It was exciting to know I only had a few days left until I reached the border. Not only have I never been to Mexico, getting there would mean I had hiked the entire West Coast. I was unsure if I was ever going to do another thru hike after I cross the Canadian border. Here I was, only one section away from completing my second multi-month thru hike.
The area south of Warner Springs was a gently climb up to a ridge with excellent views of the entire area. I passed a few hikers that evening heading north but I didn't get a chance to see where they were going. They were probably just section hikers. Crossing a few mountains, the trail began to wind down to Scissors Crossing near Julian, California. I reached an overpass just as night was falling where trail angels had generously supplied water from a nearby well. While I didn't get a chance to enjoy any trail magic cookout or beer like I did going northbound, I was immensely grateful for the water in the desert.
I camped underneath the bridge in the sand of the dry river that night and continued on my way early in the next morning. Another hot and dry climb up to the ridge on the other side of the valley. Military jets from one of the nearby desert bases circled overhead on an almost hourly basis. Generous views of Anza-Borrego state park could be seen from the top of the ridge. I camped next to the Sunrise Hwy and headed out to Mt. Laguna on the following day.
It was Saturday and I was only a few hours away from the metropolis of San Diego. The day hikers were out in force for most of the way to the motel in Mt. Laguna. The cliffs on the east side of the ridge dropped off sharply and provided excellent views all the way there. I entered the resort town of Mt. Laguna about an hour before sundown. The owner of the motel had recognized me from a Facebook post from a picture I had taken of me at the Warner Springs Community Center. It's always a plus when business owner appreciate the hikers. It was the first bed I was able to sleep in since enter Coachella Valley but part of me just wanted to continue on. I was so close to the border, only 40 miles or 2 days of hiking.
I hiked hard all of the following day with my eyes on the prize. I crossed I-8 and entered the Boulder Oaks Campground looking for water when a group of hikers flagged me down and asked me to join them for a few beers. They had just finished their northbound trek and picked up the car they drove down to Campo. I got back to reminiscing about my own journey up to Canada and weighed the pros and cons of NoBo vs SoBo with them. It felt great to have some camaraderie, especially after so many days without seeing a single soul out in the desert.
After a fist bump and a good luck from the hikers at dawn, I continued on down that dusty trail. I could smell Mexico in the air. After a breakfast burrito at the general store, I zipped past the reservoir and town of Lake Morena. After one more ardous hike down a canyon and back up its mountains, I could see the dirt road that parallels the border from a distance. On my way down to the valley around Campo, I saw many kangaroo rats and got closer to being bitten by a rattlesnake than I ever had before. I pitched my hammock for the last time in the dark only a few miles from the border.
After a quick morning hike, I waited for my ride to show up at the general store in Campo so we could walk the final mile of the trail together. After many selfies and gloating at the monument, I could hardly believe it was all over. I'm not going to lie, there probably will never be a moment as special as finishing my thru hike but this felt damn good. I stuck my hand through the border fence so I could say I had been in Mexico and drove off back into civilization.