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Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012 on 11/22/2011 21:28:47 MST Print View

Trip report is here:

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Beautiful Country! on 11/22/2011 22:07:15 MST Print View

Great TR Craig! I'm really enjoying the subtle color and shape/size variations of all the desert plants in your photos. There's a couple of shots there that really make me want to get out and explore the Anza Borrego area some fall. The golds, tans, browns, reds and oranges of the area are beautiful. There's so much going on, in what at first glance, appears to be a barren desert wasteland.

The diversity of climates and hiking scenery in CA never ceases to amaze me.

Edited by NickB on 11/22/2011 22:09:11 MST.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012" on 11/22/2011 22:16:02 MST Print View

The quality of light is indistinguishable, beautiful fall skies in the desert.

You and Nick are a motley crew, it's cool to see you two crusty desert rats come together and do some hiking.

Drew Smith
(Drewsmith) - M

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012 on 11/24/2011 06:25:04 MST Print View

Well done, Craig - your photos did a great job of capturing the sense of austere mystery that has always been the essence of the desert for me.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012 on 11/24/2011 13:00:38 MST Print View

Wait a minute... I was on this hike and don't remember all those beautiful colors and textures :)

Actually Craig and I discussed this. I took no pictures at all, which is normal for me. I tend to just absorb the entire view while Craig, being an artist, can pick out those little things that make for great pictures.

A few things Craig did not share...

Because we were hiking cross country about 95% of the time, we were usually able to walk side by side, making for great conversation while often keeping an easy 3 mph pace.

The trail we took out of Butler Canyon: I have done this several times taking direct, difficult and sometimes iffy footing. Last year I stopped in a bar for a burger and beer after a trip. I guess because I smelled so good, one of the locals asked about where I had hiked. He shared that there was an ancient Indian trail that was a lot easier. Now keep in mind that the last Native who lived full time in this area left in 1910, so many of the trails are difficult to find and they often disappear. We were able to find the trail without much work but much of it was very faint, you had to look for the small rocks that had been compressed over a 100 years ago from foot travel, and most of that was overgrown. The ducks were helpful. This was a great team effort. Craig led most of the way and at points we had to discuss which way to go. Always easy agreement. Towards the top, we lost the trail completely. When you are navigating between canyons, route finding can be difficult. You are dealing with multiple ridge lines, and rarely are high enough to see the entire area. Because of this we topped out maybe a mile or two too far west, which I knew right away. We would have done much better (faster) if we had relied on a GPS. I brought my iPhone, but tried not to use it for "philosophical" reasons. We did check it several times, because Craig wanted to get home early Sunday to spend time with his family, something I respect him for. We were never lost, just worked routes that would be fairly direct, rather than going further east to the areas I was more familiar with. This is the beauty of cross country hiking, you are not restricted to some arbitrary trail or pressured to stay on track.

Talking about staying on track, I did tell Craig that we would need to be very careful when we got close to Box Canyon. There are numerous side canyons all with long ridges on each side, and you can not get high enough to see everything. We ended up on a ridge that was one too far far east than where I had hiked in the past. To get to the designated ridge, would require back tracking along the ridge of a bowl, then hiking along a fairly easy ridge down into Box Canyon. By fairly easy I mean slope, not the clusters of Cholla that are a constant gauntlet. Given that we were getting hit with gusts around 45 mph and the correction would add a lot of real estate to cover, Craig suggested we seek another route which was the Canyon we were standing above. At first it looked too steep but the map and a little investigative walk by Craig proved otherwise and we decided to head down. Lots of loose dirt and rocks but the descent went quickly and we avoided the Cholla forest of the planned route.

Night camp was a lot of fun. We pitched our shelters facing each other, solved numerous world issues, ate some of Craig's excellent salami and bread along with a liter of red wine, and tried to ignore the wind. This was the best part of the trip. We talked to our first "outsider" just before we got to our car. He was the ranger and quite impressed with our route had been done in just one day.

