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.
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.
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.
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.
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 – our 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 – and finally, we caught our first glimpse of the ocean in the distance, gleaming orange and misty through the sun and haze of the city.
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.”