Saturday, April 29, 2017

23 of 52 - McCain Valley, Sombrero Peak Area

Somehow I managed to delete all of my photos from this trip so you're stuck with my crappy Instagram photos. Sorry about that!

It is too hot for lower desert hiking so I opted to head to the high desert to explore the McCain Valley near the city of Boulevard. I've been up here a couple of times now driving around and trying to get the lay of the land, which is no small feat with the major construction that's underway for the Tule Wind Farm. I got an early start and slowly made my way to the Cottonwood Campground passing all manner of tractors and bulldozers, and there I paid the $6 day use fee to park. I headed out on the Pepperwood Trail towards Sombrero Peak but I knew I wouldn't stay on the trail for long. There are lots of boulders to explore off the beaten path and I hoped to find some pictographs tucked inside.

I diverted from the trail just a few feet from the start and found a ceramic coffee cup filled with dirt right next to a book about medical school admissions. My mind instantly created a story where the owner of the book came out to camp and think about the future of her life. She watched the sunrise and drank her coffee and decided she didn't want to be a doctor like her parents demanded. She wanted to be a dirtbag thru hiker! So she abandoned her book and headed for Campo and she's still hiking the earth, happy and content to this very day.

I have an over active imagination.

I sort of criss-crossed the trail, poking around and looking for stuff in the dirt. It's tough to do cross country exploration in the higher elevations as the brush gets taller but still maintains the pokey/snaggy properties of the lower desert. Eventually I found myself at a cross roads where the trail junctioned with Canebrake Road. The wind was picking up as I scanned the area and I noticed the remains of an abandoned ranch to the south. The clanking sound of a loose metal sign added to the creepy ambiance of the place so I didn't stick around long.

I headed away from the ranch toward Sombrero Peak, staying on the road until it crested the hill and provided amazing views of the desert below. I began my zig-zag route again looking for artifacts and cowboy relics but was surprised to find very little. The road soon turned to trail and then into what seemed like a mountain bike track. It was getting hot and I sought refuge under rock overhangs and lean-tos where I watched ladybugs crawl around on cholla and lizards do push ups in the sun. I thought about trying for Sombrero Peak but decided to save my energy for more poking around on my way back and stopped at the top of Indian Valley. I am looking forward to hiking down to the desert floor from here one day as a point to point with Josh. There are many canyon routes that look interesting, including Pepperwood Canyon to the Inner Pasture.

On my return, I did a loop of sorts and followed a trail South for a while before going cross country again hoping to meet with Canebrake Road. As I started my uphill trudge back over the ridge I started to find the artifacts I was hoping for. First, I found a rusty sink on a rock and shortly after discovered I couldn't take a step without my foot landing on potsherds.

I started looking in all the nooks and crannies of a small boulder field overlooking Bow Willow Creek far in the desert below and found morteros, and pottery intermingled with cowboy relics including a toilet made out of a 55 gallon drum.


It was starting to get late so I continued my hike back toward the truck. I consulted my gps frequently to make sure I was on the right heading to meet back up with Canebrake Road and passed a large cave on my way. As I neared the opening I noticed an abundance of  mountain lion scat both fresh and old. I made a lot of noise as I entered and when I noticed there was an alcove that I couldn't see into I let out a couple of dog barks hoping to inspire any animal to leave before I arrived. The scat increased as I entered and I quickly scanned for pictographs before turning to leave the way I'd came. As I exited I heard something very large rustling in the bushes behind me and I let out a few more barks while holding my poles in the air. I left as quickly as I could without running and started down an animal trail that I knew was worn by the lion. I followed the trail as it curved down the ridge and found myself stuck in a half moon shaped thicket of cholla and manzanita. It dawned on me that this was probably a trail the lion would chase his prey down, trapping them against the wall of brush. My heart beat quickened as I backtracked to open ground and I unfolded my knife holding it blade down as I hiked.


I thought I'd feel better being back on the dirt road but I still felt uneasy and the unnatural pace wore me out. I found a sheltered place to rest for a minute and drank some water, but I was spent. It was slow going back to my truck and I kicked myself for parking so far away from the trail head. I really do need to modify my truck to be like Night Rider. :-)

All said and done, I'd hiked about 11 miles, found some cool stuff in the desert and didn't get eaten by a mountain lion so I'd say hike 23 was a success!

On to the next!



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