16-17 November 2020
(10 miles, +1,000/-1,000 feet).
Now that the pandemic is raging again, my options for trips are limited. It’s too cold and dark to go north and Cleveland National Forest is still closed. Fortunately, Anza-Borrego is still open, so I decided to check out a corner I had never been to before: the McCain Valley.
I originally wanted to do a hike down Canebrake Wash to Agua Caliente Hot Springs and back, but the indoor pool there (the nicest one!) is currently closed so I will save that trip for another time. For this trip, I will just base camp and explore.
I started this morning by driving through all the wind farms and OHV areas in lower McCain Valley.
It’s weird to see such a close interface between large-scale industrial humanity, machine-oriented outdoor fun, and gorgeous boulder-dotted chaparral where it is easy to get lost by walking half a mile in any direction.
I chose the latter (of course!).
I parked at a trailhead near the COVID-abandoned and waterless BLM Cottonwood Campground. There were two RVs and one horse, and piles of garbage near unattended trash cans gave the place an eerie post-apocalyptic feel. I decided not to base camp there and instead loaded up 6 liters of water and started my hike in search of a nice place to pitch my tent.
And it didn’t take long to find the perfect spot!
After setting up, I decided to do an off-trail loop to explore the cliffs above Canebrake Wash.
I spent a good half an hour summiting a small pile of boulders at the edge of the cliffs leading down to the desert. It was strangely difficult, but exhilarating once I finally made it.
From there I traced the rim of the cliffs in a wide circle back to camp.
I chatted on the phone that night with my friend Rose as the stars came out. Then I foundered myself on dehydrated potatoes and climbed into my sleeping bag.
The next morning I awoke long before sunrise and was happy to see the dawn bleed into the night sky.
I did another cross-country exploration, this time heading toward Sombrero Peak.
A few hours later I circled back to camp, packed up, and headed back to the car. This time I found a motor-cross trail that took me up to the McCain Valley Road, right where a local high point marked the boundary between Nature and Humans.