Campo to Hauser Creek.
After a few days spent wandering around San Diego (Normal Heights, Ocean Beach, Coronado Island) I spend an evening at the Mann's with other hikers preparing to start walking. The Mann's are former thru-hikers who were so moved by the kindness and generosity that they encountered on their thru-hike that they now open up their home to hundreds of hikers each spring, feeding them, housing them, and sending them off to the trail. While I departed with just 6 other hikers, they told me that just a few days from now they planned on hosting 45 hikers at their house in just one day! I am shuttled to the trail by none other than my fellow caretaker Tristan and am walking with two of my good friends from the Appalachian Trail (Brian and Cameron) which is an auspicious start.
We reach the border and while I am wracked with nerves on the drive down I am giddy once we start walking. Distracted by excitement, we foolishly attempt to hike through the mid-day desert heat. This results in many, many breaks. At one point Brian and I simply sprawl out on the trail itself. I might have ran out of water if Brian hadn't given me some of his at the end of the day, because while the water sources were plentiful, at one break I opted to not take any more and ended up drinking more than anticipated, while somehow missing the last water source before Hauser Creek. While walking I see a harmless snake, several cottontails, two dead mice, a humming bird, and many yucca plants blooming. There are also signs of illegal immigrants: discarded clothing and scraps of cloth, mostly. We end up not walking the 20 miles to Lake Morena, instead opting to call it at day at 7 pm 5 miles short of the lake. I was fascinated by the former boyscout leader who was a slightly heavy set woman with a day pack; we encountered her late in the day and both wound up at the creek with the sun setting. She clearly didn't have a shelter or sleeping bag and also had no way to treat water (Hauser Creek was not exactly the most pristine source I have encountered.) The sun was setting and she said she was going to head up the mountain for a warmer night. She seemed in good spirits and was only going to the lake, so I didn't worry about her lack of gear too much. In a worst case scenario she could walk five more miles through the night to arrive at her final destination.
The final descent was painful, as were our options for tenting. Tarps next to a damp buggy creek or pitched beside a road with border patrol SUVs and locals driving by until late in the evening. The stars were amazing though - bright spots in a deep velvet darkness.