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 many years of hiking on ECR. It can be easy to get into trouble!
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.
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. As of December 2021, we understand that there is narco activity south of Misión San Borja. Water holes are being used in the growing of illegal crops. This could potentially extend to all parts of the trail that have reliable water sources.
* 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.