This trip was really about picking the right hiking partner, which leads to excellent adventures. We nailed it with the right team and the right trip. Thanks, Craig.

Scott Pickard

Locale: Southern California
Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012 on 11/27/2011 09:12:40 MST Print View

Thank you for the excellent trip reports Craig and Nick.

Nick, since you know the area so well but don't use GPS is there a way you could outline your path? Also do you happen to have a favorite area for spotting Bighorn Sheep?


Edited by gon2srf on 11/27/2011 17:18:00 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: anza borrego on 11/27/2011 09:46:08 MST Print View

Nice trip, and nice report.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012 on 11/27/2011 21:50:02 MST Print View


I hike this area a lot and this loop is a great solitary weekend trip for me. Here is a detailed report I wrote for my son a while back. It will provide more detail. The reason I wrote the story was that my son and I were doing this loop as part of a bigger trip in Dec 2008. Instead of taking Alcoholic Pass, we were going cross country up a canyon to practice navigation, and I fell on a steep hill twisting my knee pretty bad. We went on because I did not want to ruin his vacation trip and we were less than two hours into our 5 day hike. By the time we got towards the end of Butler Canyon we were hiking in white-out snow conditions. Once we got up on the plateau it turned to rain and footing as not great. With a bum knee and adverse conditions, I decided to end the trip. We went back down and spent the night on high ground in Butler Canyon. Had my knee gotten worse on the plateau, Joe would not have been able to find his way down to find help. So I wrote the story for him when I went back a few months later. Just pointing this out, because it is a really remote area and no one is going to happen by once you exit Butler.

Butler Canyon Loop

To exit out of Butler Canyon, take the large gully/small canyon that is about .25 miles before Jackass Flats. It is easy to find, the bottom of the gully is filled with large boulders. Walk to the left side and after climbing over a few boulders, start working up the left side of the slope. Stay out of the gully and work up to the hill above and to your left. Once you get up there, you will see the large playa. Not too difficult, but be careful. On the topo map, it looks easy just to walk out of Butler Canyon and then go past Jackass Flats and hike left and then go up. That turns out to be very difficult travel after initial easy ascent.

To drop into Box Canyon, you want to hike down the West ridge of the 2nd side canyon from the mouth of Box Canyon. Stay out of the first side canyon. Craig and I hiked down the 3rd side canyon from the mouth. The ridge line on the west side of the preferred canyon is a long gentle slope down to a flat area before a steep hill. Exit into the side canyon from the flat area. There is an ancient trail down, but it very difficult to find. I find it quicker just to work down the short slope.

Regarding Big Horns... the herds tend to stay in geographic areas and there is a herd in the Coyote Canyon watershed and at times you can see them in the Santa Rosa Mountains in the Box Canyon area. They don't drink water everyday, so not likely you would see them near Coyote Creek, unless it is summer and you are not allowed there during summer anyway. The best way is to watch ridge lines. Often you will see one or more on a ridge, and then if you look down the slope you may see more.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012 on 11/28/2011 07:24:57 MST Print View

Love the desert. very nice photos and great trip.

think I've run a couple races out there, I'll have to study the map to verify that.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Desert! on 11/28/2011 21:34:41 MST Print View


Thanks for the trip report. Neat to see some desert. I've never really hiked in the desert, but my hiking buddy wants to. So maybe sometime we'll get out there. We are both in OC so we are kinda close by.

Scott Pickard

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012 on 11/28/2011 22:19:07 MST Print View


Excellent description of the hike and your linked info and Google Earth maps are terrific. Thank you so much for spending the time. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit it but I have been car camping in Upper Coyote and Sheep Canyon for years and the only hikes I ever took were up to the south fork falls. I am just now building a UL gear list and have been spending every weekend hiking Baldy, Telegraph and Cucamonga peaks for conditioning and confidence in plus 20 mi days. I am hoping to complete your loop or a variation of between Christmas and New Years. Any chance you care to share your GPX file?


Edited by gon2srf on 11/28/2011 22:22:03 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012 on 11/28/2011 23:45:26 MST Print View


What is a GPX file?

