Saturday, March 18, 2017

Anxiety Bushwacking

If you've been following me a long time you know I struggle with mental health issues including social anxiety and panic. Since the PCT I've done a lot of work in therapy and am really trying to learn how to reach out and be comfortable around other people. A friend I met on the PCT named Blondie reached out to me about hiking together. It took a while for us to get our schedules coordinated but we finally were able to meet up in Cuyamaca for a hike around Arrowmakers Ridge. I am such an anxious dork I hardly slept the night before and left the house super early arriving to Cuyamaca 2 hours before we were to met up. Arriving so early actually turned out to be a good thing as it gave me time to see the sunrise over the lake, watch the deer grazing and a pair of ravens build a nest, all of which helped to get myself calm and mentally adjusted.

She arrived right on time to the West Mesa trailhead and we gathered our gear and headed up the wide fire road. This area is always good for scat and tracks and today we found a squirrel mandible and an assortment of other bones.

There is no trail up Arrowmakers Ridge, it is a cross country hike. We pushed our way through the sharp and tangled brush stopping every so often to check for ticks as we went.

I thought it'd be a good idea to hit the high point of the ridge first and then work our way down. When we pushed through the last of the bramble to the top we found a small cairn marking the summit.

Now that the high point was in the bag we hiked down along the west edge of the top of the ridge where the manzanita was sparse and crossed into several grassy grottoes separated by fallen logs. Each set of boulders we arrived at I inspected for morteros but all we found were some interesting scat and animal tracks.

The bushwhacking was taking a toll on Blondie and her legs were shredded. I felt really bad that our first hike together had caused her injury! She took it like a champ and continued to cheerfully climb over logs and brush. I felt concerned for her legs though as the brush thickened and opted to guide us back down to the trail leaving the rest of the ridgeline for another day.

We dropped down into the valley and Japacha creek came into view. We had to push through one last brush barrier to get to it and of course, it was all razor sharp berry bushes. Poor Blondie! I'm sorry! My mind kept telling me she's never going to hike with me again! She assured me she would but next time would bring long pants. Josh always jokes about that kind of stuff with me, he says he packs like we're going on a multiday trek when he goes anywhere with me because you never know where we're going to end up.

Blondie cleaned off her legs in the creek before we crossed over in search of the actual trail. The day was heating up and we had already put in about 3 miles of cross country travel so we opted to call it a day. On our way out we both noted that we smelled fire somewhere in the vicinity and hoped it was just a campfire.

I had to stop a few times to cool off and get my blood sugar sorted out on our way back but it afforded more opportunities to poke at animal scat and look for tracks and bones.

We talked for a bit at the trailhead and drank some sparkling water before parting ways. I wasn't sure where I was going to go now so I just kind of let the wind take me. I drove through Cuyamaca and turned off at the S1 heading up through Mount Laguna. As I neared the road crossing for the Big Laguna Trail I found the source of the smoke smell we had encountered earlier, a prescribed burn.

We are having a bit of a heat wave in San Diego so I decided to call it a day and headed on home. All together we did a little over 4 miles of cross country hiking. It was a fun trip and I look forward to returning to see what else I can find up there!


The next day was even hotter than before. I left the house around 8am and headed east on old Hwy 80 just to see what kind of adventure I could get into. I turned off on the road to McCain Valley to check things out and was immediately confronted with dozens of water trucks and contractors moving around like ants on a hill. I wasn't sure if the road was closed as they constructed power lines but decided to see how far I could get before someone told me to beat it. Eventually dodging the construction vehicles was too taxing on me mentally and I retreated to a side road that looked to be secluded from the action and headed down the moderate dirt road toward the Sacatone Overlook.

I arrived to a fork in the road, one side looked a bit too adventurous for me climbing up the side of a mountain and the other went to the actual viewpoint. I noticed this abandoned mine shaft and pulled up to take a look.

As I neared the opening to the mine I met a gopher snake curled up in the middle of the path and I watched him for a bit as he slithered off into the brush.

