulse of curiosity, the instinct of my nomadic human way pushes me forward. Am I seeing through my eyes a manifestation of what my spirit imagines, or what my heart wishes to teach me? Or is it something on a basic level of survival? The need for water, thirst; the need for food, hunger; the need for existence, essence.

Desert Trail Itinerary

*Note* This itinerary is a tentative rough draft. Addresses, mileage and timeframe are subject to change. After the hike I will turn this page and information into a spreadsheet to make it easier to read. As the Swami says: 'Mother Nature doesn't have your itinerary, mate.' 

I will be updating this as I see informative with the forethought that someone else may find this useful in planning a future thru hike of the Desert trail. The itinerary is constructed with my intention to thru hike the DT without caching any food, however, I will cache water for the first 300m down south in the Borrego and Mojave Deserts. If any one has any updated information, in particular from hiking sections or the entirety of the DT, please feel free to contact me, so I can update this itinerary.  

 A very valuable resource is Buck Nelson's site. Click HERE. I'd be remiss if I didn't give him the due respect for all the undertaking and planning from his DT thru hike and adventure in 2012. More history and information.

Desert Trail
(91 days) 

Jucumba Hot Springs to Mecca (111m)
  • 4/9-4/13
  • Mecca PO, package and maps to I40, Ludlow crossing
General Delivery
91307 2nd St.
Mecca CA 92254
M-F 0900-1630
    • Jucumba to Box Willow CG (23m)
    • BW to Hwy 78 (35m)
    • Hwy 78 to Hwy S-22 (18m)
    • Hwy S-22 to Mecca (35m)
•Mecca to Ludlow (160m)
  • 4/13-4/19
  • Ludlow, I40 crossing, resupply meet-up, maps to I15, Baker crossing
Kelso Depot Visitor Center
90942 Kelso-Cima Rd.
Kelso CA 92309
    • Mecca to Box Cyn Rd. (20m)
    • BC Rd. to I10 (23m)
    • I10 to Eagle Mtn. Rd. (33m)
    • Eagle Mtn. Rd. to Hwy 62 (27m)
    • Hwy 62 to Rte 66 (38m)
    • Rte 66 to I40 (19m)
•Ludlow to Baker (112m)
  • 4/20-4/23
  • Baker, I15 crossing, resupply meet-up, maps to Stovepipe Wells
    • I40 to Kelso Dunes Rd. (21m)
    • Kelso Dunes Rd. to Kelso (12m)
    • Kelso to Hole-in-the-Wall (22m)
    • HITW to Cima (21m)
    • Cima to I15 (36m)
•Baker to Tecopa Hot Springs (61m)
  • 4/25-4/27
  • Tecopa HS, package, dropped off or mailed
Tecopa Hot Springs Resort
860 Tecopa Hot Springs Rd.
Tecopa, CA 92389
    • I15 to Kingston Rd. (32m)
    • Kingston Rd. to Tecopa HS (29m)
•Tecopa Hot Springs to Stovepipe Wells (95m)
  • 4/27-5/1
  • Stovepipe Wells, package and maps to Hwy 6, Tonopah crossing
Stovepipe Wells General Store
51880 CA Hwy 190
Death Valley, CA 92328
    • Tecopa HS to Greenwater Rd./Miller Jct. (24m)
    • Miller Jct. to Sheep Cyn. (20.5m)
    • Sheep Cyn. to N. End of West Side Rd. (22.5m)
    • N. End of West Side Rd. to Stovepipe Wells (28m)
Alternate: Panamint Range Traverse: (~115m), hike into SW

