With the red Nikes, I ran in my neighborhood and on the treadmill. I wore them to ride my bike around Ocean Beach and once or twice to the tide pools at Cabrillo State Park.

The gray sneakers became my hiking shoes. I didn’t mind that they got dirty in the desert or on the trails around San Diego. They took me up and down Cowles and Iron Mountains, Mount Woodsen and Los Penasquitos. When those day hikes stopped being challenging, I decided, with little logic, that I was ready for the Appalachian Trail.

When those day hikes stopped being challenging, I decided, with little logic, that I was ready for the Appalachian Trail.

My husband planned our first practice run at Joshua Tree National Park.

We packed our bags and set off for two nights in the backcountry of Joshua Tree. We planned to carry more than we needed to see how far I could hike while carrying weight.

Joshua Tree. Photo by: zoonabar

It was almost too hot to hike the desert during the afternoon we arrived, so we drove around the park to look at Joshua Trees. We sat on the tailgate of the car and ate granola until the sun started setting.

With the last few hours of light, we hiked for a mile on the trail and then for a little while off-trail. We scrambled up the side of a wash to make camp on a small plateau.

I felt like a turtle with a giant shell and slid down the wash twice. My feet got stuck in a tangle of cacti, and my once-gray sneakers became white with dust and were covered with burrs by the time we scrambled into the tent.

My husband cautioned me about all of the horrible things that could climb into my shoes at night, so I brought them into the tent with me.

Tent. Photo by: Florian

That night, we heard helicopters flying over 29 Palms, the Marine Corps base on the other side of the park.

I moved my sleeping bag so I could see the stars, which were the brightest and most clear stars I had ever seen. Even in this secluded space in the desert with my husband next to me, we couldn’t get away from that sound.

That night, we heard helicopters flying over 29 Palms, the Marine Corps base on the other side of the park.

The next morning we hiked for several hours to an oasis and then back. When we finally sat down in the car, my arms were so tired, my husband had to remove my Nikes and socks for me. My legs were brown with dirt, but my feet felt great.

We planned to nap during the afternoon and then hike a different circuit but our resolve broke, and instead, we drove into town.

We stopped at a restaurant where the marquee read, “Wanted: Karaoke Host!” and each had a burger and beer before realizing that we just wanted to go home. When we got back to San Diego we had dinner at our favorite restaurant and rented a movie. I slept in the next morning, and when I awoke, it felt like we had earned an extra day together, which I needed more than the training.

Feature Image:DaniMU

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Want to get started hiking in the National Parks? Check out this list of 5 National parks with great hiking.