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Desert Trail: Mexico to Canada, Highlight Video
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Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Desert Trail: Mexico to Canada, Highlight Video on 12/17/2012 15:57:39 MST Print View

I thru-hiked this largely unknown route from Mexico to Canada last spring and summer. I've put together a video of some of the best photos. There are shots of incredible scenery, wildlife, artifacts, flowers and trail life. Please check it out!

Desert Trail: Mexico to Canada

Here is a map of the route here.

There are links on the left side of that page that will take you to my gear list, journal and general trail information.


Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Nice on 12/17/2012 23:28:43 MST Print View

Good TR. how long? Days bt resupply?

How hard was water?

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Desert Trail: Mexico to Canada, Highlight Video on 12/17/2012 23:53:40 MST Print View

Nice! I'm going to have look through that some more

That must be difficult to get the timing right - like the Steens have a lot of snow until summer, but it's so hot and dry lower down then

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: Desert Trail on 12/18/2012 04:13:14 MST Print View

I've really enjoyed all of your adventures, and this was no exception. Thanks for calling attention to this little known trail.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Desert Trail: Mexico to Canada, Highlight Video on 12/18/2012 05:55:11 MST Print View

Buck, glad you made it! I was following early in the hike and it is nice to see you got to Canada.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Trail Report on 12/18/2012 09:21:02 MST Print View

Thanks everyone!

I left the border on March 1, and got to Canada on July 11, so it was a total of 4 months and 11 days. That included about 16 days mid-trip picking up empty caches and laying out a new set of caches.

Water was a huge issue down south. That's probably the main reason the trail hadn't been thru-hiked before. With so few water sources, I needed caches. Because I had to drive the route caching anyway, I put out lots of water/food caches, so typically it was only a day or at 2 between resupply in the first 1,300 miles or so. Once I got to the Pueblos in Oregon there was more water so there were far less caches. After La Grande, Oregon, it was a standard thru-hike with no caches.

Timing the hike was a challenge. It hadn't been thru-hiked before so it was more difficult to judge how long the whole hike would take and to a lesser extent, what typical snow levels would be. The Steens were the first real concern, but the Blue Mountains come soon thereafter. Snow wasn't a big problem on this trip. On Steens Mountain, I had to do a short reroute because of high rivers from a rainstorm and snow-melt but other than that I was able to stay on the route. If I were going to do the hike again, I'd probably leave March 1 again. Much later it would get crazy hot down south, much earlier and snow would have been a much bigger problem.

Here is a direct link to my journal.

Edited by Colter on 12/18/2012 09:26:30 MST.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Desert Trail on 12/18/2012 10:04:21 MST Print View

Great trip! Looks like you passed through a lot of beautiful scenery. I'm partial to the desert settings; looks like there was plenty on that trip!

Thanks for sharing this.

Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Desert Trail: Mexico to Canada, Highlight Video on 12/22/2012 08:49:58 MST Print View

That is an amazing and awesome trip. It made me homesick. I grew up in the southwest, in the high end of the Chihuahuan desert, and your TR brought so much of what I love about the desert back to me. Man, I miss the open vistas, and all manner of spiky things. Thanks for posting.

Hoot Filsinger
(filsinger) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Desert Trail: Mexico to Canada, Highlight Video on 12/22/2012 13:01:22 MST Print View

Your trip video left a poignant mark on me. Very well edited to tell the story of your trip. Just enough text about your photos and like your photo choices. Especially like the photo of your canned good cache-took me back in time. The T.K Whipple quote at the end of your video may be my favorite quote for explaining why so many of us seek out wild places today. Also impressed with the simplicity of your gear-made me rethink some of my choices.


Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Desert Trail: Mexico to Canada, Highlight Video on 12/22/2012 13:58:54 MST Print View

Thanks Charles, I agree with you about the desert. The desert has it's own magic, and the openness and solitude are major components of the mystique.

Thanks to you, too Hoot. That T.K Whipple should be quoted more widely, it's one of the best.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Awesome on 12/24/2012 08:54:16 MST Print View

Love the desert and this trail is the mother of all desert hikes.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Desert Trail: Mexico to Canada, Highlight Video on 12/24/2012 09:21:04 MST Print View


Awesome video of a soulful solo through some amazing landscape full of raw beauty.

Thanks for posting it here.

Party On,


Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Desert Trail: Mexico to Canada, Highlight Video on 12/24/2012 09:24:33 MST Print View

Great trip and great video. Thansk for sharing.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Updated a Desert Trail hike FAQ Page on 01/06/2013 13:00:30 MST Print View

Providence Mountains

For those interested in the Desert Trail I updated the Desert Trail information page.

There is information on planning, including the caching of food and water, weather, route conditions, plants and animals, hike timing, additional information sources and more.


Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Updated a Desert Trail hike FAQ Page on 01/06/2013 13:43:50 MST Print View

Awesome, awesome, awesome!!!

Although I have hiked every section from Mexico to Death Valley, it never occurred to me to do it as one long hike due to the water concerns. Plus I had never heard of the semi-official named "Desert Trail."

I also enjoyed reading about your 1,000 mile Alaska trip, especially all the wildlife you encountered.

Last year I was impressed with your knowledge of Grizzly Bears, and this prompted me to spend 3 hours yesterday on your blog.

I have bookmarked your sited and moved it to the top of my list.

Thank you for sharing all of this.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Me too on 01/06/2013 15:34:49 MST Print View

I have also spent a lot of time reading your site and trail journal. The details that you were able to put to text show a lot of effort on your part, an effort that is much appreciated.

George Davis
(nsiderbam) - M

Locale: mid-Atlantic
Nevada on 01/07/2013 08:35:07 MST Print View

Buck, what did you think of the Nevada section? I lived in Vegas most of my life and have driven everywhere in the state -- I would imagine that, especially in the central and northern parts, you were extremely isolated. There's not much out there and hardly any change of scenery until you get close to the Oregon border.

Also, I was looking through your site and came across your smokejumper section -- I never even knew that job existed! I now know what I want to do whenever I get out of the military, haha!

Edited by nsiderbam on 01/07/2013 08:52:17 MST.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Desert Trail on 01/07/2013 09:03:55 MST Print View

Thank you Nick. It would be fun to compare notes on that desert country that we are both familiar with. I checked out your site as well, nicely done! You clearly know what you're doing.

Steven, thanks for that! I really appreciate it and I'm glad you enjoyed the story of that beautiful route.

Hi George,

I loved Nevada. You are right about it being extremely isolated for long stretches, a big plus, I think. For those interested in the Nevada portion of the trail, this part of the video starts just after I crossed the border and Nevada runs until 5:34. My journal has stories and photos of Nevada, too, and Nevada starts at this post to May 29.

I enjoyed Nevada's isolated mountain ranges, artifacts, hot springs, petrified wood, geology, dry lake beds, etc. One day I was walking down the trail and found where a mountain lion had just dragged a young wild horse across the path! He apparently ran off as I approached.

Edited by Colter on 01/07/2013 09:04:30 MST.