•Stovepipe Wells to Tonopah (179m)
  • 5/2-5/7
  • Tonopah, resupply in-town, PO maps only to Hwy 94, Hawthorne crossing
General Delivery
201 Erie Main
Tonopah NV 89049
    • Stovepipe Wells to Goldbelt Spring (22m)
    • Goldbelt Spring to Racetrack Valley (14m)
    • Racetrack Valley to Ubehebe Crater (25m)
    • Ubehebe Crater to Eureka Dunes (23m)
    • Eureka Dunes to NV Border (20m)
    • NV Border to NV Rte. 266 (12m)
    • NV Rte. 266 to McAfee Cyn. (26m)
    • McAfee Cyn. to Fish Lake Valley (18m)
    • Fish Lake Valley to Hwy 6 (19m) 
•Tonopah to Hawthorne (77m)
  • 5/9-5/11
  • Hawthorne, resupply in-town, PO maps only to I80, Lovelock crossing
  • Luning crossing at Hwy 95, possible PO
General Delivery
701 6th St.
Hawthorne NV 89415
    • Hwy 6 to NV Rte. 360 (22m)
    • NV Rte. 360 to Marietta Rd. (20m)
    • Marietta Rd. to Garfield Flat Rd. (14m)
    • Garfield Flat Rd. to Hwy 95 (21m)
•Hawthorne to Lovelock (203m)
  • 5/12-5/19
  • Hwy 50, Fallon crossing, bailout option for resupply, Middlegate Crossing (74m)
  • Lovelock, resupply in-town, PO maps only to Gerlach/Black Rock Desert
  • Alternate hike into Lovelock
General Delivery
390 Main St.
Lovelock NV 89419
    • Hwy 95 to Gabbs Valley (32m)
    • Gabbs Valley to Bell Flat (23m)
    • Bell Flat to Hwy 50 (19m)
    • Hwy 50 to Dixie Valley Rd. (25m)
    • Dixie Valley Rd to Stillwater Rd. (Stillwater Range Traverse) (61m)
    • Stillwater Rd. to East Rd. (21m)
    • East Rd. to I80 (22m)
•Lovelock to Gerlach (117m)
  • 5/21-5/25
  • Gerlach PO, package and maps to Denio
  • 12.5m hike/hitch from Sulphur Rd. to Gerlach, (~130m with hike/hitch)
General Delivery
345 E. Sunset Blvd.
Gerlach NV 89412
    • I80 to Granite Spgs Valley Rd. (33m)
    • Granite Spgs Valley Rd. to Juniper Pass (17m)
    • Juniper Pass to Kumiva Valley (19m)
    • Kumiva Valley to Kumiva Pass (15m)
    • Kumiva Pass Sulphur Rd. (33m)
•Gerlach to Denio (178m)
  • 5/26-6/1
  • Denio PO, package and maps to La Grande
General Delivery
1 Main St.
Denio NV 89404
    • Sulphur Rd. to Wheeler Reservoir (42m)
    • Wheeler Reservoir to Soldier Meadows (26m)
    • Soldiers Meadows to High Rock Cyn. (13m)
    • High Rock Cyn. to Cottonwood Cyn. (32m)
    • Cottonwood Cyn. to Pueblo Mtns. near Denio (65m)
•Denio to Burns (160m)
  • 6/2-6/8
  • Fields Station, cafe, motel
  • Frenchglen (3m off trail)
  • Hwy 78, Burns crossing, resupply in-town, hitch
    • Denio to Fields (30m)
    • Fields to Alvord Hot Springs (25m)
    • Alvord Hot Springs to Big Indian Gorge Rim (15m)
    • Big Indian Gorge Rim to Page Springs (30m)
    • Page Springs to Diamond Craters (30m)
    • Diamond Craters to Hwy 78 (30m)
•Burns to Austin Junction (150m)
  • 6/9-6/14
  • Austin Junction, minimal resupply, cafe
  • Drinwater Pass, cafĂ©
  • Sumpter, full resupply
Austin House Cafe & Country Store
75802 Hwy 26
Bates OR 97817
    • Hwy 78 to Drinkwater Pass (~66m)
    • Drinkwater Pass to Austin Junction (~84m)
    • Alternate mileage:
      • Road 13 to Hwy 26 (28.5m)
      • Hwy 26 to Sumpter (26.5m)
•AJ to La Grande (~117m)
  • 6/15-6/19
  • I84, La Grande crossing, maps to PO to Canada, resupply in-town, hitch
General Delivery
1202 Washington Ave.
La Grande OR 97850
    • AJ to FS Rd. 52 (~60m)
    • FS Rd. 52 to I84 (~57m)
    • Alternate mileage:
      • Sumpter to Hwy 244 (69m)
      • Hwy 244 to I84 (41m), resupply in La Grande
•La Grande to Dayton (~149m)
  • 6/20-6/25
  • Tollgate, small cafe and store
  • Dayton, resupply in-town
  • Starbuck, no resupply, PO
    • La Grande to Timothy Springs (~80)
    • Timothy Springs to Dayton (~69m)
    • Alternate mileage:
      • I84 to Tollgate/Hwy 204 (51.5m)
      • Tollgate to terminus/Tucannon trailhead (99.5m)
      • Terminus to Buck's DT near Starbuck (mileage unknown)
•Dayton to Spokane (~133m)
  • 6/26-6/30
  • Hooper, PO, no store
  • Spokane, resupply in-town 
    • Dayton to Hooper (~43m)
    • Hooper to Spokane (~90m)
•Spokane to Newport (~64m)
  • 7/2-7/3
  • Newport, resupply in-town
    • West Spokane to Mt. Spokane (~36m)
    • Mt. Spokane to Blanchard (~16m)
    • Blanchard to Newport (~12m)
•Newport to Canada (~95m)
  • 7/4-7/8
  • Exit via the ICT, (+22.5m) to Upper Priest Lake State Park

