Sunday, December 22, 2013

Carrizo Mountain & Indian Hill


Carrizo Mountain is a hidden gem in our local Southern California desert. The narrow shelf roads up the mountain are only open six months out of the year, from July 1st to December 31st. This provides big horn sheep uninterrupted access into this mountainous habitat. Realistically though, there are only three months out of the year were we humans can recreate on Carrizo Mountain during cooler weather, from October to December. I have on occasion headed up there in my Jeep at night in July and August, but the temperatures still hover in the 90's, even when the sun's down. So I try to spend a weekend out there every December and explore the surrounding areas.  (Above photo by Steve & Tammy.)

On past trips I've searched for petrified wood around Plaster City OHV Area, and explored the ancient fossilized shell beds and historic sites of the Yuha Desert. Click here for some of my past trip reports of this area: 


After working a short day on Friday I loaded up my Jeep and met up with my friend, Steve and his girlfriend Tammy, in Alpine. My wife and daughter would be staying home, which turned out to be a good thing since they both ended up getting sick. Better to be home dealing with that than out roughing it in a tent. 

Heading up Painted Gorge Road and through Plaster City OHV Area.

(Photo by Steve & Tammy)

Approaching the seasonal closure gate.


With an elevation of 2,408 feet, Carrizo Mountain is the highest point along the Coyote Mountains; a small, rocky range situated at the transition between the higher Peninsular ranges of San Diego County, and the lower Imperial Valley and Salton Basin. A main attraction of this range is Painted Gorge, a mile-long segment of the main canyon where the rocks are colored in various shades of red, pink, purple, green, yellow and ochre. The mountains are located in far-southern California not too far from the Mexican border. The range and summit lies within Imperial County, abutting the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
(Photo by Steve & Tammy)

Old mining road winds through Painted Gorge and up into hills to a turn-around about 300 feet below the summit. The badlands and OHV Area below the range extend many miles north and east, and are popular with the off-road racing crowd. It seems few ever venture into Painted Gorge and along the narrow, rocky shelf roads up the mountain.


Although its not too far from civilization, it feels like you're in the middle of nowhere. Its a stark desert, and very peaceful. The mountains feature no significant vegetation other than ocotillo, barrel cactus, creosote and shrubs. Wildlife includes the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep and in warmer weather, snakes.

We arrive to our site a little ways below the summit and begin setting up camp before the sun sets.

 We spend some time around the campfire before turning in for the night. Since we're camped on BLM land and not Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, we don't need a metal container for our fire.

Up early for the sunrise.


My home away from home for the weekend.

Heading down the mountain to check out the Kumeyaay rock art pictographs at Indian Hill in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Of course, we have to take the scenic route along the old 1915 CA 80 Highway...

...and under Interstate 8, along the railroad tracks.

Passing the unsightly wind farm,

Approaching the old Dos Cabezas railroad siding, we came upon mountain bikers, motorcyclist, 4X4's, and other hikers out enjoying the day.


Approaching Indian Hill. I had first heard about Indian Hill and the Blue Sun Cave in Jerry Schad's book Foot & Afield In San Diego County, as well as on a few online forums and blogs. However, I couldn't really find precise directions to the site, which was kind of irritating at first. But now that I've been there and experienced the magic and beauty of this amazing place, I think its a good thing that some effort is required to find it.

Check out these sites for more information on this area:
Daren Sefcik: Indian Hill
DzrtGrls - Indian Hill Pictographs
The Last Adventurer - The Blue Sun Cave

Three "sun" paintings of various colors including the "Blue Sun" which gives the cave its name.

View from the Blue Sun Cave.

Take photos but don't touch anything as it could cause rapid deterioration of the pictographs.

View from the top of Indian Hill.

The hill was surrounded by hundreds of grinding holes, or morteros.



Fire blackened cave at the base of Indian Hill.

One last look before heading back to the trail head.

Shadow of a desert wanderer.




Heading back up the mountain to our camp site.

On the ridge just above our camp is this memorial marker overlooking the desert.

Below the marker was an ammo box with photos and information on the life and history of Donald F. Haskell. 


A little relaxation was had around camp.

Our friends Mitch and Apryl also came out for the day. 

(Photo by Steve & Tammy)

(Photo by Steve & Tammy)

Another evening was spent around the campfire. 

Egg and bacon breakfast burritos were the first order of business Sunday morning.

Taking in the views.

A side trail below our site lead to a few other overlooks and smaller campsites.


Following Steve and Tammy down the mountain.

Before making our way down, we aired down our tires which made for a more comfortable descent along the rocky terrain. 





(Photo by Steve & Tammy)





Another memorial marker found in Painted Gorge. I wouldn't mind my family placing one of these somewhere for me one day.

Heading out Painted Gorge Road towards Evan Hewes Highway (S80).

Crossing the highway, we stop along the old 1915 road to air up and say our goodbyes before heading west towards San Diego and back into civilization. It was a great weekend spent camping and hiking around one of my favorite southern California desert areas. 


3 comments:

Ourkid said...

Now that looks like what I would call a good weekend. We have been to the blue sun cave and the surrounding area, it's nice and interesting. There are other points of interest in the vacinity, which we intend to visit on our next trip out there. We will probably camp at Bow Willow campground though.
Thanks for sharing.

Ourkid said...

Now that looks like what I would call a good weekend. We have been to the blue sun cave and the surrounding area, it's nice and interesting. There are other points of interest in the vacinity, which we intend to visit on our next trip out there. We will probably camp at Bow Willow campground though.
Thanks for sharing.

Sarah Durand Lathers said...

Any hope you can help me locate the site from the water tower?? Please!