Backpacking 500 Miles in the Mojave Desert (epilogue)

In November and December of 2000 I backpacked from my house in Palm Springs to Lake Mead and back.

Part 8 can be viewed here.

Mojave 500 mile map

It took over a year to document this trip in 8 parts, something I could have done in one afternoon sitting in front of a computer. It wasn’t an epic trip, but for me it was an adventure. It wasn’t presented as a trail journal or daily diary, and it isn’t full of insights or as a “how to” guide. There are no gear or equipment information. Just short daily summaries of a month in the Mojave. It is mostly for my kids. They probably don’t remember that I took this trip and I may not have even mentioned it to them. But what I will share later will jog their memory. As I normally operate, I didn’t bring a cell phone with me. In 2000 cell phone coverage was just about nil in most of the places I walked. Today, fortunately, there still is no cell reception in Joshua Tree National Park or the Mojave Preserve – this is a good thing. But in 2000 phone booths were common and I did make a couple calls to my kids when resupplying in cities. So, are there any learnings, conclusions, or insights to be gained from all of this?

Walking 500+ miles wasn’t strenuous, navigation was simple using mostly road maps and no compass since I was familiar with most of the areas, resupply was fairly straight forward, and the biggest obstacle was the lack of water requiring me to usually go 3 to 4 days between water sources.

Great adventures don’t require months of planning, detailed maps, trail guides, data books, or feedback from other hikers on social media. Just a little imagination on the part of the hiker.

Most days I saw no one else, but I was usually in close proximity to a road where I could bail in case of an injury or other emergency.

If you look around where you live, there are opportunities for hikes that most people have never considered. Use your resourcefulness. Yes, most people might not be able to put together a month long wilderness hike that begins and ends from their house or that avoided using any transportation at anytime, but you can probably find something like this with minimal driving.

Nearly 30 years before my Mojave walk, I did two separate 6 month hikes in the Sierra Nevada. Those hikes did not have time restraints or a planned route. I just walked to whatever piqued my interest and ended when I felt it was time. This trip was different. I needed to be home before Christmas and there was a predetermined route that needed to be followed, requiring a daily focus on miles traveled. None of this negatively impacted the flavor of the walk. Before I finished the trip I was anxious to get back to work.


It seems that many, if not most backpackers, hike to get away from the so-called daily grind and their jobs. Not me. I have never viewed living in our society as a grind and my work has always been fun, productive, and rewarding. You shouldn’t use backpacking as a panacea to a job you hate. Get a new job, or perhaps get a new attitude. All my life my work has not been a necessary evil, and my outdoor activities have never been an escape from a dull world or life. Work, family, and recreation have all been valuable and rewarding components to a good life.

I have read that many backpackers, on their return from a long hike, have difficulties re-assimilating back into society, view the aspects of modern living as trite, and cannot think about anything but getting back on the trail for another long hike. Not me, I have always embraced and enjoyed all activities that are the sum of my life. These things that I do don’t define my life; I define my life by what I do with my time, and I alone determine what I do with my time.



I, like many backpackers, have been accused of escaping reality by going on long walks. What is more real than walking in wilderness with your house on your back? What is more real than being self-sufficient day after day? What is more real than making dozens of decisions every day that keep you safe, and the knowledge that a bad decision could cause serious injury or even death?

Backpacking isn’t “living on the edge” or taunting death. It is simply walking day after day, with an occasional reminder that you are 100% responsible for your own well being. There often is no social safety net to extricate you from a bad situation of your own making. But people tell me it isn’t the real world. Really?

My big plan after the Mojave walk was to take my kids to Disneyland the day after Christmas. Is Disneyland reality? Now don’t get me wrong, I love Disneyland. My first visit there was in 1955, the year it opened. Walt Disney was a man of vision. A creative genius. There is no greater joy than watching your kids wander through Disneyland the first time with eyes wide open. The Disneyland’s of the world have their purposes, and in the proper context have great value to the human experience.

On Tuesday December 26, 2000 Nicole, Joe and I drove to Disneyland and…


Not closed, as not in operation. It was full. Full to capacity. An elbow to elbow sea of humanity. We were turned away at the entrance.

We should have gone backpacking or camping.

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