Anza Borrego State Park

25 Dec 1998 - by Debbie Bulger

Borrego Palm Canyon is a magical place. It is an oasis in the desert. It is a swath of green among rocks and sand. Over 1000 native fan palms (Washingtonia folifera) grace the canyon with their gray/green fronds. Beneath them water flows amid the welcome shade. Here also are surprises: deciduous sycamores and alders among the expected desert willow.

All this beauty is found at Anza Borrego State Park two hours east of San Diego. Between Christmas and New Year's Richard Stover, Patricia Crane, and I climbed 3960' Indianhead Peak the long way beginning the climb by hiking 2.5 miles up Borrego Palm Canyon.

There is an excellent trail for the first 1.5 miles, a fair use trail the next mile up the canyon. Then it's boulder hopping and cactus/agave dodging for the 1400' climb up the ridge to the 3200' saddle. From there it's a puzzle of boulder scrambling and route finding to the relatively flat summit which offers a spectacular view of California's Colorado desert, the Salton Sea on the eastern horizon, irrigated ag. land, irreverent development and the campground below.

We descended on the well traveled DPS direct route which turned out to have far fewer agave lying in wait than reported in the DPS guide. In all the climb took 11 hours since we had a few route finding delays in the canyon and a one hour detour caused by ascending the wrong side of the ridge heading toward the 3200' saddle. We carried 2 liters of water apiece and replenished one empty bottle each before we left the main canyon and our last water. By hike's end we had finished all 3 liters and were grateful for the water fountain at the trailhead.

Earlier that week we were joined by Jackie Stroud of Sacramento for our climbs of Jacumba and Sombrero. Jacumba (4512') is more of a hill climb at the end of a mogul-filled, high clearance dirt road. The view from the summit into the Carriso Gorge affords glimpses of the fabulous San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad. The only excitement came at the end of the hike when I stepped on a large boulder which rolled, throwing me into a yucca bayonet which deeply pierced my underarm. Either the yucca injects an anesthetic-like agent or the spine hit a nerve, because my arm felt numb after the incident. The initial pain was considerable.

Sombrero (4229'), while not difficult, is quite satisfying, particularly the rock scrambling at the summit. On the desert floor at 800' the chuparosa was in bloom attracting numerous bees and hummingbirds. The desert lavender (my favorite) was starting to show bits of deep violet. Canyon wrens sang melodiously as we climbed. What a wonderful Christmas vacation!

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