out of the desert, into the sprawl

After our rest in Barstow, we booked it south through Yermo. More desert, more rocks, more sand. One day, I was cursing the sun for beating down so hot and heavy; the next, I was freezing to the bone as clouds blocked out the sun, rolling heavy with rain over the mountains to the west. The wind whipped us around as we worked our way along dirt roads that wound below power lines and endless skies.

desert bugs.

The mountains kept rising in the distance, and eventually we came down into a wide valley where Victorville and Hesperia and other interstate sprawl cities sit, with neverending shopping centers stretched along the highway. It was all deceptively small on the map, but went on for miles and miles of frontage road right along I-15.

we crossed the Mojave River.

paint spill

memorials litter the roadside

On the far side of the valley, we camped at the edge of the desert in Summit, just off a paved road overlooking I-15. It was very cold that night. We bundled up in our heavy gear, and Slater had a fire and dinner ready to go by the time Kait and I dragged ourselves to the campsite. In the distance, we could see the snow-dusted peaks of the mountains just to our west, standing between us and the ocean. The next morning, after a warm cup of coffee, we walked into them.

We crossed I-15 just north of Cajon pass, and took a winding back road up and over. Quite suddenly, we realized that we were finally out of the desert. Everything started to grow a bit more green, more hospitable. We turned down a beautiful valley, toward a place marked as Lytle Creek on the map.We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather – cool, sunny, soft breeze – a fine day for walking, indeed.

the view to the east - back in time and space.

Lytle Creek

We have both been at a loss for how to process the completion of this walk. It seems too daunting a task – almost as unfathomable as the Walk was before we found ourselves out here on the road. We did a lot of remembering as we soaked up the soft beauty of the valley and let gravity pull us down easy-does-it into the coastal sprawl.

along picturesque Lytle Creek Road

And we came down into the thick of it, the sunny side of the rock, the lizard kingdom! We have walked through many urban sprawls before – Washington D.C., Dayton, Ohio, and Las Vegas all spring to mind – but this time is different. We won’t be walking back out of this sprawl, that grows and swells with people all wanting to be here, breathing hard and pressed in tight between the mountains and the sea. This time, we just keep walking into it and walking into until we reach the ocean. And that moment, while amazing, also signifies the end of the Walk and the beginning of whatever comes next.

By map, the press of civilization against the edge of the mountain and the flowing line of the ocean looks pretty solid and homogeneous  Рour last 60 miles or so, weaving through shopping districts and palm tree neighborhoods for days. But every section, every subdivision and city in the greater Paved Region has its own unique palette, its own claim to the dirt. We walked on and on through Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, Pomona, Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights, Whittier Рand finally, we caught our first glimpse of the ocean in the distance, gleaming orange and misty through the sun and haze of the city.

That shining glow on the horizon is the Pacific Ocean, 18 miles out across the sprawl.

And now we are here. At the end of the thing. We stopped walking about 9 miles from the ocean, and drove ahead to Lacie’s house to kill a few days before the big finish tomorrow. It is hard to be this close, and intentionally not walk to the beach mere miles away. But when we set up our final event, we invited the public to share that moment with us – the first time we reach the Pacific Ocean since leaving Delaware. We could not have made it across the country without the support of friends, family, and community on he road. People invited us into their homes and lives, and we want to share this accomplishment with anyone who wants to join us.

Tomorrow morning, we will walk to the Recreation Dog Park here in Long Beach, hang out with the pups for a couple of hours, and then walk the last 1.8 miles to the Pacific Ocean at Rosie’s Dog Beach with anyone who would like to join us. We hope to see you there.

For more information about tomorrow, check out “The Final Mile.”

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7 Responses to out of the desert, into the sprawl

  1. Mary Lou says:

    Sitting here with tears in my eyes. I have never met you all but, daggone I am proud of you and thrilled for you! wow, what an incredible accomplishment this is.. I am sure it is totally surreal to you.

    I truly wish I could be there to greet you when you reach the ocean. I can hardly wait to see the photos.

  2. Sally says:

    As I sit on this airplane, watching the earth slip by beneath us, flying over the mountains and canyon-land that YOU have just walked over/around/through, I am just amazed at both the extreme difference in the time we are taking to cross almost 2/3 of the distance you have WALKED since March, and the different perspective of the space and the people in it that we both have, you step by step, taking in every detail, me in this airplane, observing the broad view of a vast land that we all are residents of. I cannot find more words. Wonder. Awe. Whatever you do in life after this, it will most certainly be an experience unique and rich. Much love and see you soon, God Willing.

  3. Cindy Adkins says:

    I felt the excitement as you left the desert and walked into the urban sprawl – and when I saw the photo with the ocean in the distance, I had tears in my eyes. I can’t really imagine how you must feel! I’ve said it before, but I admire you so much! I wish I was going to be at the finish line to meet you (and the dogs) in person. You have a big day ahead of you – and an even bigger life!
    Hugs, Cindy

  4. serinda conner says:

    From your first family at the Atlantic, hugs,kisses, and a big hurrah! Wish we were there to walk that final mile with you. Congratulations to a fine couple! And a big thanks to Slater for his awesome support! The Conner clan of Delaware.

  5. Karen Jennings says:

    Ted and I have been following the blog ever since you stayed with us in Annapolis. We’re so excited to see you’ve made it to the Pacific. What an amazing journey! You two are awesome! (as well as the dogs!) Congratulations on making your dream a reality! Now starts the speaking tour? : )

  6. Congratulations! I so wish I could be there! I have so enjoyed reading about your trip as you’ve made it. Thank you for sharing your story and doing what you have with your outreach. It’s been a wonderful thing to witness. Good luck tomorrow–cry a lot and be merry!

  7. Malloy says:

    In life comes A crossroads; and I took the road less traveled…and it made all the difference. Henry David Thoreuax

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