Arsenic Spring to Tule Canyon and back, then Scissors Crossing (PCT Halfmile 77.3) to Third Gate (PCT 91.2)
(18 miles, +4,000/-3,000 feet).
Carrizo Gorge is the site of the famous Goat Canyon Trestle, reportedly the largest wooden railroad bridge in the world. I have always wanted to see the gorge up close and personal, and I had heard that it was possible to walk along the canyon bottom if one was willing to do some bushwhacking. So I grabbed my buddy MixMaster and we decided to give it a try.
The map shows the gorge starting near the De Anza Nudist Resort (fun!) but we drove up to the gate of the resort (eyes averted) and it was closed. So we had to backtrack to park beside the road near the 8 and start our hike on the tracks to get to the gorge.
The first half mile on the tracks was uneventful, though we did pass an unusual small cemetery.
The tracks are really old, and on the small bridges some of the ties have completely rotted out. I stopped to take a picture on a bridge, and while futzing with my phone I lost my footing and actually fell partway through the tracks!
I reeled in pain as my left leg dangled below the bridge and my butt straddled the two ties on either side of the missing one. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me how to get back up, and my pack full of 8 liters of water was no help!
Eventually I extricated myself and checked for serious injury. Luckily I escaped with nothing more than a very deep bruise the full length of my left thigh. We proceeded cautiously across the rest of the bridge and the rest of the day I limped along with about 50% my usual energy.
Soon we came upon an abandoned train, which seemed a bit spooky in the early morning light. We decided to take a detour into the vegetation-choked gorge.
When we weren’t bushwhacking, we were dodging cactuses or walking around cool granite rocks with beautiful quartz veins.
When we arrived at the first steep drop in the gorge bottom the vegetation eased up and we actually found several pools of water.
Climbing down the waterfalls took some time, but it was manageable
It took us about three hours to go a mile and a half! We eventually caught site of one of the first railroad trestles, which made me want to keep exploring.
But soon the Sunday day-hiking hoards started passing above us on the tracks. It was a little demoralizing to fight the intense thorny bushes while people were waltzing by above. Soon I turned to MixMaster and said “I think I’ve seen enough!” We decided to retreat and try a different hike (plan B!).
We found a class 2-3 chute to climb about 300 feet up to the tracks and headed back to the car.
The walk back on the tracks was uneventful as we passed through a tunnel and toured the not-so-spooky-in-broad-daylight abandoned train.
When we got back to the car we decided to head up to Scissors Crossing where we could do one of our favorite sections of the PCT. It was so liberating to walk this superhighway after fighting for every inch in Carrizo Gorge, and it was just as beautiful as I remembered!
The last couple of hours of the day were a little hard for me. About halfway through the day I discovered I had forgotten my food bag in the car! And I was still limping from my fall through the tracks. I knew MixMaster would share some food — he always brings extra — but I felt bad about depending on him and in general I was just bonking on the last 500 foot climb.
Soon we made it to the Third Gate, where there is an officially-maintained water cache nearby. We set up camp and I went to refill our water bottles. A bunny guided the way.
MixMaster gave me a hummus wrap, which was quite possibly the best wrap ever made in the history of the Universe. Then we settled into our tents and called it a night.