Scott Pickard

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012 on 11/29/2011 23:27:14 MST Print View

A true outdoorsman!

I probably should have asked for a KML file?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012 on 11/29/2011 23:35:21 MST Print View


That is all "Greek" to me. The paths were drawn free form using Google Earth. I have a GPS that I only use on day hikes with my wife, because she bought it for me as a gift and it makes her happy to see me use it. All I can do is turn it on and see where I am. Preferred method for me is a paper topo map and once in a while a Silva compass in conjunction with my map. Heck I was on a hike earlier this year with some BPL members and those kids had to show me how to send a text message to my wife on an iPhone. Sorry!

BTW, when you get out of Butler Canyon, you do not need to go up that high hill, walk around the front to the left.

Scott Pickard

Locale: Southern California
Anza Borrego XC: Sat, 11/19 thru Sun. 11/20/2012 on 11/30/2011 23:00:10 MST Print View

Thank you Nick, I look forward to meeting you on the trail someday.

Rob Vandiver

Locale: So Cal
Great TR. on 12/01/2011 17:27:56 MST Print View

Enjoyed it greatly.

Nick, have you ever considered dropping down from Hwy 74 down to Horse Canyon and Coyote Canyon? Ive had this kicking around in my head for a while now, and Thanksgiving Weekend I did a little scouting in the area, with the enjoyable company of my brother, his wife, and several neices in tow. The PCT crosses Lookout Mountain and skirts Burnt Valley before crossing a narrow canyon SE of Sagebrush Flat. Rather than continue on the PCT I ducked down this canyon (Alkali Wash by my USGS). It was narrow and rocky, but passable. There was an alkali spring about a mile down the canyon that had had some "improvements" done to it sometime ago, but has since gone mostly back to it's natural state. We made it down to the where the wash met up with Horse Canyon, and had to turn back because I knew the young'uns would already be complaining climbing out, but it seemed like a pretty easy route, and completely skirted the Indian Reservation. I will have to try it out before spring. I had some questions about where I would end up, but you guys seem to have answered those questions, many thanks!

-Rob V.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Great TR. on 12/01/2011 18:04:06 MST Print View


You are talking about some really interesting hiking. Many times I have hiked from the Tram down into Anza Borrego. Usually it is the easy way, PCT to Nance Canyon. Years ago I worked my way down through Horse Canyon from Burnt Valley and that was the last time! Your route looks really interesting and not too difficult. Guess I need to add it to my bucket list :) Thanks for sharing.

Since you are familiar with the area, another great hike is the Cactus Spring Trail up by Pinyon Pines and then go down through Martinez Canyon, ending up near the Salton Sea. Other options are to take the Tram and hike the PCT, or hike up the Jo Pond Trail up to the PCT, or hike up Palm Canyon from the Indian Trading post (kind of tough). All of these require some road walking to get to Pinyon Pines, although I suppose there are some cross country options. And of course some sort of shuttle back to the beginning. Water is an issue, so the proper year/season must be researched. Bottom line is that there are some great remote places in So Cal, and all of the above are fairly well documented on the Web, so I am not giving away any secrets.

I have next week off, so I am looking at some of this, but we have some pretty crappy weather rolling in. Lows next week are going to be in the 30's in Borrego Springs and colder at higher elevations. Right now we have a lot of wind and got snow in the mountains last night. Also my wife has been gone for a couple weeks and returns this Saturday, which means I have not yet secured a "kitchen pass" to go hiking next week.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
More Info on 12/01/2011 20:05:53 MST Print View


I just posted to your birthday thread. I use to hike the Cactus Spring Trail for a quick weekend trip quite regularly but have given up on it the last couple of years since the spring has gotten fairly funky to pretty much dried up. I am looking for more local hiking prospects from OC for winter quick trips. Please keep me posted on this upcoming trip. I have never hiked in Ana Borrego and based on the photos from this one and your b-day post I plan to venture out. These two posts have given me some inspiration for this area. Thanks.