Section 1: San Diego to Calexico


Day 9

17.0 miles


Still, not the best night of sleep. We both felt uneasy about the spot we’d picked even though our mysterious footsteps hadn’t caused any trouble. It’s just nerve racking to lie in the tent with no visibility hoping you haven’t been noticed. Even when things don’t go wrong we are still constantly anxious! At some point a strong wind started up and it was impossible to hear anything or sleep over the sound of the flapping tent. Thank God today is a town day! We’re ready for a hotel.


We get going before it’s fully light, wanting to get the long walk into Calexico out of the way before it gets too hot. The sunrise is beautiful, and the wash that we’re walking along is full of intriguing twists and turns. The rock is striated black and white and changes constantly as we dance our way through the narrow canyon. The Jacumba wilderness has definitely been hard, but it’s also felt like trail, and it’s hard to leave knowing we’ll be hiking along roads soon. At least our legs will get a break.


Border Patrol regularly wipes all border roads clean by dragging a tire apparatus behind their vehicle. The goal is to distinguish old footprints from new.    

Border Patrol regularly wipes all border roads clean by dragging a tire apparatus behind their vehicle. The goal is to distinguish old footprints from new.






The wash we’ve been hiking in empties out in a large flat plain that stretches all the way to Calexico’s border. You can see the contrast really well on GoogleMaps - stark desert that abruptly switches to the perfectly aligned squares of green crop land. We’ve been intrigued by this area since we first saw the maps. The walk in, however, not so much. We feel like we’re in a cartoon, where our legs are moving but the scenery is unchanging.

Just sand, scrub, more sand and the endless whir of traffic from the road to our left. And where’s a gal supposed to pee out here with any hope of preserving her tender modesty?

There’s a faint smudge on the horizon that must be Calexico and it barely moves closer as we trudge through the day.


We meet our first female Border Patrol agent who barrels towards us cross country in her official white truck the second she sees us. She’s shocked when we tell her that we’ve just exited the Jacumba wilderness. Apparently no one is ever out there “for fun”. (If it was anywhere else, it would be a major outdoor playground for the adventurous). When we explain more about our trip, she gives us some good encouragement. Definitely feeling the girl power love. She offers to drive us into town so we don’t have to walk but we are reluctantly committed to making the miles ourselves. Too bad!


At the first sign of green on the outskirts of Calexico, we’re ready to call it quits. A thick line of tightly knitted palm trees springs up out of nowhere and guards the entrance to the Imperial Valley. We stop just past this at the first pull off and call a cab. So strange to do this on a hike. But it’s getting late and there’s no room in the fields to set up a tent. When the ride arrives, the driver has no idea who or what he’s picking up, way out on the highway, and he’s full of questions and good humor about what we’re doing out here. He’s originally from Mexicali, the much bigger city just across the border, and he fills us in on some of the politics of the area and recommends a few places to eat. We thank him and say goodbye at the hotel and get ready to enjoy the heck outta town.