Day 3. Desert Hills

12/17/16

Distance Hiked: upper 20’s

Woke up at 5 and was walking at 6. Watched the sunrise as I walked through downtown Borrego Springs. I can see snow dusting the tops of the mountains I’m about to climb, but it’ll probably melt by the time I get up there. The temp seems to be in the low 40s but it’s comfortable walking with the sun shining. The hike up the mountain was reasonably steep, a gain of more than 3500 from the hotel. Little moss and lichens are very green and seem super excited from the rain. Up the mountain I moved from desert floor plants to hillside plants like ocotillo, barrel cactus, agave and teddy bear cholla to junipers, manzanita and other shrubs at the high elevations. Some snow did last until I got up there! But not much. 

All the sand and dust that didn’t wash out of my hair has made it feel gritty and look crazy

Sunrises for days

Cold morning walk through Borrego Springs

An ant empire. Their monumental construction project casts a shadow with the morning’s first light.

Good old teddy bear cholla

These lichens that bake in the sun for 99% of the year look visibly happier from all the rain

Pretty little mosses rejoice too

Some clever caterpillars snuck into the fortress of a barrel cactus’s spines to pupate. Looks like the one on the right may have been attacked by some smaller insects

That farthest hill in the upper middle of this photo is right near where we got sandstormed and the Salton Sea is barely visible just beyond that.

There’s a spine in my hind!

A little bit of snow 

I got to Pena spring and found some flowing water deep among some willows and shrubs. The water was great, a little peat aftertaste but not bad. The ground was frosty here too. You skirt the top of the mountain for a bit and then descend into grapevine canyon, which is beautiful and an easy walk. I passed by Stuart spring which was a piped spring with a trough, which was full and flowing. Soon after that was Angelia spring which was near some cottonwood trees but I couldn’t see any water there. I didn’t look for long though, I’m heavy with water. 
I think there’s a more legit flow somewhere around Pena spring but this little grass flow led me to a spot good enough

Stuart Spring, full trough and flowing

This is an old fruit of the wild spiny cucumber (Marah macrocarpus) 

In the evening I dropped down to a highway and then slowly up and through a mountain pass/ wash that was packed with cool plants and cacti. It was steep on both sides and water clearly had just rushed through it yesterday. I ran into a guy with an RV there and talked a bit about hiking. Once I started coming down the other side of the wash it was getting dark at 4 pm. Winter sucks. I rushed down into the valley with the idea of leaving mountainous areas for the wide open desert where I figured less large animals would want to bother me. I set up camp at 4:45 just as it was getting too dark to see and ate dinner. Then curled up into my sleeping bag for the night. I love sleeping in the wide open.

Lots of barrel cacti in the canyon! 

Other side of the canyon opened into flat desert 

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