Greetings from Warner Springs, CA! We’ve just completed our first stint through the desert and are happily taking a “near-o” day here at the community resource center. The center is staffed entirely by volunteers from April-May and is truly an oasis in the desert. Showers, air-conditioning, computers, and camping under a big oak tree. What more could a hiker want?

“So we’re really doin’ this then?”

Our first few days on the trail have been full of surprises, most pleasant, but some humbling. Renee and Eduardo graciously hosted us in San Diego and took us to the trail in the morning for our start. It was a cloudy day (and a rainy, windy night – unusual for the desert this time of year), which made for smooth hiking over the rolling hills. We ambitiously cruised 20 miles our first day out, carrying lots of water and soaking in the panoramic views. Already this hike is unlike anything we’ve experienced in terms of views. Because there isn’t much foliage, our walk is filled with constant vistas of the sweeping arid landscape. Big, big mountains ending abruptly on the scalding desert floor. It’s stunning. We’ve watched sunrises and sunsets most days.

We’ve also been surprised by the smells here. Lar rightly counted the scents of sage, rosemary, and thyme. The only thing missing is “parsley”…(Humor is a necessary companion on the trail, even of the punny variety).

Near Mt. Laguna

Near Mt. Laguna

It gets hot here. Like real hot. And, surprisingly, cold at night. It’s important to respect the temperature fluctuations and plan your day accordingly (most people take a siesta between noon and 3:00 or 4:00 each day, hiking in the mornings and evenings when it’s cooler).

It’s also dry. Especially since California has been in a drought for the last four years. Our mileage is dictated by the availability of reliable water. We hiked through a 33-mile waterless stretch before arriving in Warner Springs, which culminated in a 28-mile hiking day, our longest ever. Feet hurt, but it was beautiful, and the morning/evening hiking was pleasant overall.

Hello cactus.

Hello cactus.

There’s an amazing trail community here doing everything they can to ensure people have safe, enjoyable hikes. Though we always bring enough water, we’ve come across the occasional cache to get people through tight spots. Today in Warner Springs, a sheriff gave us a ride to the post office. And the hikers themselves seem to be in good spirits, developing their rhythms and feeling more confident each day. Our favorite person we’ve met so far? A 67-year old thru-hiker named Margaret, who shuffles along with her sun umbrella and catches little wisps of shade throughout the day. Her stamina is admirable, and her demeanor is always sunny. In hard moments, we’ve said “just be Margaret.”

Next update should come from Idyllwild in a few days. We’ve been posting pictures regularly on instagram, so check us out!

Grateful to be here!


Zack (and Lara)

photo 7