Buck Ridge and Alder Canyon

Rockhouse Canyon Trailhead to Cottonwood Springs
(12 miles, +3,700/-1,800 feet).

It was time for another winter trip with MixMaster, and the cold temperatures usually mean we stay close here in SoCal.  This time we decided to head to Anza-Borrego and explore the region below Toro Peak.

We were originally going to head out yesterday, but the forecast called for 60 mile per hour winds!  So we waited that out and left today for a simple overnight trip.

We drove my Prius across a dry lake and down a road better suited for high clearance vehicles to the Rockhouse Canyon trailhead.  The first part of our trip took us up the well-traveled Butler Canyon.

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Back in the saddle again
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Trailhead guardian
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Butler Canyon

After about a mile we stumbled on a Borrego skull, which I’ve never seen before.

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Poor guy

There were a surprising number of wildflowers for this early in the season, owing to the early rains the desert got last fall.

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Desert Verbena
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Rock and Brittlebush

After a couple hours we left Butler Canyon and crossed Jackass Flat towards Buck Ridge.

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Toro Peak looms over Jackass Flat
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Ocotillo in bloom
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Barrel cactus
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Ocotillo buds

Soon it was time to climb the ridge, which would be easy without plant life, but….

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Cholla minefield!
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MixMaster navigates his way through
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So cute and fluffy

We each pulled several “jumping” cholla off our shoes on the way up to a lovely lunch spot at about 3000 feet.

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Time to sit
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Sitting is good!
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Jackass Flat far below
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Buck Ridge
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Another landing on the ridge

As we made our way over Buck Ridge, the plant life got denser with juniper and other large bushes.

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Welcome to the jungle
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Toro Peak, closer

We had originally planned to head up into Nicholias Canyon, but cross country in the desert takes time, and we decided not to push it.  Instead, we descended to Alder Canyon and walked on its floor for a couple of miles.  We alternated between flat sandy stretches surrounded by tall canyon walls and smooth granite dry falls that were fun to climb down.

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That last step is a doozy
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Just barely fit!
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This is fun!
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Prince’s Plume

About an hour before sunset we climbed up on the flats above the canyon and headed across to Cottonwood Springs.  There was no water (we brought plenty) but the wildlife was lush and the birds were flitting about engaged in mutual singing.

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Cottonwood Springs
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Evening light on Toro Peak
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Chillin’ in camp

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