McCain Valley

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.

Wind turbines

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!).

Easy to get lost here

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!

Home for the night

After setting up, I decided to do an off-trail loop to explore the cliffs above Canebrake Wash.

Upper Canebrake Wash
A local citizen
Lower 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.

This is lovely!

From there I traced the rim of the cliffs in a wide circle back to camp.

Me and my shadow
Rocks at the edge of the cliffs above the desert
Sunset on the Laguna Mountains
Orange glow over Anza-Borrego
Alpenglow on the Sawtooth Mountains

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.

Good morning!

I did another cross-country exploration, this time heading toward Sombrero Peak.

Sombrero Peak below
Sunrise over the Coyote Mountains
Pinkish Sawtooths
First light touches the chollas
A tuft of grass clings
Rock art!
Strolling in the chaparral
Funky formations

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.

Back in civilization
See ya next time McCain Valley!

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Samuel Wilson says:

    nice photos !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are great. Thanks for letting us live vicariously!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JimmyJam says:

      Thanks! Hope you are surviving secession….


  3. Mom says:

    Love the “rock art” photo!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jay Harrison says:

    Wow, excellent pictures, JimmyJam.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JimmyJam says:

      Thanks! Coming from YOU, that means a lot…. 🙂


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