Sunday, September 8, 2013

Paso Picacho and The Slot

Finally, Josh HAD to get out and start training again. We decided to car camp at Paso Picacho Campground in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

Upon our arrival Josh spotted a squirrel in the fire ring. Closer inspection showed a network of tunnels in and around the ring. We blocked them with rocks before setting a fire in hopes we wouldn't smoke them out.

We set up the truck and the camp which took us only a few moments. The skies were dark and we knew we were in for more rain this afternoon. We surveyed the area taking in the views of the flora, fauna and Stonewall Peak.

Thinking we had enough time to cruise around before the storm, we undertook what we thought was a 1.6 mile hike on the Azalea Glenn loop on the edge of camp. It turned out to be 3.6 miles, either we misread the sign or the sign was wrong and it turned out to be more than we expected. The trail was pretty lack-luster with tractors and trees that were recently cut. This area is getting a much needed pruning and fire restoration. 

Half way through our loop we could see and hear the storm getting closer. We picked up the pace heading back toward camp. At a little over half a mile from the campground the rain started to come down and lightening and thunder cracked ominously over our heads. We broke into full out run up the trail to get out of the exposed meadow we were in. 

Narrowly escaping the lightening we strip our soaking clothes and dive into the back of the truck. That was a close one! We spend the duration of the storm reading excerpts from John Muir journals and watch the storm outside the windows.

Finally the skies clear and we emerge from the safety of the truck. We hang our clothes on a line to dry, start a fire and prep for dinner. One of the best things about car camping is THE FOOD! This is a whole onion with butter and spices cooking in foil over the fire. Add a big fat Rib Eye steak and some chocolate covered almonds and we were in heaven.

Sitting by the fire Josh takes photos of the alpenglow on Stonewall Peak and artsy-portraits in the reflection of a spoon. So creative! We skim Yogi's PCT Handbook for more information about our prep for next year's thru hike.

The sun begins to set and we dawn our sleeping clothes. Josh challenges me to a game of UNO in the back of the truck before bed. Challenge accepted and I promptly lost. Two games later he is still the champion...I challenge you to a rematch, buster!

The next morning I wake up to Josh whispering in the window. "Crepuscular time is in camp!" he says. I sit up and see a herd of Mule Deer does and fawns. We hear a loud commotion in the camp next to ours and a young boy pops out of his tent. We whisper to him to be quiet and look ahead. Once he spots the deer a big smile comes over his face and he goes to wake his mom. 

After the deer's departure Josh builds a morning fire and gets the coffee going. It is a slow morning from me and I stay cuddled up in my quilt. After such a difficult week mentally at work it is a welcome luxury. Once I finally get up and around we slowly pack up camp and decide what to do with the rest of the day. Josh suggests we go to the desert and I think that is a great idea. The further away from San Diego and work/home the better. We jump in the truck and head down the 78 toward Anza Borrego Desert State Park and Carlee's Place in Borrego Springs which is yummy!! Highly recommend!!
The drive to Borrego Springs shows the effects of the major rains with all the washes full of mud and every low road crossing deep flash flood residue.

After a fine meal at Carlee's Place we head out on the 78 east to Butte Pass Road which is a dirt road heading north. We drive for a little over a mile, heading strait to the end where we park. We joke on the way there that we are totally nuts and a little suicidal to be hiking a slot canyon during monsoon/flash flood season with clouds on the horizon, not to mention it being 1pm and about 100 degrees out. 
Meh, lets do it anyway!
We take a photo before the hike so they have something to match the bones too.

The slot is less than a mile if you take it from end to end and only gains/loses about 100 feet. It is not for the claustrophobic for sure as some of the corridors are very tight. You can't help but think of the movie 127 hours while you hike. 

The walls have new designs in them from recent floods and the ground is soft and wet. We keep in mind emergency evacuation routes as we hike should we be greeted with an unexpected swim.

Coming to the end of the canyon the walls open up and reveal a maze of even more slot canyons on either side. We pick and easy chute to climb after marking our exit with a cairn and an arrow for the trip back.

The canyon goes on and on so we think it may be interesting to climb one of the edges to survey the scene from above. The air is cooler on top but the sun is relentless and we puddle with sweat as we climb out.

Up on top you get to see the scale of the canyon system. One could explore this area for days and still not see it all. Not only is it huge but it is ever changing with the weather. The desert is amazing!

Now back at our rock cairn we follow our arrows back through the slot and up to the truck. Getting into the air conditioning is a welcome treat.

We leave The Slot bound for the Wind Caves only to encounter mud that is a little deeper than we feel comfortable traversing in my non-4x4 truck. We will return next weekend to explore these areas in Josh's 4x4. 
The change of plans leads us to the Elephant Trees nature walk.

Following the guide, we move between points of interest on the nature walk. While inspecting a bush Josh touches a white piece of fluff on a branch. All of a sudden a translucent-green spider pops out in full Kung Fu position! Wow! That was a surprise! We later identify him as a Crab Spider.

With the cumulus clouds growing in the distance we abandon the nature walk and jump in the truck, trying to catch the storm. We followed it around to Hwy 86 and then Interstate 10. 
Driving next to the Salton Sea we eat spicy peanuts and chocolate and laugh about the names of the ditches and washes. Who comes up with those!?

We only caught a small band of the storm on Dillon Road in the Coachella Valley. Oh well, it was a nice drive with my most favorite person. 
Heading toward I-10 we try to locate Hell For Sure Canyon and spot the area where Mineshaft Flat camp is. My brother Eli and I were there last weekend and tried to identify the desert landmarks from up top. Kind of cool to see it from both perspectives.

Our journey coming to an end we take the long drive back toward San Diego. I hope my work week will be a better than last week. So far, I'm keeping my eye on another adventure in the desert with Josh set for next weekend. 

Another good road trip!

Info about Carlee's Place in Borrego Springs. The food is really good and the staff is super nice! A great hole in the wall/dive bar restaurant with amazing eats. 
Check them out!

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