|Kelley with the Salton Sea in background|
We've been living in Seward, Alaska since October, where we've been settling into the rhythms of small town Alaska life in the winter. We have delighted in the slower pace of life and the walkabilty of our town. We bought a tiny home here in Seward last year, and finally this past fall, we got to move in and stay in the house. It's 400 square feet of luxurious comfort and shelter from the elements. We love it. At the same time, we love long distance hiking and sleeping outside, which is tough to find in an Alaskan winter, without gaining major new skills and buying super winter gear. The search for a place to hike and sleep outside with more than five hours of daylight led us back to southern California, a place we fell in love with last winter.
|Remnants of greenhouses near the Salton Sea|
The desert in winter is a wonderland for backpackers! The only major drawback is finding enough water, and that is much simpler to deal with than rain and snow in 20-40 degree temperatures. The group that we hiked the San Diego Trans County Trail with last year had been planning its dates and details for a while, and 10 days beforehand, we found Alaska airline miles that allowed us to jump on board. One of the joys of being minimally-employed is the flexibility to jump on opportunities. Reed booked us a flight for Palm Springs and we began our preparations. The excitement in our little house was huge, as we packed foods and clothing, trying to remember what would be useful in the desert climate. Our crate of summer clothes was dug out of the corner and rummaged through, to find sun shirts and hats.
|Walking in the Arroyo Salada|
The drive from Seattle to Seward took us 11 days last February. At that time, we were hauling a trailer full of our belongings, and the day time temperatures were well below freezing for most of the trip. This time, we would be traveling the opposite direction and even farther south. But, we would be flying on planes for most of the distance, and it really is amazing how airplanes have changed our perceptions of distances. Our first step was to get to Anchorage and leave our car with friends. Our flight out of Anchorage was scheduled for the middle of the night, as many flights to the "lower 48" are. We parked our car and decided to walk the 4.5 miles to the airport, because we had plenty of time, it was a reasonable 15 degrees outside and our luggage was our backpacks, and thus portable. We laughingly talked of the walk to the airport as our "approach" to the San Diego Trail.
|Sunrise over the Anza Borrego Desert|
Upon arrival in Palm Springs, we began undressing from our layers. We were surprised to find ourselves in a tropical, open air building. The next few days were spent acclimating and eating enormous amounts of fresh produce, something we miss in Seward. I remember particularly well a luscious cantaloupe that we bought and devoured. It was perfect! Additionally, we bought a bag of grapefruit that I tore through. All of this is representative of a couple of changes in our lives these days. First, what I already mentioned, that we don't get as much luscious fresh produce in our lives these days. And second, the balance between time and money has shifted dramatically. We needed to use airline miles in order to get to southern California, and doing so meant that we could arrive 5 days early. Since we're both only minimally working, there wasn't a problem with missing extra days of work. Lodging once we arrived in California could have presented a problem, but we figured that worst case scenario, we would walk and sleep in the desert. As it turned out, we were offered a place to stay with a lovely couple at their home in Indio, California. Reed and they connected via Couchsurfing. They were hikers and we delighted in spending those days with Rod and Fran, going on hikes and, as I said earlier, eating produce. They were amazingly kind and generous with us, taking us into the slot canyons of the Mecca Hills and feeding us well.
The hike itself began on January 5th, in the warm hours of the afternoon. Our group gathered over a number of hours, coming in various vehicles, including a Uhaul truck. Oh, hikers! It was a fantastic group of kind athletes who use the hike as a kind of hiker "family reunion," as the core group has been hiking the route together for four years now. For Reed and I, it was our second year in a row, and a delight to see familiar faces, especially our friend Girl Scout, with whom we hiked last year. These's lots to say about the hike, but I grow weary here in Seward. As Girl Scout would say, "it's hiker midnight." I'll let the photos speak for themselves and write more in the coming weeks about our upcoming trip, which will be along the Arizona Trail.
|Squinting into the sun of the Anza Borrego Desert, east of Borrego Springs|
|Sunset near Borrego Springs|
|Early morning light on downtown Borrego Springs|
|A female Borrego, or Big Horn Sheep|
|The lure of the high desert trail|
|High desert burnt cactus|
|Heading towards the Mason Valley Truck Trail|
|Rain! and Wind! near Lake Cuyamaca|
|Walking the connector roads towards El Cajon Mountain|
|Salt Marsh as we approach Torrey Pines and the Pacific Ocean|
|Reed and Kelley with one of the Route's Mapping Geniuses, Brett Richey|
|The Torrey Pines cliffs as we walk our personal finish, to La Jolla|