Oriflamme Canyon

14 April 2022
Lake Cuyamaca to Stagecoach Trails RV Resort
(20 miles, +800/-3,100 feet).

It wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be last night, and I slept okay in my tent by the lake. I woke up in time to eat my cold-soaked oatmeal and pack up before sunrise. The first part of the morning was really pretty as I rounded the lake and then headed across grassy meadows towards the desert.

Good morning!
Take off you hosers!
Red-winged blackbird
A Great Blue Herron on the bridge
Off she goes!

Past the bridge I left the trail and made my way around the edge of a marsh. I mostly kept my feet dry except one place where I had to jump from a muddy flat over a stream to another muddy flat.

The marsh
Shadow selfie
Common Goldfields
California Golden Violet

Soon I was back on trail at the Pedro Fages trailhead.

Isn’t everyone in the desert a deserter?!?
Southern checkerbloom
Tidy tips
Woolyfruit Desertparsley

The California Riding and Hiking Trail converges with the PCT for a short bit before descending into Chariot Canyon.

Bush poppy
Lovely view into Chariot Canyon
Silver Bird’s-foot Trefoil
California Rockcress
Sugar Bush
My nemesis from last year’s PCT hike! Chaparral Whitethorn.
Chariot Mountain
Showy Penstemon
Narrowleaf Goldenbush
Cupped Leaf Ceanothus

The trail got steeper as it exited Chariot Canyon and then dropped into Oriflamme Canyon, following a rocky Jeep road. It was a great place to look for flowers because there were several distinct micro-climates on the way down.

I also got excited when I saw my first horned lizard. I belong to a group on iNaturalist that specially tracks these observations. Alas, this one had been flattened, probably by a Jeep.

Blainville’s Horned Lizard (poor guy!)

And I found my favorite flower of the day right in the middle of the jeep road.

Flatbud prickly poppy
Pale Yellow Suncup
Yellow Tack-Stem
Oriflamme Canyon
Desert Globemallow
White sage
California buckwheat
Sprawling saltbush
Gander’s Cholla
Trailing Windmills
Splendid Mariposa Lilly
Chariot Mountain from the floor of Oriflamme Canyon
Small Wirelettuce
Hartweg’s Clmbing Milkweed

The jeep road turned into a much-more-low-clearance-friendly two track road at the bottom of the canyon. The trail follows the road, but sometimes I veered off to look for flowers in parallel washes.

Good enough for a prius?
Whispering bells
Engelmann’s Hedgehog Cactus
California Barrel Cactus
Up close!
Thistle Sage
Button Brittlebush
Coues’ Senna
Beavertail Pricklypear
Desert Chicory

Th California Riding and Hiking Trail crosses the S2 Highway and then heads up Box Canyon, which runs below the highway. It was hot, and the deep sand was not fun for hiking.

Jimmyjam no like
Purple Mat
Fringed Onion

It was a relief to get out of Box Canyon and up on the flat expanse of Blair Valley.

MUCH nicer!
Cactus collective
Blair Valley and Foot and Walker Pass in the distance
Wallace’s Wollydaisy
Fremont’s Monkeyflower

I took my last break at Foot and Walker Pass and then veered off trail to follow a human-made bern towards Stagecoach Trail RV Resort. It was fun to be about 10 feet higher than the surrounding desert floor to catch the full cooling effect of the breeze and see all around for my last couple of miles.

Almost done
Desert Sand Verbena
Up Close!

The bus won’t come until tomorrow morning, and it’s hot and likely to be quite windy tonight, so I rented a cheap cabin at the RV Resort.

Great name!

It was a nice day all in all, but I am glad to be done with my section hike of the SDTCT. Although the flowers were quite nice today, it was a lot of road walking today, and Box Canyon really did me in!

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