I decided to head to the viewpoint where a silver Tacoma was already parked. I backed up slowly to return to the road when suddenly a wild boulder came out of nowhere and smacked into my bumper! I facepalmed for a second and hoped the owner of the silver Tacoma wasn't on a ridge somewhere laughing at me for hitting the obvious rock before continuing on to the overlook.

From the lookout you can see into Carrzo Gorge and the series of tunnels known as the seven sisters. It was kind of cool to see it from this vantage point knowing a few weeks ago Josh and I were at the bottom of this very canyon. This area is on my list for further exploration on a cooler day.

My journey continued and I headed back the way I came and noticed a large cistern on the South side of the road. 

Nature is fully awake for the season and bugs were everywhere. This guy flew in my window and decided to take a ride on my arm rest before I shooed him out.

I was listening to the radio pretty loud but still could hear that tell tale sound of a rattle snake and I stopped to see where he was. I climbed over to the passenger seat and peaked out to find one of the largest rattlesnakes I've ever seen curled up in the road. 

I got back on I-8 and exited at Ocotillo where I took the Evan Hewes Hwy east. My truck kind of just drove itself through Plaster City and then random farming roads in the imperial backcountry. I then found myself on a road with signage indicating unexploded military ordinance and it stoked my sense of adventure egging me onward.

I decided to just keep going and remembered reading about the Blythe Intaglios. I met up with Hwy 78 and passed through Glamis, which is always a bizarre vista, and crossed through some really beautiful terrain in the Chocolate Mountains before arriving at a Border Patrol checkpoint in Palo Verde. The officer waved everyone through asking only the car before me what their citizenship status was but she stopped me for a good 5 minute conversation, "where are you going, where have you been, so you're just out exploring, do you sleep in your truck (I still had my camping gear in the back), where is home, how old are you (?!) where are you from, so you explore like this often, where do you live..." All the while I can feel her partner looking in and around and under my truck. Finally she was satisfied with my life story and let me go through. I'm wondering when the book is going to be released about my life so I can buy a copy. This is getting to be kind of a bummer and I wonder what kind of profile I fit or if the Border Patrol is just getting a little big for their britches with the new president. Whatever the case I'm sort of over it.

I continued on passed I-10 where I got on I-95 and paralleled the Colorado River to the turn off for the Intaglios.

I followed the dirt road passed a large rattlesnake and stopped at the first information kiosk.

I squeezed through the little opening in the wire rope and hiked up to a pair of chain link fences that protect the intaglios. This desert is crazy interesting and as I circled the massive geoglyphs my brain tried to make sense of them. How, why, who, were all questions that came to mind. The thing that is so cool about these is much like the geoglyps in the Yuha Desert, there isn't a vantage point near enough to coordinate the drawings. These are exceptional in that they are so accurate the figures even have knee caps and elbows. I could only come up with three scenarios for this accuracy: 
1) Aliens 
2) The figures are somehow oriented with the stars 
3) Tribal Shamans were well versed in remote viewing

As I surveyed the area I found things like this random circular clearing in the rocks. Are these sleeping circles? Are sleeping circles just a San Diego thing or a California Indian thing? 

As I explored all three of the glyphs; two anthropomorphous and one animal figure with a spiral, I also came upon glyphs made by visitors so sometimes it was hard to tell what was old and what was new. Edit: I later learned there are 5 glyphs so now I definitely have to go back!

It was blazing hot out so I didn't do too much more exploring of the area on foot, I'll have to come back when it's cooler and hike around some more. Instead I opted to continue my roadtrip and after consulting my map saw I could make a loop by picking up I-95 south in Quartzite AZ and taking it to Yuma.

I was nervous about going through more border patrol check points but once I entered the Kofa Wildlife Preserve all my cares were replaced with awe and I was happy I'd gone this way. What a gorgeous place! I'm making a note to come back and stay a few days.

I crossed into California without issue and merged back onto I-8. I watched the sunset over the Imperial Sand Dunes through a buggy windshield and cruised my way home. It was a really good trip and I have a lot of new places to plan trips to!

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