Feb 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm #1286006
Many thanks to Nick for organizing a fun trip through some of his stomping grounds in the Anza Borrego desert. We left our GPS units at home and followed Nick along mostly cross country routes that were based on his experience in the area. After leaving the Alcoholic Pass TH on Saturday we didn't see another person (or human footprint) until hiking out on Sunday.
We followed a wash/trail up to Alcoholic Pass. Nick mentioned that the pass is named after the cattle ranchers who used this pass to access the bars in Borrego Springs many years ago.
After a quick 600 foot incline we made it over Alcoholic Pass with some good views of the Santa Rosa Mountains.
On the way toward Butler Canyon. . .
Soon we were following Butler Canyon.
Then up the remains of an old indian 'trail' cross country toward the Playa.
The Playa with the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains in the distance.
Nick was trying out a Zpacks poncho/groundsheet, Neo-Air and cuben quilt.
Jace kicked it in luxury, a GG Squal Classic. When he needed some advice with the tent Glen Van Peski actually invited him over for personal UL instruction at his house. Now that's customer service.
Chad was using a bivy and later setup a tarp in storm mode when the winds kicked up.
Minimalist cuben tarp based on Glen Van Peski's cuben wedge. We used this for some group wind protection for dinner.
Later the wind really got going. It was about 40 mph consistently until 3:30 – 4:00 am when we started getting some 50 mph gusts. Both of the tarptents were flattened. Chad and I made it through using some low profile tarp setups. The next morning we were all ready to get going. . .
We followed along this ridge and eventually made it down to Box Canyon on the right.
Jim on the way down to Box Canyon.
Thanks again to Nick for showing us some of the 'Desert High Route'.Feb 21, 2012 at 8:35 pm #1842765
This is awesome guys.
I must admit that I'm a bit envious, a trip in Nick's backyard would be a killer way to decelerate the passing of a few days. I'll put a trip with Nick on my list of "Things to Do".Feb 21, 2012 at 10:39 pm #1842825
@climberslackerLocale: Your guess is as good as mine.
I really enjoyed that trip!
Nick, I am extremely grateful that you were willing to take us into your backyard. I dig your John Muir-esque setup.
Andy, Amazing pictures, great write-up. Thanks! You are also amazing behind a sewing machine. If you ever get the urge to make another bivy, give me a call.
Jim, thank you for putting a smile on my face when I looked over to see that it was not only me who was sleeping in a collapsed tarptent.
Chad, Thanks for keeping the lights on. I think you were the only one who got the setup right for the winds. I'm jealous.
On a side note, and I posted this in the planning thread, pistachios do spontaneously combust, but thats not why they are expensive.
I hope that we get to do this again sometime!Feb 22, 2012 at 1:01 am #1842852
Nice report Andy. Hopefully the other guys can post some pictures. I only took 4 pictures.
"He said this is the only section of trail, it looks like a 45 degree pile of rocks that goes straight up. Look how far we have traveled from the flat land below."
Here is our group from top to bottom:
Jace "The Kid" Mullen –
Full of enthusiasm. A senior in high school and an Eagle Scout. Often does solo hikes on the weekends, mostly in the San Jacintos. Will be doing the PCT solo this year. I enjoyed talking and kidding with him, as he is younger than some of my grand kids.
Andy "The G-Man" Duncan –
The Gear Man. Almost all his gear is MYOG. Cuben pack, cuben shelter, bivy, quilt and more! His only interest in everyone's gear was to check out the seams, sewing and reinforcements. Very organized and competent hiker.
Jim "The Silent Man" Block –
Doesn't talk a lot, but when he does is very knowledgeable. And he thought my cheap Gallo Hearty Burgundy wine was good… I like that!! Solid hiker and knows what he is doing.
Chad "Powerman" Eagle –
Chad is the only one I actually really knew before this trip; we did a hike together last year. Chad enjoys 30+ mile days, but is happy to hang back and go slower with a group. He has his gear dialed in and sets up and packs up very quickly. I was thrilled when he decided to join the group.
Other than Chad and me, we were all strangers. After quick introductions we hit the trail. The plan was to get to our campsite by around 4 PM. I showed everyone the route on a map and we took off. Other than stopping for a couple minutes before Alcoholic Pass where I shared the history, we mostly hiked single file. Fist section was almost straight up 600 feet, a quick descent through the pass, and then a gradual downward hike cross country passing through several Cholla Gardens, then typical desert chaparral, a walk down a wide wash until we hit a Jeep road. We stopped for a short break and got to know each other when we reached the Jeep road.
After the break we headed up the Jeep road for about a half mile, then turned up a wash that led to the mouth of Butler Canyon. The mouth of Butler Canyon is a boulder field, many boulders are over 30 feet tall. Not too difficult to traverse. In a few minutes we found a shady spot and stopped for lunch. Lots of good talk and we enjoyed watching Chad concoct a cheese-something burrito.
