Quartz Vein Wash and Sunset Wash

Quartz Vein Wash to Sunset Wash to San Felipe Creek
(6 miles, +1,100/-1,100 feet).

It’s spring break!  Half Cookie and I wanted to go check out the Superbloom in Anza-Borrego, so I looked at the Anza Borego Desert Natural History Association’s updated map of the best places to see wildflowers.

They said flowers were great on the Narrows Earth Trail and in San Felipe Creek (by the “Texas Dip”), so I built an itinerary where we would head up Quartz Vein Wash and then climb up and over into Sunset Wash, then come back down to San Felipe Creek to close the loop.

I wasn’t quite sure what we would find when traveling between the washes, but the topo map showed one place we could climb that didn’t look like it would involve any class 3 exposure.

It’s been chilly in the mornings and more so in the desert, so we didn’t leave San Diego until about 5:30am.  By 7:30am we were at the trailhead, where many of the flowers were still tightly shut against the cold.

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Still sleeping

Caterpillars were motionless, clinging to the tops of stalks.  It’s like they got cold mid-mouthful and decided to wait until the next day to continue.

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Suspended animation

The entrance to the wash was blazing in color with many different species.

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Phacelia
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A close up!
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Fremont’s monkeyflower

We had to tiptoe past some folks camped right at a dry fall in Quartz Vein Wash, and then after that the wash opened up.

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Quartz Vein Wash
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A different species of phacelia

The wash got narrower and we had to climb some more dry falls as we ascended.

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Dry falls

At one point there was a dry fall that was too high for us to climb, so we went up a nearby wash and tried to climb over to get back into the wash.

The canyon walls were not necessarily steep here, but the rock was very crumbly and the chutes would take us over cliffs if we fell.

It was sketchy!  So much for avoiding class 3….

We probably should have taken a different route, but we just took our time and got through it.

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Half cookie searches for a way down

On the descent I dislodged a lot of rocks and scared this poor guy to death:

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Back off, dude!

Meanwhile, back in the wash we continued to climb.

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Rockier and rockier
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Blooming agave
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Ghost flower!
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Poppies, still shut against the chill

We took a wrong turn and suddenly there were two ridges we needed to climb to get over to Sunset Wash.  But none of it was as difficult as our earlier adventure circumnavigating the dry fall.

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A green ocotillo
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Half Cookie climbs the first ridge
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View towards Toro Peak and San Jacinto
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Almost to the top!
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Barrel cactus blooms
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On top of the first ridge
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Climbing the second ridge
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Desert Chicory
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Top of the second ridge
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Sunset Wash
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making our way down
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Made it!

We took a nice break in the shade once we reached Sunset Wash.  By the time we continued the poppies were finally awake and EVERYWHERE!  Where they were normally dusty and stark, the hillsides glowed gold and green, especially those with north-facing slopes.

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Poppies!
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Brittlebush
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Now that’s a superbloom!
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Green-golden hillsides
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More barrel cactus blooms
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And the cactus in question
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A flowered ravine
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More green and gold
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Poppies in the foreground, poppies in the background!
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Paddle cactus bloom

As we got near the lower reaches of the wash, we saw more and more caterpillars come to life.  Most of them were traveling up the wash searching for more plants to eat, but some were digging themselves into the sand.  It was quite comical to make our way through this slow-motion stampede.

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March of the caterpillars
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Cane cholla

Soon we were back at the entrance of the wash.  We crossed the road and walked over to San Felipe Creek.

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Looking towards the Narrows
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San Felipe Creek

We saw a new insect we’d never seen before, a black beetle with a white leopard skin coat!  It was tough to get his picture because he darted back and forth on the desert floor.

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Hey buddy!

The walls got steep again as we passed through the narrows.

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The Narrows

And then we were done!  Back to San Diego and Border X where we had tacos and beer.

A perfect day!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nancy Anderson says:

    The poppies looked yellow and not orange.

    Why is that?

    Sent from my iPhone

    Like

    1. JimmyJam says:

      I think they vary in color, and also the colors around probably play a role, too.

      Like

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