Karen's Blog

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Chasing David to the Mexican Border

Late on a Thursday night, I got an overwhelming urge. By Friday, I had given in to my desires. I tried to stop myself. I really did. But, the urge was too strong.

I booked a ticket to Palm Springs California as it was the closest and least expensive way I could get to David. According to his blog, he was less than 100 miles from his final destination of the Mexican Border on his 2020 PCT hike and I had this burning desire to walk the last few miles with him. When he hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, lots of family and friends came to walk the last two miles with him. That wasn’t possible for this trip but I still wanted to witness the finish of this extraordinary 2,650 mile journey. He had made it through a record year of fires in California, Oregon and Washington; the rogue snowstorms in Oregon; and the Coronavirus 19 pandemic. This trip was worthy of a celebration.

Palm Springs Airport

Upon arrival at the airport, I quickly retrieved my rental car and headed toward the hotel. But first, FOOD! I left Atlanta in the wee hours of the morning and it was now 2pm. I was hungry! Thankfully, a Panera Bread Company was close by and a big hearty salad cured my hunger. Then, I proceeded to the JW Marriott in Palm Desert. What a beautiful hotel!

As I was checking in, Daniel, the receptionist, welcomed me and said, “I need to let you know that our hotel restaurants, spa, and gym are closed due to Covid 19”.

“When did California become a closed state?”, I politely asked.

His response: “Today.”

That’s how fast things can change. When I booked my flight on Friday night, California was wide open.

“Are the swimming pools still open?” I asked.

The answer was a resounding “YES”!

That was all I needed to hear…82 degree heated pools would be my home for a few days. Food can be delivered and I have a place to sleep. I was good to go.

I enjoyed 3 days of rest and relaxation at the beautiful JW Marriott in Palm Desert and then it was time to head toward the border.

The drive was fun in itself as I passed through some beautiful mountainous country and enjoyed some intriguing little towns along the way. Julian was one of those towns. This historic gold-mining town is nestled among oak and pine forests between the north end of the Cuyamaca Mountain Range and the south slope of Volcan Mountain in California.

Julian is a Designated Historical District with frontier style storefronts and old west spirit. There’s even the Julian Hotel established in 1897.

Julian is also famous for homemade apple pies. I decided that would be a most welcome gift to David as he finished his PCT hike. The pie is beautiful!

Leaving Julian, I headed to the Cleveland National Forest and Mount Laguna where I would spend my last night at the Laguna Mountain Lodge before hiking the last section of the PCT with David to the Mexican border.

After a good night’s sleep in the fresh mountain air, I headed to the rendezvous point to meet David for the hike: the Campo Green Store in Campo, California.

I arrived a few minutes early and waited to see that beautiful sight as David walked across the road from the trail to meet me. My first thoughts: “He is sooooooo skinny!” I guess that is what walking every day, all day, for 7 months will get you! That skinny, disheveled young man was still a beautiful sight to see. A big hug was the first order of the day.

After a big hug, I was so excited as I picked up my hiking poles, put my day pack on my back and headed into the desert toward the Mexican border with my son. The trail was exactly as I imagined with dry crunchy grass and tumbleweeds which were often stacked high due to the intense Santa Ana Winds from the previous two days. I didn’t know about the Santa Ana winds before this trip, but they can be fierce. Areas affected by the winds actually shut down power to the towns to keep fires down. High winds can blow trees and branches into power lines sparking fires. Winds can also snap wooden distribution power lines, causing live wires to spark dry grass and setting it on fire. Therefore, towns are proactive during these intense Santa Ana winds. Two nights prior to my arrival winds were up to 70 miles per hour. For those keeping up with David’s blog: http://rutteric.com, you’ve read for yourself how fierce those winds can be.

As we made our way along the trail toward the border, we caught up on current events and enjoyed the gloriously sunny day. Conversations with David are always delightful and this one seemed extra special. And of course, we had to take some pictures along the way.

The more we walked, the closer we got to the “Wall”… the much discussed fence put up along the US/Mexico border. We even saw a few downed signs.

They are still building the wall..

Seven months earlier, I had dropped David off to walk 2,650 miles. Now there was just one more mile to go and the journey was over. David admitted that the moment was bittersweet.

The 1 mile marker.

Then, off in the distance, David spotted the goal that he had waited 7 months to reach…the PCT Monument at the Mexican Border signifying the end of his 2,650 mile hike from Canada to Mexico.

The last task was to make a journal entry into the official Trail Journal at the Southern Terminus marker.

Making his final entry into a Pacific Crest Trail journal.
I signed the journal too.

We lingered at the monument taking pictures and enjoying the sun shining on this glorious day.

He’s still got strong enough legs to climb to the top.
Look at that gorgeous sky in the background!
(And, that handsome young man)
The long hike is complete

I am so incredibly proud of David. I followed his journey every step of the way through his blog, his communication with me, and through the multitude of books that I read to learn as much as I could about the trail. Take a look at the elevation change. This trail is tough!

Elevation change420,880 ft (128,284 m)
Highest pointForester Pass, 13,153 ft (4,009 m)
Lowest pointCascade Locks, 140 ft (43 m)

It was early afternoon when we left Campo headed north. David had shared that he wanted some time to acclimate to “civilization” again so we didn’t immediately jump on an airplane to come home. He chose a scenic route upon leaving the PCT to view the Salton Sea and experience Joshua Tree National Park.

After driving through the park, we headed to Big Bear Lake where David had requested to spend a few days before heading home. His requests were simple: a cabin with a full kitchen, a fireplace, a hot tub, and lots of food to cook!

Our Cabin at Big Bear Lake
View from the Cabin
Enjoying the Fire
Nighttime soak in the Hot Tub
He cooked and ate and ate and ate!
Finally time to celebrate with Pie!

It was a great trip and I’m so glad I made the last minute decision to go. I tried really hard to talk myself out of going but my “self” was intent on making the journey!

A very special memory for me

Sometimes the best and most fun adventures come from a whim. Quite often, those whims become very special memories.

Welcome home, David Christopher Rutter aka Blast. We have missed you! (Especially your Dad~)



Karen

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