Section 1: San Diego to Calexico
Today was fun. We camped near enough to I-8 to hear the sound of traffic all night. We planned to decide in the morning whether to hike back to the road and a clear path or continue into the wilderness without knowing how difficult it’d be.
Which way to go? Of course we decided to push on.
We both hate walking on roads. Especially an interstate.
In our research we’d heard of a palm oasis, and we decided to try and navigate towards it. The palm groves generally indicate a more saturated area and we are perpetually searching for water. Shortly into the day, with no indication of anything but bone dry desert, we reluctantly abandoned our vision of gushing waterfalls. The wash we alternatively chose presented some challenges but we made decent time, hitting a Jeep road for a couple miles and picking up speed. By 8am it was already hot. Even though we were surrounded by a monotone, brown landscape, we remembered Kelly’s (the bp agent) claim from the previous night that the area was full of archeology, grinding stones and artifacts throughout the Jacumba Wilderness.
We found the next wash we needed to follow pretty easily. Again, the first part was tough, as it began with a 30 ft pour off, but it eventually opened up and turned into beautiful care-free hiking. Palm groves sprung up frequently and were a pleasure to weave through, naturally air conditioned and providing perfect shade. We were on another migrant trail and followed a crowd of footprints down the drainage. Again, they were exceedingly helpful in route finding.
All in all, our route through the Jacumba wilderness has been all over the place due to the canyons and boulder fields. We zigzagged a bunch, hiking way north then south then north again. It was an interesting contrast to the migrant paths, which all moved north. All the footprints fell in line with one another except ours which traveled in reverse and stuck out. Such high traffic concentrated at night and by daylight it’s all melted away. Today was the first day of the trip where we didn’t see or talk to another person. It’s remote terrain and border patrol knows who we are by now.
Our wash eventually emptied out into a sandy valley and blistering heat. We couldn’t find shade even if we wanted to. We thought we could cut off some of the miles the circuitous Jeep roads added to our hike by going cross country. In this heat, you could drink a liter of water an hour (and we didn’t have enough liters). We couldn’t get too many miles in before needing to crawl into the nearest patch of shade and cool down. You could not survive for long here in the heat of summer.
Traveling cross country takes a lot out of you. The terrain was fairly flat but we climbed in and out of drainage after drainage, sometimes with rocks and sand tumbling out underneath you. Tiring stuff. Eventually the sun was low enough to cast a shadow on the western edge of the drainage and it was blissful to get the 5 seconds of shade, brief as it was. By early afternoon we knew we’d make our campsite well before dark, and it was relaxing to be able to move at a less worried pace.
By 4 we’d reached the general area we wanted to sleep in and we began the uncertain process of figuring out where to camp. At this point we’ve received so much advice on where to go to avoid being in someone’s way that we’re paralyzed by all the input.
Do we camp up high? Down low?
Tucked away or in the open, with plenty of room to move around on either side? Your imagination plays tricks on you and you see footprints and trails wherever you look. In these areas with high migrant traffic there’s nowhere that people don’t go. So pick a spot and try not to worry. They aren’t interested in us, they’re interested in the life that lies ahead of them. Around 7:30pm Tenny heard furtive footsteps in the wash below. We seemed to have picked an ok spot, though, as the crunch of sand beneath shoes continued without pause, moving past us and towards something else.