We set off from the Mexican border at 7:21am on Saturday. The sun was already hot and our starts would get earlier and earlier over the coming days to combat the heat. Our hosts in San Diego had been wonderful. They fed us on Friday, helped with final advice and supplies, and drove us an hour from San Diego to the border in the morning.
As we set off initial impressions were dominated by pack weight and the ever-increasing glare of the sun and we traded thoughts about equipment choices, and what could be discarded, with the handful of other hikers who set off that morning.
This year the desert has benefitted from the change in weather patterns that comes with an El Nino shift and the desert shrubs are greener with new life than in most years. The Prickly Pear cacti have flowered with a range of colours from reds to deep purple, and there are small, fragile clusters of wild flowers emerging from the hard, dusty earth.
There has been very little shade available during the day and once the sun is high in the sky the temperature soars. We are in the Anza-Borrego desert canyons on the edge of the Mojave. The walking is anything but typical flat desert. Over the first five days we have climbed and descended ridge after ridge up to almost 6000ft. Only on the highest of those, Mount Laguna, did the desert scrub give way to alpine forest with towering pine trees with cones the size of small pineapples!
Our fitness is showing the first glimmers of improvement and although we’ve averaged a respectable 15 miles a day so far, yesterday we did 17 by midday (admittedly much downhill) to reach highway 78 and our first hitch into town to wash and resupply. The little mountain town of Julian (http://julian-california.com/) is a historic site and besides tourism it’s primary industry is apple orchards. In a bid to ensure we support the local economy on our way through it was only polite to purchase and devour generous helpings of deep dish apple pie with cinnamon ice-cream!
After a good night’s sleep we’ll continue into the San Felipe hills and the long climb over the next two or three days toward Warner Springs.