Monday, March 19, 2018

Desert Trail Map

Goals with creating Desert Trail map:
  • Preparing the route for my hike. Since there is no other online resource other than Buck's map on his website showing the totality of the DT, this was the best way to pre-hike the trail mentally. I also plotted the Desert Trail from Jucumba Hot Springs, CA to Highway 78 in OR using the Desert Trail Association's Guidebooks and Maps.
  • To provide an updated map resource with water info, resupply stops, and navigation info. This thru-hike attempt will be the follow up to Buck's thru-hike in 2012, so all the information gathered will be the most current.
  • To have a living map/document with me out on trail to use and update, as well as a back-up resource for the paper maps.
  • To 'field-truth' the route and plot waypoints of a 'live' location overlapping with planned plotted waypoints.
  • To eventually create a GPS track and file for future thru-hikers, as well as a downloadable map set.
  • To promote awareness of the DT, as well as to reinvigorate and validate Buck's established and recognized route of the DT by the Desert Trail Assn. extending to the Canadian border.
  • Buck's Desert Trail map: click here
Map and location facts:

  • Patterned after the PCT and AT, the DT is a conceptual route dreamed up and planned by Russell Pengelly back in the 1960's.
  • The DT extended to Highway 78 in Oregon, near Burns, from Jucumba Hot Springs CA, a short distance east of the PCT.
  • The route north from Highway 78 to Canada was developed and hiked by Buck Nelson in 2012.
  • The Oregon Desert Trail uses the DT through the Pueblo and Steens Mountains connected by the Alvord Desert in southeastern OR.
  • I will be scouting a potential route in northeastern OR that ties closely with what Buck created tentatively dubbed the Blue Mountain Trail schemed up by Jason Bulay. More to come on this alternate and/or route and how it overlaps and provides a scenic alternate for the DT.
  • In Death Valley, I am planning on hiking my Death Valley NoName Route as a more scenic alternate of the DT through DV. This route includes potentially a 'first documented' traverse attempt of the Panamint Range from south to north. Ultimately, I want to create this DV NoName as a complete traverse, which in 2015 I hiked from Stovepipe Wells to Willow Spring including a descent down Bighorn Gorge. 
  • I waypointed close to 1500 plots in preparation for the DT thru-hike. See map below.

  • Steve Tabor's The Desert Trail in California and The Desert Trail in Nevada guidebook series. Absolutely incredible series with great route description, flora and fauna information, water sources, photos, and map sketches.
  • George Huxtable's Hiking the Desert Trail: A Guided Route Covering the Length of Death Valley book.
  • The Desert Trail Guide map series from northwestern NV, including the Black Rock Desert, and southeastern OR, as published by the Desert Trail Association and provided by Dan Chamness of the DTA.
  • Buck Nelson's site provided the most useful and up to date information by a thru-hiker. Without his site, the DT as it now is may not exist save for a distant public memory. Here's his link again: click here
  • The Oregon Desert Trail's website: click here
  • Benchmark Map and Atlas books of CA, NV, OR, and WA.
  • GAIA app.
  • Previous hiking of the DT in sections including the Borrego Desert, Death Valley, and on the ODT in the Pueblos and the Steens in OR.

Stay tuned for more updates!!