Dangers and Concerns

While this website is not designed as a guide for hikers and backpackers, we know that some people will take our waypoints, convert them, and load them onto their GPS units and then go out on the mission trail. We feel that it is our duty to share some things that we have learned over 18 years of hiking on ECR. It can be easy to get into trouble!

A rattlesnake on the mission trail is ready to strike.
One of Many Rattlesnake Encounters on the Mission Trail

From the moment a hike in the desert begins, a stopwatch begins as well. This is the amount of time a hiker has to get to their next water source. We can only carry so much water, and anything that delays getting to the next water source is a danger. While a sprained or broken ankle, in itself, is not life threatening, it will stop or slow a hiker in getting to water. We consider this to be one of the greatest dangers of desert hiking and, given the rough terrain of the old mission trail, having something like this happen is a real possibility. Scorpion stings, rattlesnake bites, and getting lost will have the same effect.

Over the years, the only people we have seen on the trails were a handful of ranchers and no hikers whatsoever -- so don't expect help nearby. We have always carried a personal locator beacon with us; however, we have also understood its limitations in a region that may not have the resources to respond. For us, the best solution was to have a backup plan which would include alternate routes back to safety, the location of inhabited ranches and all sources of water in the area of hiking.

Leather Boots and Snake Gaiters

Kevin's arm is bleeding due to uña de gato thorns on the mission trail
Beware of Uña de Gato

While we have never seen drug smugglers or people who looked like they might be drug smugglers, reliable people we have met over the years have warned us about this possible problem. We have been told that the area just north of Misión San Borja, the area south of Gonzaga Bay and the region around Misión San Fernando are areas of concern. We have never heard of any issues of this sort south of Misión San Borja. This is not a continuous problem and if we receive a report of activities in one area, we simply postpone our work there until our next trip. As for drug growing, we have never come across signs of any on the trails we have explored.

Scorpion

Mountain Lion Tracks

Pliers or a fork are handy.

* No one should explore the remote parts of ECR without a large amount of desert hiking experience or have someone along that does, combined with the proper preparation.

Genevieve pretends to be grabbed by the curved branch of a cirio on the mission trail.
Beware of the Notorius Grabbing Cirio