Sunday, January 8, 2017

Coyote Mountain Exploration

For my first hike of the 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series, I decided to check out a place that I've looked at with interest for several years, but have yet to explore. You see that monster right there? That giant, prehistoric beast with its razor sharp barbs?

No, not the dinosaur, silly...

This big ass thing! Coyote Mountain! It juts out of the ground to a height of 3,192 feet from the desert floor. It is what separates Coyote Creek from Rock House Canyon and it looks just as foreboding from either side. I've always looked at it with interest and today I decided to check it out.

I parked on Henderson Canyon Road across from an old 4x4 track and set out across the dunes. I skipped the road opting to take a small trail and followed it away from the summit toward Peg Leg Monument. Eventually, I tired of the PCT style winding and climbed cross country up a chute to gain a better vantage point. 

The top of the ridge revealed another ridge, and the top of that ridge revealed another and so on, until I came to a small valley. From this vantage point I noticed the road wound its way up in a much more direct fashion than I had chosen to come. This is par for the course for me I suppose, taking the least direct route that is nonsensically difficult. I hiked the road until it turned again into trail and then forced myself to follow the trail. I wasn't 100% successful at this and chose my own nonsensical routes a couple times while bagging as many high points as I could.

The hiking was pleasant albeit steep and the vegetation sparse enough it didn't cut you up. The rocks were loose trip hazards if you weren't careful, but were also super interesting if you paid attention. This one looked like a piece of wood but it was just a rock, through and through.

It was getting warm and there was zero wind so I sat down to eat a snack and put on my hat. While digging thru my bag I discovered I had accidentally brought 4 liters of water instead of 3, and of course, I had forgotten my hat. I slapped on extra sunscreen and hoped for the best as I resumed my uphill journey.

Just as I started back up a steep hill I heard some rocks fall. I stopped in my tracks and looked around but didn't see anything. I started back up again and my eyes were drawn to the ridge where I realized there was something on top.

I stopped, straining to see, until the creature decided to show himself. A massive Bighorn ram stood majestically above me.

Knowing how easily they camouflage in the rocks I took a bazillion photos hoping to capture him before he disappeared. Once I felt satisfied I had documented his presence, I continued to hike up expecting him to bolt.

But he didn't, in fact, he even came closer. As I crested the hill I was greeted by his friend, another adult ram with only one in tact horn.

 I took a ton of photos and continued on only to find they hiked with me! For about a half mile we hiked together, them taking the sheep route on the edge of the mountain and me taking the trail. I put together some video if you want to see it. You can tell by how many times I trip during the video that they are better with their footing than me.

There were even points where they would look back and stop and wait for me to catch up before they headed on! It was surreal and amazing. Spirit is talking to me again and mom was right, I just needed to go somewhere new where I could receive her new messages. Ram Totem is change and new beginnings, he has an  'a little less talk and a lot more action' type theme. How perfect is that! 10-4 guys, I hear you!

Eventually I left them on the ridge looking majestic as hell, high above Borrego Springs and pushed on up the hill.

I came to a peak above a deep gorge and decided this was likely the end of the line for me today. In fact, I probably should have called it a mile back but the rams were just too cool to leave.

Since this little peak had a marker with no sign I decided to call it 'I'm probably going to barf hill'

Because I knew I was totally going to barf before the day was through. Not only had I forgotten my hat but I'd also forgotten glucose and having dipped back into ketosis, I knew the bonk was starting and vomitville was just around the corner. My body loves to be in ketosis and mild exercise is awesome in that state but anything that gets you huffing and puffing will blow out the small amount of sugar stores you need to run your brain and its really hard to function when your brain goes night-night.

I tried to eat something but couldn't get it down so I started back down the mountain in a hurry. I passed my sheep friends again and said good bye while trying not to eat shit on the lose rocks."I climbed up this?!" I thought. Jeeze!

My brain was starting to get foggy and I ended up going up hill when I should have gone down, but finding this random pile of rocks made it not so bad. I sat in their shade and tried again to eat something but my body was too far gone.
Got to get to the truck!

I made a few more wrong turns eventually making my way down a flood channel that I mistook for the road. This flood route was not only exponentially more difficult, but it also took me further away from my truck.  I finally made it to the street and walked as quickly to my truck as I could.  On the long road walk I decided I need to outfit my truck like Kitt from Night Rider so I can just call and he'll roll up like a boss where ever I am.

When I finally got to my truck I cracked open a warm bubble water and sipped at it while laying down in the back. I was hoping it would make me barf so I could get on with my day. After a few minutes I evacuated all the water I drank earlier and waited for relief, but it never came. When this has happened to me in the past throwing up is the end of it, I'll feel better and go get some lunch, but not today. I think the difference was that in the past I would have already had glucose on board and throwing up was secondary relief to the stabilized blood sugar. Today I had zero glucose on board and knew I needed to get to the store asap.

I drove to Christmas Circle and headed into the liquor store, grabbing a 7up and Gatorade. I could hardly hold myself up and must have looked terrible because the clerk pulled me out of line allowing me to check out before everyone else. I am so grateful for that because as soon as I made it back to my truck in the parking lot I threw up again. I sipped at the 7up and Gatorade while laying back in my seat but only felt more nauseous. I was embarrassed being sick there so I dumped out some trail mix I had in a cup and held that as my new barf receptacle while driving out of town.

The route up Montezuma Grade was slow and winding and I stopped a few times to vomit there too. I resorted to holding the 7up under my tongue so I could at least absorb some of the sugar thru the veins in my mouth. I found a bag of old chips in my center console and nibbled at those riding the edge between enough to make me feel better and too much that would make me throw up. This went on all the way to Ramona and when I snapped myself back from passing out I considered stopping at CalFire and asking for help. Instead, I stopped on the side of the road and text my mom and brother what was going on and they were ready to help if I needed them. I limped my way home and by the time I made it to I-8 I was feeling more human. I'll definitely make sure to be prepared from now on.
This picture is from a different trip for the sake of the story, I was too fuct up to take any photos during all of this!

In the end, all things considered, it was a super awesome trip. I am really feeling good about stuff right now and am looking forward to this year! The next day was pretty stormy out so instead of trying to get hike 2 of 52 I took a break and drove my mom on a desert adventure.

Here are a couple photos of that, just so we end on a high note!

I love my mom! LMAO!

Thanks for reading everyone! On to the next!


  1. I loved this post! I don't love that you got so sick, but the visuals, the story, etc. so good! Where in/near San Diego do you live? I'm from Chula Vista. I visit often and I've been trying to hike more while there.

    1. I live in Ocean Beach/Point Loma area. Next time you're down and when your knee is doing better email me and we'll go hike!

  2. Love this post (except for the getting sick part). How cool to hike with the big horns.

  3. Desert bighorn? Dang, Mandie, that's the Holy Grail of animal sightings around here.