Mortero Palms trailhead to saddle with Goat Canyon
(4 miles, +1,600/-1,600 feet).
Half Cookie and I wanted a nice day hike for the holidays, and since it’s been pretty cold for us here in San Diego (below 60!) we decided to go to the desert.
I’ve always had my eye on a cross-country route to Goat Canyon where one can see the Goat Canyon Trestle. It is supposed to be the largest wooden train bridge in the world! We didn’t quite make it that far today, but the first bit of the hike up to the saddle with Goat Canyon was absolutely spectacular.
To get to the trailhead we needed a 4 wheel drive, and thanks to our wonderful neighbors Dana and Alicia, we were able to borrow a Jeep that was up to the task. The road was definitely not passable for cars like my Honda Fit! At one point we had to drive across railroad tracks that were not embedded and at another point we had to drive over rocks that were a couple of feet higher than the terrain. Easy stuff for the Jeep.
This is a remote hike, and there is no trail per se, but there are often one or more use paths to follow, and occasionally people have left cairns in confusing spots.
In the early morning we had shade and it was still pretty cold, but the sun (and the climb) warmed things up.
It’s really not much of a climb at all to the highlight of the trip — the Mortero Palms! I’ve read that this is the largest palm grove in Anza-Borrego, and it certainly did envelope us for a good bit as we climbed up the ravine.
Above the grove we started bouldering too early and it was very slow going. In hindsight we should have stuck to the lowest point in the ravine because the dry falls above the grove are easily passable.
About halfway up to the saddle it got extremely dry and the terrain came to be dominated by slopes covered with a variety of cacti.
We finally made it to the saddle after a couple of hours and we paused to enjoy the view and consider our options. It was another 1,000 feet down (and back up!) to get to the trestle, probably an extra two hours of cross country climbing. We had already had such a lovely day, and I was sure I would return, so we decided to take a nice long break and then head back down the way we came.
We made it back about halfway down and decided to take a less steep ravine to return to the car, making a little bit of a loop.
The rest of the hike back to the car was easy, across a gently sloping alluvial fan with easily-dodgable cacti all around.