To start the year Uwe and I went to the Coyote and Fish Creek Wildernesses to hike Carrizo Mountain and Eagle Benchmark.
The drive out was very rainy, and the forecast did not seem favorable but once over the Tecate Divide out Rt 8, things got better. We had a nice camp spot at the mouth of Painted Gorge in the Coyote Wilderness. It was the quietest campsite either of us could remember.
The gorge was closed off to protect the mating season of the mountain sheep, so it added about 2 miles to the hike. The gorge was very colorful with some great desert views and distant rain squalls. The hike was along a Jeep road almost all the way to the top.
After returning to the trucks, we set off cross country for Eagle Benchmark in the Fish Creek Wilderness. We went over some of the same roads we took on the Anza Trail mountain bike adventure in 2016, bringing back some good memories of that wet windy bike ride. In other areas we had to find well-traveled tracks because the roads on our maps did not exist. It was fun to guess and explore like that. We camped on an old dry lake bed, and after looking around we discovered the lake bed was covered with thousands of very tiny (less than 2mm) snails.
Setting up for dinner we heard a loud rumbling and got treated to a train passing by. According to a Wikipedia article, it is “the last industrial narrow gauge railway in the United States” connecting the Fish Creek Mountains Gypsum mine with the sheetrock plant at Plaster City.
40% chance of rain was in the forecast and breakfast started with just a trace. The hike up to Eagle was very steep and rocky and a little more elevation gain than we expected. The first couple of miles were on an old miner’s path, which helped. We made it back to the trucks just as the rain storms came rushing down the mountains. We hurried our departure since we did not want to get stuck on the dry lake. These dry lakes become impassable even in 4×4 trucks when they get enough rain. Luckily the rain let up soon and we only got a very slick, but passable surface.
A good start to the hiking year with ~15 miles and 4,680 ft elevation gain. (click on any slide to see show)