Thursday, January 15 – El Centro, CA

Tomorrow, we will embark on the last portions of the “90 Mile Desert” which nearly killed some of the Battalion.

This is a preparation day for us. For the next full week, we will be in remote sections. We need to shop, fill the water tanks, finish scouting the route and prepare for the last desert leg of our journey. We also have continuing fallout from the financial crisis to deal with. Poor Denny. It really frustrates her. Me too.

About noon, Terry Wirth arrives at El Centro. We pick him up, get gassed up and head out for a reconnaissance tour from Carrizo Creek westward. But you need to know how important Terry is to this story.

Terry has spent about fifteen years correlating Battalion locations and putting them into mapping software. We first made contact at Fort Leavenworth in early 2006 as I just started making plans to hike the trail.

Terry was using a road mapping program, the same software I used for my business back in Michigan. Terry was kind enough to share his road file with me. Consequently, from my perspective, Terry Wirth is the “father” of Battalion electronic mapping methods. Thanks for all your work and encouragement, Terry.

We take I-8 west to pickup California highway S-2 (aka, “Old Imperial Highway” and “Sweeny Pass Road”) headed northwest. As we reach the crest area just before the switchbacks head down, a panoramic view to the northeast opens up. We can see a hundred miles, down into Carrizo canyon, to the creek bottoms and all the mountains surrounding. Being 750 feet above the valley, it’s almost like being in a light aircraft. We can trace parts of our expected route for the next two days. The view is stunningly beautiful and detailed.

But, as we’re interested in knowing how close our support vehicles can get to us in case of emergency, we head down into the valley. We also need to let a Scout group how to meet us tomorrow night. To save time, Jerry decides to leave the port-a-potty trailer attached to us – and off we go, down bumpy, back country dirt roads.

I won’t tell the whole story here in the blog, but we had lots of fun down in Carrizo Creek. We were lucky (VERY lucky) to get out before nightfall, but we had fun.

Denny feeds us a good meal then heads back to the store for some more items. I spend the evening entering GPS coordinates into the hand-held unit so we will have some checkpoints to hit along our hike. Somewhere about midnight, we finally pile into bed for a few hours of sleep.

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