After lunch we walked for about 30 minutes in boulder strewn terrain and then it turned into an easy walking wash. Eventually the canyon narrowed into a short section of slot-walled canyon, then opened up into a fairly wide wash. Saw some Big Horn droppings, but sighted no sheep. Found a water seep along a canyon wall. Also saw the only full bloom Century Plant of the trip.
We finally got to our exit out of the canyon, a faint Indian trail. It is not visible from the wash, but Craig Wisner and I had located it last year. At this point we took another break. More good conversation.
From here we would hike out of the canyon, generally following the faint trail, long abandoned. We would push up about 700 feet in elevation. The trail followed a small ridge-line; Indians walked ridge-lines, switchbacks are a white man invention :)
The route was all shrub, rocks, volcanic stuff and lots of cacti. The trail ended in a steep wash and we climbed a steep rocky hill until we hit another steep wash over the top of the hill, and then paralleled this wash on the adjacent hillsides working our way up to a saddle. Brush, rocks, brush, cacti, and brush. Once at the top we walked about a hundred yards to a rise and suddenly below us was the playa.
A desert playa is a sink or dry lake with no outlet. In heavy rains it floods. Playas tend to have very alkaline soil, and the only plants growing in our playa are creosote bushes. But there was plenty of open space. The ground is much like a cinder running track. But after a few minutes one really appreciates its beauty. Our playa had a 360 degree view of the San Rosa Mountains, Buckhorn Mountains, Coyote Mountain, Laguna Mountains and San Felipe Hills.
A slight breeze started up and it felt refreshing after the sunny day of hiking. Weather called for lows around 42F in Borrego Springs, but we were 2,000 feet higher. 10% chance of precipitation and winds of 5-8 mph. Everyone set up their shelters, except I decided to sleep under the stars. Then we had dinner. No campfires are allowed as this is a wilderness area. So we went to bed around 7:30 or 8:00 when the wind started to pick up. As Andy mentioned, around 4:00 AM the wind gusts went crazy. I woke up and saw the two tents had collapsed, Andy was adjusting his pitch, and Chad's tarp was rock solid. I was sleeping in a quilt, and as an experiment was wearing a Columbia Omni-heat Backcountry Ride Beanie I picked up on sale at Sports Chalet for $10. It wasn't doing the job and I was getting cold. So I sat up to get my baseball cap and the wind blew off the beanie and my Kooka Bay pillow took off in a gust. I was cold, so I just tucked my head inside my quilt and went back to sleep. Even though the quilt is cuben there was enough air swirling around to keep the quilt vented and I slept warm until dawn.
Much too windy to cook breakfast. Chad was up and packed before everyone else and he retrieved Jim's and my pillows while we packed up. My beanie was in a Creosote bush at the foot of my quilt. So we took off in a gale storm. A half hour later we descended into a wash and the wind stopped. Great timing… perfect location for breakfast. After breakfast we started working our way down several hills, up a wash and then to the ridge-line that would meander down into Box Canyon.
Jace and Jim. Andy and Chad are higher up.
"Hmm… we keep going up and down hills, around rocks and bushes. I would be more comfortable if he would look at a map once in a while."
Once we got on the ridge that descends into Box Canyon, the high winds kicked up again. A few times it was hard to keep my balance. We worked our way down the ridge and when we got to the bottom of Box Canyon the wind died down for the rest of the day. We took another break and enjoyed the even larger boulders than we saw in Butler Canyon. From here we walked non-stop until we got to our vehicles right around 11:00 AM.
Total mileage of the trip was 18 miles. Perfect loop for a group who did not know each other. Great hiking and plenty of time to get to know each other. Thanks everyone for the company. I really had a great time!!Feb 22, 2012 at 1:05 am #1842853
Thanks, Eugene. You know the feeling is mutual. I am sure we will get that hike in one of these days.Feb 22, 2012 at 7:12 am #1842908
@jsblock11Locale: Southern California
Great trip reports! Extra thanks to Nick for taking us out to such a special place (and Chad for finding my pillow in the morning!), I loved the fact that on a holiday weekend on Southern California, there are still places you can go and not see anyone for days.
I think I earned the "silent man" nickname on this trip because to be honest, I was really just trying to soak up the collective knowledge of such an experienced group. I've been backpacking for a few years now, but am really just beginning my journey toward ultralight gear and it was great to just listen in to the gear discussions and check out everyone's setup. I've already got a few great ideas of things to improve, and new destinations to explore. My wife would also tell you there are definitely times when I won't shut up!
