Take a Trek

Day 7: Get a Hanle on it

Laguna Campground to Sunrise Trailhead
Miles: 48 to 60 (12)

I’ve been hiking along the border of the Anza-Borrega Desert all day. A vertical mile below me, to the east, is a dry, dusty world of eroded badlands, steep canyons, and sweltering heat. Hot air climbs up from the desert floor, over the ridge, and breaths all over everything. It feels like someone left the worlds largest oven door open.

Skirting the Anza Borrega Desert

I meet a Mexican man named Crisco heaving up the trail. He lives in central California and talks like a bro. He says things like “I’m sweating bricks, brah.” We play leapfrog for most of the day, through the heat, along switchbacks that go on forever. I stretch my shin constantly. “Take a handle. Get a handle on it and do what you want, mah” Cisco tells me.

I take a couple long breaks, one in a patch of shade that I find in a boulder field. The afternoon heat is vibrating off of everything. I watch the birds and listen to the insects. How can they be so loud? I wonder about rattle snakes. My shin throbs. Did I go too far today?

There’s a horse trough will a faucet just pass the junction for sunrise trail-head. A ten-foot-high water tank feeds the trough, and casts a short shadow across the sun-scorched earth. Seven hikers are already clustered in that space, lazily loitering, waiting for the sun to fall towards the horizon. I join them.

8 Track sits upright against the water tank, eyes half closed, staring into a field of long, brown grass that waves helplessly in the wind. Ethan sleeps on his foam sleeping pad. Huaraches sits next to a nearby wrecking ball, fidgeting with his radio. How did a wrecking ball get here? Kett is filtering water that he brought over from the horse trough, and there’s a pink girl laying in the sun, reading a book. She’s turning into a tomato. We’re a sedated bunch, fatigued and content.

Most of crew clears out, everyone except Cisco. We sit in the dirt, next to the water tank, and wait for the sun to sink a little farther. Cisco tells me about his family in Mexico. He tells me about his two-year-old tomcat in Fresno that goes out at night and picks up bitches. I’d keep hiking, but my shin is done for the day. I pitch my shelter next to a rusty wrecking ball that somehow found its way into this dusty landscape.

Sunset by a Wrecking Ball