Cactus Spring Trail

Cactus Spring Trail to trailhead
(8 miles, +2,500/-1,700 feet).

Ahhh, the last day of a trip is always so much fun.  Beauty in the morning and civilization (ramen and beer!) in the afternoon.

It was much warmer last night and calm, and we both slept well after our long cross country adventure yesterday.  I awoke to a stunning view of the east.

Good morning sun

We packed up and headed out early since it was already getting warm.

Alpenglow on the Santa Rosas

The Cactus Spring Trail is not so much a trail here as a route, and most of the time we were following cougar footprints (not human) from cairn to cairn.

Cougar print or smiley face?

Once again, MixMaster found a deluxe place for breakfast at the 5168 benchmark.


The next hour down to Cactus Spring we followed narrow rocky ravines that were challenging but fun (not exhausting like yesterday).


And then we reached the beginning of the maintained part of the trail.

Gnarly routefinding

We followed well-marked entries and exits in and out of the broad washes of Little Pinyon Flat.

A broad wash
A Buster Scruggs extra
The Santa Rosas above Little Pinyon Flat

Cactus Spring was a little disappointing.

That’s it?

But we still had about a liter each for the last five miles, so we were not worried.

We thought the rest of the trip would look like Pinyon Flat and many other washes we’ve seen in SoCal.  But the vegetation was thick and we soon dropped into a series of rocky ups and downs that took us across perennial streams.  It was such a gorgeous surprise, especially since we thought this trail we merely an escape route.

Thick and luscious
Beautiful rocky slopes
Horsethief Creek

We saw our first hikers of the whole trip about an hour before we were done.  I did not know how far we had left, so I asked one of them how many miles it was to the trailhead.  She checked her watch and said “2.57!”  Yay!

It got hotter and was still humid, so it was a sweaty two and a half miles, but the views were totally worth it.

Peak 3967
Yet another desert stream
MixMaster on the move
JimmyJam and his mobile shade
The last bend
End of the wilderness

Just to say goodbye, the trail provided us with one last treat: an agave on the verge of blooming.

Leaning in

And a little over two hours later we were enjoying a well-earned victory lunch in San Diego.

I can’t wait to come back to this part of the wilderness….

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