Del Norte Campground to Scorpion Ranch via Chinese Harbor
(16 miles, +3,000/-3,700 feet).
After 13 hours on our backs (winter nights are long!) we were very ready to get started with our hike across the island. Since it was only 11 miles total and we had the whole day, we decided to add a 4 mile (+800/-800 feet) side trip to Chinese Harbor and a mile round trip on Montañon Ridge.
The trail followed old jeep roads that were wide enough for us to walk side by side in some places. With the greening turf, it almost seemed like a golf course!
We saw our first of several foxes early in the morning on the side of the trail. These foxes were endangered for a while but they have made a huge comeback and they don’t seem particularly scared of humans.
After a couple of miles we reached the turnoff for Chinese Harbor and made our way down to the beach. It was beautiful and rocky and isolated.
We lingered for a bit and then started our long climb back up to the Del Norte trail.
After about 1400 feet of vertical climb we were back on a gravel road on a ridge with views on both sides of the island.
Around 11am we took a break at the high point (so far) in a heathery field.
After our break, we climbed down several hundred feet before starting our climb towards the Montañon Ridge.
Soon East End Road petered out and our route reverted to a footpath.
By noon the ridge was ours!
We decided to eat some lunch on the less-windy southern side of the ridge and then afterward ditch our packs to walk along the ridge to its highest point at Montañon Peak (1808 feet). The trail is not maintained and just a little sketchy in some places with 1,000 foot drop offs!
Reluctantly, we made our way back to our packs and headed down the east side of the ridge. The route was more gentle, almost resembling the PCT in some places. And it was lined with wild grape vines and the occasional wildflower.
After about a half hour of sharp descent through an annoying rock field, the trail eventually flattened out and passed an old oil well. I recognized parts like the drill bits from my days growing up in Oklahoma.
The trail eventually led us to the Smugglers Road, which winds through grassy hills where sheep used to graze.
When we finally arrived at Scorpion Ranch, we set up our tents in a car-camp style setting. It was a little annoying to be so close to other people (especially the group that played charades until 10pm) but it was great to have access to potable water. There were also foxes all over the place, like this little fella:
In fact, while we were playing cards tonight, a fox actually got inside MixMaster’s tent! We ran it off and made sure everything was zipped up. These guys sure know how to scavenge!