Sunday, April 9, 2017

Reconnoitering Remote Washes

I woke with the sun in the cozy little campground that is Mountain Palm Springs and prepped for the day. I was the first one up in camp and tried to be quiet as I got ready, but I know I let out a little whoo-hoo when I noticed a piece of pottery on the ground right near my truck. Finding potsherds always means it's going to be a good day.

The plan was to do a little recon of a secluded valley near Anza Borrego. I look at this area on google earth a lot while at work and it is super intriguing. Many of the trip reports I've pulled up are tales of bizarre relics, wild animals and cow bones and I just had to see it for myself. I drove passed two campers in sedan type cars and seeing them gave me a chuckle. Just when I think I'm a badass in my 4x4 someone knocks me down a peg by successfully driving a honda civic into an area I think is backcountry.

I found a wide spot in the road and pulled in to park. I prepped my gear and headed off, winding around cholla and brittle bush aplenty. Right off the bat I found another piece of pottery in the sand and this was a big piece! I love finding pottery, it makes me feel like a treasure hunter even though I put it right back.

All of the boulder fields in Anza Borrego call to me like they have some secrets to tell. 

I reached a draw that would take me to my destination and began climbing. The day was already warm and the little fly/gnat thingys were fierce! I looked at the scars on my legs from recent bouldering trips and figured this was going to take me all day. I was surprised when I kept finding viable routes rather easily up through the canyon. I wondered if this was a main thoroughfare for animals coming and going between valleys. That theory changed when I stumbled upon several potsherds and realized I was on a legit Indian trail.

I liked this piece because it was two-tone; brown on the outside and black on the inside. As I examined it my eyes driffted to another piece on the ground, and then another and then a whole pile of pieces! "It's a freakin' pot drop!" I exclaimed, "How cool!" I squated down in the dirt and started to carefully pick up pieces. I set them on a rock and sat down to see if I could put the pot back together. In theory I think I could, most of the pieces were there including two pieces that were curved like the neck of the jar. As I looked at the pieces my imagination wandered to the time it happened. I imagined a Kumeyaay girl hiking down this steep slope with her family when suddenly she sliped and dropped the pot on the ground. Then my imagination took it one further and I saw her sister stop, look at her and say, "damn it Susan! Not another one!" followed by her uncle shaking his head and saying, "classic Susan." It was at this point I realized I watch way too many 'Parks and Rec.' type sitcoms.

my foot for scale

I love how it is chared on one side.

 I put the pot pieces back exactly where I found them and continued up to the top of the pass. The view from the saddle was amazing! I finally got a glimpse of the valley that I'd been viewing from space on google earth and I have to tell you, it was much larger than I thought it was going to be. The whole area is massive and really remote.

I climbed my way down another well established trail into one of the forks of a broad wash system. I took out my binoculars and spotted a rock pile in the distance and set my sights on it as my destination. I felt kind of creeped out as I hiked, like I was not alone and I scanned the area diligently looking for animals but only saw their scat and tracks. I thought back to a conversation Josh and I had with a triple-crowner: He asked if Josh and I had seen any mountain lions while hiking in a particular area, to which we replied we hadn't. His response was, "oh well, that's OK... they saw you..." That still rings inside my head when I'm alone in remote areas. I know they're watching and I'll never see them...unless they want me to.

The boulder pile I was shooting for looked way closer than it actually was. I realized that the scale of the area was hard to pin down due to a lack of reference. At the beginning of the day, the pass I crossed seemed much larger than it really was and the now the boulders I thought were close were really far away. I felt my mind was playing tricks on me and decided this was likely as far as I was going to go today. I tucked into a little nook and ate some lunch while making mental notes of features I wanted to check out for future trips. Every now and then I would hear someone singing or playing a radio in the canyon next to me. It caught me off guard and I'd even hold my breath to try to eliminate all other sources of the sound. I knew that there was a relatively well traveled canyon nearby but the type of hikers who're crazy enough to cross country these canyons aren't generally ones who play music while doing so. I never did figure out where it was coming from and have since just chalked it up to the bugs making noise that was reverberating in the acoustics of the canyon...or a ghost, it could always be a ghost too. -_-

It was getting to be the hot part of the day and I climbed out of the wash the same way I'd come in. The whole hike was a struggle to avoid the excited cholla balls that lined every nook and cranny. Even though I was on a pretty nice use-trail, the cholla was unavoidable and I had to stop frequently to pull spikes out of the bottom and sides of my shoes that had pushed all the way in to my foot. I think I need to find a different shoe for cross country. My hoka one ones are amazing but they're soft foam and really expensive and this terrain chews them up and spits them out QUICK. In my attempts to avoid stands of cholla I accidentally pushed through a catclaw bush which deposited thorns in my leg through my pants and then ran into an ocotillo that decided to eat my shirt for lunch. At the top of the saddle I started my downward trek and discovered I'd picked up a cholla ball on the bottom of my shoe when I stepped onto a rock and felt a big splat! When the cholla exploded it pushed a dozen thorns through the sole of my shoe and into my foot which caused me to slip and get the remaining loose thorns lodged in the back of my thigh. I sat down in the dirt and sort of laugh/cried at the situation while pulling the thorns out of my butt and foott. 

I eventually made it back to semi-level ground but continued to dodge the variety of blooming and spiky plants all the way back to my truck. This was the first hike I'd wished I had a chrome dome type umbrella and think I might look into getting one for future desert treks since its starting to get warm out and I'm not done hiking around here! It was a good day spent in the desert and I got in about 5 miles. I am inspired to return and explore the area further, now that I have a better idea of what that entails. On to the next!

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