Saturday, April 29, 2017

Cowboys and Indians

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 some BLM land 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. I got an early start and slowly made my way to the the parking area, passing all manner of tractors and bulldozers. I headed out on an established route 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 as the wind was picking up. I scanned the area and noticed the remains of an abandoned ranch to the south. The ominous structure coupled with the clanking-sound of a loose metal sign blowing in the wind gave the place a creepy ambiance so I didn't stick around long.

I headed away from the ranch 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 doing some peak bagging but decided to save my energy for more poking around on my way back. 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, and follow the footsteps of the Kumeyaay, Spanish and early ranchers.

On my return, I did a loop of sorts and followed a trail south for a while before going cross country. As I started my uphill trudge I started to find the artifacts I was hoping for in the form of a rusty sink sitting on a rock.

I continued on and started looking in all the nooks and crannies of a small boulder field overlooking the desert below. After a bit more hiking I found some morteros and pottery intermingled with cowboy relics, including a toilet made out of a 55 gallon drum that a fellow blogger dubbed the "cowboy crapper".

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 the dirt 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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