February in Review: Return of the Blog

Some time ago, I used to maintain a regular blog chronicling many of the hikes I took. That blog helped me develop the outdoor writing skills to begin writing for Modern Hiker, which eventually led to the Afoot and Afield gig. I dropped blogging once I started writing for Modern Hiker, but I’ve since decided it would be nice to bring it back.

From here on out, I’m going to blog on a semi-regular occasion as a means of giving myself a forum that I don’t necessarily get on Modern Hiker or in print. This will allow me to share recent trips, provide photo galleries, and reflect on this or that. It won’t be a particularly fancy operation, but it doesn’t have to be.

First up: The Month in Review

DSC01113
Bighorn sheep skull in a tributary of Carrizo Gorge

 

This February, I hiked 14 times over 108.5 miles, gaining 16,250′ of elevation. Much of this hiking occurred in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, where I was busy wrapping up the field work for Afoot and Afield in San Diego County. As of today, I have one hike remaining for the field work (Dawn’s Peak), which I plan to take on March 5th-6th.

Capture

I also spent three nights camping at Borrego Mountain, Coyote Canyon, and Rockhouse Valley. One of my goals on the year is to spend 30 nights camping, and to date, I have spent 6 nights camping so far. If I maintain my current pace of 3 nights per month, I’ll finish the year with 36 nights out. I have a feeling I’m going to surpass 30 pretty easily.

There were a lot of memorable hikes this month as I took on some of the more challenging routes remaining in the field work. I also led a Hikes and Hops for Anza-Borrego Foundation at Borrego Mountain/The Slot, which followed up a 4.5 mile hike with some tasty beer. Of the 14 hikes I took this month, three in particular stand out the most.

 

Rockhouse Valley

Cottonwoods
Cottonwoods near the upper rock houses

This was my second attempt at completing Rockhouse Valley in the past two months. I previously went in December with my friends Tony and Chris. We erred in thinking that we could hike along the north end of the valley, reach the water source, and hike back to our tents in one day and thus cut the hike short. This led to a 15 mile march back to our cars, which we parked all the back by the north end of Coyote Mountain.

On this round, my friend Sicco joined me. Since Sicco is blessed with access to a 4WD vehicle, we were able to get a lot closer to the roads end. We completed 23.5 miles of hiking starting halfway between the Butler Canyon junction and the end of Rockhouse Canyon Road. Although we spent a good bit of time wandering across some pretty angry and stabby country, we eventually worked our way up to the cottonwoods, tanked up at the water supply, and enjoyed a fine sunset with long shadows stretching across Borrego Valley.

This was also the second to last hike, which brings with it a bittersweet feeling. I’m glad I’ll be finished with the project, and yet I still don’t ever want it to end.

 

Mortero Palms and Goat Canyon

Goat Canyon Trestle
The Goat Canyon Trestle

I’ve long had an ambivalent attitude toward the Goat Canyon Trestle. For most people, the trestle is an object of fascination, and whether wittingly or unwittingly, they’ll do whatever it takes to get up close to it. The trouble is that the trestle lies on private property. Also, many people follow the train tracks to reach the trestle, which are also private property. After being the hall monitor about illegal hiking, I felt, “Well, I better go see the damn thing for myself.”

I followed Schad’s route up from Mortero Canyon, and I found that I enjoyed the route far more than I expected I would. Difficult scrambles aside, the route was much easier than I anticipated, and the trestle is a pretty impressive site even if seen from afar. As usual for “destination” hikes that tend to draw a lot of social media traffic, I enjoyed the hike a lot more than the actual objective, but I’m glad I finally saw it. . . legally.

 

Sheep Canyon

Cottonwoods, palms, and sycamore
Cottonwoods and palms inside Sheep Canyon

This was another hike that’s difficult to reach without the benefit of a 4WD vehicle. Access to the hike had long eluded me, although I had hiked through the first half mile back when I walked out to nearby Cougar Canyon and Indian Canyon. On this trip, the Dons joined me, and they were kind enough to assist me with their 4WD resources. We did not make it up the bypass, instead electing to camp at the base of the bypass and hike in. However, we made it into Sheep Canyon and enjoyed a pretty terrific hike.

Sheep Canyon features a lot of waterfalls, which is rare enough in San Diego in general but even more so in the desert. Some of these waterfalls are among the most beautiful in the county, and the lush riparian vegetation, enjoyable scrambling, and warm sunshine made this a particularly fine day out in the desert. Of course, hiking with the Dons is always a good time, whether it’s the ball-busting or the sharing of two lifetimes worth of hiking knowledge.

Up Next: MarchThis month, I’ll finish up field work by hitting Dawns Peak with the Dons (YES!). I’ll dial it back to local hikes for a bit simply so I don’t have to spend every weekend driving long distances to obscure places. I’ll get in a few short hikes in Phoenix when I go to watch spring training with my dad and my brother. I also hope to make an assault on the county’s waterfalls if we’re lucky enough to get a period of heavy rainfall. I plan to hit 35 miles of the PCT between Scissors Crossing and Warner Springs with my friend Shawnte as she hammers away at her home book. Finally, I hope to receive confirmation regarding a book project I’ve been trying to set up for some time which will ensure at least two summers of outstanding hiking.

 

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