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March 24, 2016

Painted Cayon of Mecca, CA


I’ve called this route thru Painted Canyon my ‘Shoots’n’Ladders’ hike as it does require use of ladders, supplied by volunteers, and missing a turn will lead to an ‘Ah Shoot’. 

The trailhead is a bit remote at the end of Painted Canyon Road in the Mecca Hills Wilderness, but still it is a popular destination.  The San Andreas Fault System has created many geological features in the wilderness, including Box Canyon Road itself which follows the floor of the fault.
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A few hundred feet before the parking area is Big Split Rock Canyon (6+ mi RT) on the right side, I've saved this for another day.  From the parking area at the trailhead Little Painted Canyon (dog friendly and usually empty) is to the left – just beyond the ‘End’ sign, but today's hike is up Ladder Canyon via Big Painted Canyon and return. 

Dare I call the rock arrows cairns?  Another nice touch by the volunteers.
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Yes the entrance to Ladder Canyon is over that rock fall!  There has been second rock fall at the entrance since the last time I was here.  The first ladder is now smashed creating a longer rock scramble into the canyon.

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The ladders are needed to reach the next level within this slot canyon. IMG_1235 (640x471)IMG_1236 (640x480)

If you pick any of the false side slot canyons you will be saying ‘Ah Shoot’ too!  Just stick to the main path as it is the only one that reaches the top.
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However not all of the donated ladders are quite long enough.  This one misses by a couple rungs and a leap of faith, or a hiking partner is helpful.
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The final assent to the top of Ladder Canyon.
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Now a big BIG ‘Ah SHOOT!’, foiled again.  Last time I deliberately turned left at the top of the canyon thinking there must be a way to return to the trailhead or Little Painted Canyon – there is not!  It’s not but a quarter mile and a great view of the trailhead and parking.   Altho it’s a nice view this is not a route, my choice from there was 2 seconds or 2 hours back to the trailhead.  I chose not to jump!

After clearing Ladder Canyon we checked our supplies:  a little over liter of water, open cuts and scrapes, one food bar, decent cell signal, Fran is in great shape, but my body temp refuses to drop!  Where’s that mister?  Still in the fridge!

So we decided to explore the top for a bit and reevaluate the options.  The new route is clearly marked by the volunteers!   Continue up to the microwave towers.  And the old route clearly says there is not a return to the trailhead.
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Our choice is to return to the cool of the Ladder Canyon the way we came.

Better prepared, the route would have continued uphill to the microwave towers and dropped back down into Big Painted Canyon 1.5 mile distance and 2 miles back to the trailhead ~5 miles total.

SHOOT! foiled again.

Notes to self: take at least twice the water expected, pack the mister – it’s useless left in the ‘fridge.  A hat! Fran had hers, I don’t like’m, but required. 
Check and recheck the weather, at 92 it was 8 degrees above the forecast. 
Check the current trail conditions, I did not expect the second rock fall nor the closed trails.  SHOOT!
I pride myself in being prepared, but I was not this time.

Our limp back to the trailhead took longer than expected!  So what to do after I am recovered?  Joshua Tree was the original plan, but at this point it seemed a bad idea to continue away from home when I had to work the next day.

SHOOT! - A few more hours on the stair-stepper, at least 10 pounds less, better preparation and research, tons more water, a more complete first-aid kit, etc. … we’ll be back.

Since ranger-rick mentioned that the city of Borrego Springs and Park Service was concerned that Clark Lake was becoming another Slab City, why not check it out?  On the way in from Niland the work of Leonard Knight is Salvation Mountain the most obvious landmark.

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The Slab City Welcome booth and information center, with the Soul Tree (not shoe tree) across the street.
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We snagged a DVD on the history of Salvation Mountain from the local library.  Altho no check out fees are charged I did offer a buck donation – big spender that I am!
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And East Jesus, the more artistic side of Slab City.
“When you come to a fork in the road – take it” ~Yogi Berra.
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Now that’s a tree house! and teeter-totter!, don’t want to be the last off that one.
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Anyone that has visited Bodi has seen the ‘Bottle House’  but a bottle wall?  … a first for me.  The lizard made from plastic bags … another first!
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Fran enjoyed this elephant made of used tires.
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A few more shots of East Jesus before heading back to the RV to watch our new movie.
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Home tomorrow, and then back to the office Sad smile

OK I have failed twice to complete the Ladder Canyon/Painted Canyon loop, but I still consider this nor more than a moderate hike with ~500’ elevation change, some rock scrambling, a lot of exposed trail, and miles of soft sand – plan accordingly.

And then after Shoots'nLadders , there is Life's Little Adventures hike I am calling Rings'n'Things to prep for!