We joined some friends that planned today's three short hikes in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Today's hikes had more historical significance that our prior three days of hiking.
The winds came up last night and we even had a little rain. Glancing out our windows in all directions in the early morning sunlight, I could see all the higher peaks in the area had a light dusting of snow.
This morning we got going a little earlier. We made plans with our friends, John & Pam, to meet at the Anza-Borrego visitors center at 10:00 a.m. to go hiking.
They picked us up right on time in their Jeep Wrangler, and we headed out into the Blair Valley area of the state park. Pam had planned three hikes in the same vicinity, and a fourth hike later if we were up for it and it wasn't too late.
Driving in to Blair Valley on the dirt roads, we noticed one or two boondockers and it looked like a nice, quiet place to be. The roads were a little rough, sandy, and narrow to get back too far, but it's another option for the adventurous.
Our first stop was the trailhead for Yaquitepec, or Ghost Mountain, and the homestead ruins of an adobe home built by Marshal & Tanya South in the early 1930s.
We really didn't know anything about the Souths or their "experiment in primitive living", so Linda & I were just along for the hike. Of course, after our visit, we learned more. Check out DesertUSA's piece on Marshal & Tanya South.
The hike was only a mile, but it was all uphill as it meandered up the rocky slope.
Healthy cacti, agave (century plants), junipers, and other desert vegetation covered the hillside.
It's easy to see where this Teddy Bear Cholla got its name, ....
but they aren't quite as cuddly as they look.
In a small depression on top of a ridge, we found the remnants of the South home.
While the others contemplated how the former residents lived and inspected the water system, ....
I was more interested in the views, and it was easy to see why they might have chosen this spot.
After admiring the views and appreciating what it must have been like to live on this desert mountain, we returned back down the trail.
From the South Home trailhead, we drove a bit farther and parked at the Morteros trailhead.
The half-mile walk took us to a Native American village site used by the nomadic Kumeyaay people on a seasonal basis. It's an interpretive hike, with numbered points of interest, but there were no brochures at the trailhead telling us what was interesting at each point.
We walked through the boulder-strewn area noting several morteros in the rocks.
The tight valley provided shade and protection from the wind. On one side was a ridge covered in boulders, and the opposite hill had a cholla "forest" with several of the cacti bearing fruit.
The little jaunt through the old village site would probably have been more interesting had we had the interpretive brochure, but we made up our own interpretations anyway.
Next, we drove a bit farther to the Pictograph trailhead.
I always have to remind myself "Pictographs are drawn; Petroglyphs are etched".
At the trailhead, we found a set of keys in the sand, and closer inspection revealed there were a couple of RV keys on the ring. We left the keys on the pedestal just in case someone returned looking for them.
Looking back toward the parking area.
It was eight tenths of a mile to the pictograph rock, and it was a nice little hike. Some of the prickly vegetation was really close to the trail, so care was required to avoid getting scratched or stuck.
It certainly wasn't the most impressive pictograph site we've seen, but at least the drawings were still clear.
Beyond the pictograph rock, the trail led through a wash ....
about four tenths of a mile to a gap in the rocks.
A short walk through the gap, led to an abrupt end to the trail at a cliff's edge.
Yeah, you have to be careful not to just walk right off into the wash below - it's a long way down.
By that time, the sun was sinking and the wind was blowing hard through the valley. At a higher elevation than Borrego Springs, it was cold. We tried to find a spot in the sun and a bit out of the wind for a little lunch. It wasn't a perfect place, but it was warmer as we fueled up for the hike back.
I think we totaled about five and half miles of hiking today, and that was the third day in a row we've hiked between 5.5 and 6.5 miles. I think we're ready for a day off.
Back at the trailhead, the lost keys were still there and there was no one else on the trail or in the parking area. We had asked the others we passed on the trail, but they hadn't lost any keys.
We decided if we lost our keys on a trail, we would eventually check with the park's visitors center, so we took the keys back with us and delivered them to the ranger with a description of where we found them.
While in the visitors center, we told the volunteers where we had been, and they mentioned they had a fifteen-minute film about Marshal & Tanya South and their home on Ghost Mountain. It was close to closing time, but they set the film up for us and we watched it in the theater. That was very nice of them.
The short video really gave us some more insight into the place we had visited earlier in the day. And though we thought there must have been an easier way to haul supplies up the mountain, we learned that they used the steep trail we hiked to carry everything in on foot, including twelve gallons of water at a time. Wow, they had to be in really good shape.
And thus ended another great day of hiking in Anza-Borrego. We said goodbye to John & Pam and thanked them for the ride and the company.