The wind was a challenge, but I think it also ended up being the most memorable part of the trip. After getting up around 2am to adjust the tarptent, I climbed back in only to find that my pillow had disappeared! I couldn't help but just laugh to myself, and not 5 minutes later the Squall2 completely collapsed around me, and I just decided to pull the bag over my head face down and wait until morning. Things like that end up being my favorite memories.
The Squall2 took a little bit of damage (broken line tightener that ripped out of the fabric, grommet insert for trekking pole was ripped out, and ridgeline lost all tension holding capability) so that is out for repair. I think I'm going to try and move to a tarp/bivy setup and save the Squall2 for when my wife comes along, or summertime trips when I want the bug netting.
Thanks again for letting me join in on my first BPL outing, I had a great time and can't wait to get back out there.Feb 22, 2012 at 7:46 am #1842921
@ikeLocale: Central Michigan
Wow. The scenery out there is a little bit different than what I'm looking at right now in Michigan. Looks like you guys had an awesome time. Thanks for sharing it with us.Feb 22, 2012 at 9:18 am #1842971
@nickbLocale: Los Padres National Forest
Another great trip report coming out of the deserts of southern CA. Thanks everyone for sharing your photos and stories.
The desert is calling…Feb 22, 2012 at 10:40 am #1843023
I did this trip with Nick a while back; great country, can't beat the wide open skies. I've been itching to get out there and do the same loop as a run in a day.Feb 22, 2012 at 10:42 am #1843024
Your bicycle trailer is still in the canyon :)Feb 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm #1843225
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
A very nice trip, guys. My compliments to Nick on route selection.Feb 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm #1843229
Very nice trip Nick. I have spent a lot of time in that area. Wonder if we ever bumped into each other. It does get windy. Love the names you've given out.Feb 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm #1843620
@brooklynkayakLocale: South West US
Thanks for the trip report.
Makes me long to get back in the desert again.
A great place to hike.Feb 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm #1843780
Glen Van PeskiParticipant
@gvanpeskiLocale: San Diego
Sounds like a great trip! Sorry I missed our traditional annual meeting last year, the Memorial Day trip got scrubbed due to lack of signups. Looks like we'll miss this year to, we had to change the dates since I had a schedule conflict. Good to see you're still getting out. I'm sure our paths will cross again sometime in the backcountry.Feb 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm #1843790
Thanks everyone. Just shows there are a lot of gems out there… only you have to get out a map and create the route.Feb 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm #1843794
Probably best you didn't go last year. Saturday night had wind gusts over 90 mph on San J. Sunday icicles were forming parallel to the ground around Apache Springs.
I am going to do the big loop again if your are interested in going :)Feb 23, 2012 at 6:04 pm #1843798
Depending on what else I have going, I wouldn't mind the C2C loop again.Feb 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm #1843806
What is the "big loop" Nick?Feb 23, 2012 at 6:25 pm #1843816Feb 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm #1843831
Yes, I wanna go Nick! I have tentative plans to do a challenging loop in the Gila Wilderness the same weekend with some other BPL'ers, but could maybe change some things around. Keep me in the loop if you and your posse make plans. Or we could join forces, flip a coin, and meet up in your neck of the woods or mine.Feb 23, 2012 at 6:57 pm #1843839
I've officially invited myself onto either trip.Feb 23, 2012 at 7:35 pm #1843869
@climberslackerLocale: Your guess is as good as mine.
I'll have officially hit the dusty road by memorial day however I just plugged some numbers into craig's planner and I should actually be getting up there around that time (like arriving in Idyllwild on the 25th).
I'll try to check before I get up there, maybe I can hunt you guys down and say hi!Feb 23, 2012 at 7:43 pm #1843876
To the crusty, cantankerous, curmudgeonly, desert rat, thanks again for putting this together. I had a great time. It is always nice to hike with new people and truly enjoy their company. We had quite a diverse group and we all are united under a common interest.
Andy thanks for putting together the report, I will post some pics as soon as I can find some misplaced camera cords, lost in the move to the new house. I also loved your gear, pretty cool.
Jim, didn't talk to you a whole lot. I like that though, as I am not much of a talker myself. We will have to get together for some local weekend hikes, being we are in the same boat ( little kids ) .
Jace, you are one cool kid. Had no idea you were still in highschool, you carry yourself well. I look forward to following your thru hike. Enjoy yourself and don't be in a hurry to grow up. It will be there waiting for you.
Nick, keep me in the loop for any Memorial Day trips.Feb 23, 2012 at 8:34 pm #1843908
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Thanks for sharing the adventure. Curious if the tarptents were reoriented into the wind?Feb 23, 2012 at 9:05 pm #1843931
Andy, Nick, Chad et al,
Thanks for sharing. We skirted Anza on Section B of the PCT. It is a very beautiful area. Nothing like that desert simple beauty. Glad to see BPL strangers getting a meetup and becoming acquainted.
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