A SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DESERT SOJOURN: Stonewall Peak (5,730'), Cuyamaca Peak (6,512'), Sombrero Peak (4,229') 2X, Mastodon Peak (3,371'), Ryan Mountain (5,457') 3X, Saddleback Butte (3,651') and More

March 6-11, 1997

Recommended reading: Adventuring in the California Desert, by Lynne Foster, Sierra Club Books

My driver, and leader of this activity to Anza-Borrego State Park and vicinity, had been scheduled to lead a Sierra Club national activity here, but it was canceled. Having the time, she enlisted me to do some light hiking and sight-seeing about this beautiful area.

Thursday, the 6th, we carpooled to Palm Canyon Campground in the heart of the State Park. The next day, we took a hike into Borrego Palm Canyon. The blooming ocotillo made a good show. There was also a good array of wildflowers. Taking a trail loop diversion, we came back to our campsite and visited the town of Borrego Springs, CA, for rest and food.

After lunch, we hiked the side road to the Calcite Mine, off S-22. There is a nice view of the badlands to the south. This 2 mile each-way hike has quite the opportunities for desert photos.

Driving back west, we camped at Yaqui Wells. Saturday, we drove west to Cuyamaca State Park to hike Stonewall Peak (5,730') and Cuyamaca Peak (6,512'). Stonewall Peak has a trail cut into the rock near the top, with climbing opportunities. Cuyamaca Peak has a mostly paved, service road to the top, and a good view to the west.

After a stop in Julian, a small community enroute, we hiked to the pictograph site near Whale Peak. At our remote desert camp that night, we saw, clearly, the comet Hale-Bopp in the early morning sky.

Our plan for Sunday was to climb Sombrero Peak (4,229'). This was my second ascent, so I led us up nicely to the top. Back to the car for lunch, we drove south toward I-8 and visited Carrizo Overlook, Fossil Canyon, Painted Gorge, and then drove north from El Centro and Brawley to camp again in the desert.

Monday, we hiked the short Elephant Tree Loop, drove the Split Mountain road, and took the Wind Caves trail. These were all very picturesque.

Leaving the State Park, we drove through Mecca Hills, then coming to Joshua Tree National Park, we hiked Mastodon Peak (3,371') as a loop. Making a quick stop at the Cholla Gardens, in the late hours of the day, we also hiked Ryan Mountain. We drove into Twentynine Palms for dinner.

On our last day, we hiked the peak in Saddleback Butte State Park. This is a 1.6 mile trail to the top. This formation rises, alone, out of the middle Antelope Valley in the Western Mojave. We climbed both the NE (higher) and SW summits.

We had done 13 separate peaks and hikes, with 9,500 feet gain over 33 miles hiked. The days and nights were all pleasant. We could sit around in lawn chairs in the evenings, with just light jackets, and the temperate highs were aided sometimes with a light breeze.

The major goal for both of us was to lose some weight. We had Diet Coke for breakfasts, and one main meal in the evenings. While we always feel better after hiking and climbing, we should better develop an exercise routine in our daily lives. I try to keep active doing peaks, but am impeded by a lack of companions.