Monday, November 24, 2014

Mortero Palms to Goat Canyon Trestle & Indian Hill | Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

With November rolling around, it was time once again for a hike into the Anza-Borrego wilderness to check out the world's largest wooden railroad trestle in Goat Canyon. I've delved into the history of this "Impossible Railroad" in past trip reports, which can be found HERE.

I had considered making this an overnight trip, camping out near the trail head after the hike but decided instead to just spend the day hiking in the desert. On this outing, I was joined by Dave, Mike, Steve, and Tammy. I arrived early at Steve and Tammy's place to ride out with them, with Mike following. Dave, who had a much farther drive, met us at the trail head for Mortero Wash just off Highway S2. We would need to set up a shuttle arrangement with the vehicles since our hike would end a few miles away from the trail head. Along with the old railroad camp dwelling, we would also be making our way to the Blue Sun Cave and ancient Native American village site at Indian Hill. To check out my last trip to Indian Hill, click HERE.

Our meeting location was the Mortero Wash trail head, located just off Highway S2 about 0.2 miles west of mile post 56. This point is 8 miles northwest of the small desert town of Ocotillo at Interstate 8 in Imperial County.

Mike following us up the wash in his 4X4 Chevrolet Astro Van. Dave's H2 Hummer was bringing up the rear.

While the guys went to drop off Dave's rig where our hike would end, I wandered around the old Dos Cabezas railroad siding.

I wonder what this area looked like in the early 1900's.

Soon after leaving the trail head we negotiate the boulder strewn canyon that leads to Mortero Palms.

The gang leading the way into the palms.

Yeah, I'll let you Google what a "Yoni" is.

Mortero Palms lies in the southernmost reaches of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, not far from the old Dos Cabezos railroad siding.

Steve and Tammy, taking in the views.

Looking down from the top of a dry waterfall that the rest of the group prepares to climb.

Above the palms and still climbing.

Group shot (from left to right- Steve, Tammy, Dave, and Mike) overlooking Mortero Palms, minus yours truly of course.

Another "yoni" along the way.

Still climbing...

Dave, taking a break at the first saddle.

We continue along a cholla covered hillside before dropping down into another canyon.

Reaching the end of the canyon we start the steepest climb of the hike. Not our favorite part.

However, the views are great! (Although they might be better with all the wind turbines.)

Catching up to the others.

We finally reach the top of the ridge. Its all downhill from here!

Making our way down Goat Canyon, there's a few dry waterfalls, steep descents, and loose rock to traverse.

The last steep pitch into the canyon is a nasty one.

Once at the bottom we reach Goat Canyon trestle, in all its glory.

Time for a lunch brake.

Steve has a lot of trust in the structural integrity of this thing.

I guess I do too...

After lunch we cross the trestle to check out the collapsed tunnel. You can see the buckled shoring above and on the right. 

Heading back cross Goat Canyon trestle.

Heading down the tracks.

More of Steve's shenanigans.

Looking back down into Carrizo Gorge.

It seems this rock wall was put in place to keep sand from accumulating on the tracks.

 Just before reaching this tunnel, we cross into a valley to explore the remains of the railroad construction dwellings and ancient Native American sites.

This was the on;y photo I took of some of the graffiti that was all over much of the historic artifacts along the trail. Apparently, the "Freight Bandit" gets around. I don't care about this stuff in the city, but I'd rather not see this vandalism while out in the wilderness.

This area, with its abundant pottery shards, is one of the oldest Indian encampments in the park. The ruins of the railroad camp dates back to about 1910. 

Often, there's no trail to follow, just cross-country travel.

Indian Hill.

This fire-blacked cave was once part of a Native American village site.

Checking out the cave.

Around the corner is the Blue Sun Cave with its pictographs.

After exploring Indian Hill we started back towards Dave's vehicle, which would take us back to the other's parked at the trail head. By now the sun had slipped behind the hills and we were treated with a beautiful desert sunset.

A big thanks to everyone who came along on this hike. It was fun exploring the fascinating history of this rugged area with such great company. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cowles Mountain | San Diego

Cowles Mountain from Golfcrest Drive - South Approach: 

Distance: 3 miles round trip
Elevation Gain/Loss: 950'/950'

Cowles Mountain with its outstanding views at 1,591’ above sea level, is arguably the most popular (and populated) trail in San Diego County. Its summit is the highest point in the city of San Diego. With its 950' vertical ascent, it has become a fitness playground for young and old alike. Its popularity is regularly substantiated by the high number of hikers, joggers, and runners that can be found on the trail at just about any time. The mountain is named after George A. Cowles, an early ranching pioneer in San Diego County.

This trail is also a favorite of families, especially those with young children who are introducing them to hiking. It’s rare that you’ll hike Cowles Mountain trail without seeing children with their favorite adults - some in backpack carriers, some running and many “huffing and puffing”. But most gratifying are the huge smiles on all involved!

Here's a suggestion for romantic adventurist who don't mind descending by flashlight. Catch the sunset from the summit when the moon is full. After the sun slides into the pacific, turn around and enjoy the moonrise to the East over El Cajon valley.

To get there from San Diego:
From I-15, take Friars Rd. East which becomes Mission Gorge Rd., 5.0 miles east. Pass Jackson Drive and the Mission Trails Regional Park turnoff. Continue up Mission Gorge Rd. to a right turn on Golfcrest (the first traffic light past Jackson Drive). Follow Golfcrest one mile south to the trail head on the left side of Golfcrest at Navajo. On weekends the parking lot is usually full, however curbside parking is permitted on Golfcrest.