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February 10, 2019

Piedras Grandes - my search for the Horse and Rider

The Piedras Grandes Cultural Preserve is approximately 2000 acres set aside to preserve the rich Kumeyaay history found here.

The turnoff from S2 is Mortero Wash which is marked as an access point to visit the Dos Cabezas Railroad Station on the Impossible Railroad.  The Mortero Wash road from S2 is high clearance and 4x4 required!

Trail heads from here lead to the Piedras Grandes (Big Rocks), the mortero springs and palm groves, the Blue Sun Cave and the Goat Canyon Trestle.  Huell Howser was a TV personality for PBS with a weekly video blog California’s Gold.  The archives of his shows are maintained by Chapman University.

The link to Huell’s trip to the Goat Canyon Trestle can be found HERE.  Times have changed, the railroad has changed hands several times, but has never given up their right of way, which is 10' either side of the center line of the tracks.  To reach the trestle today follow Josh’s route HERE.
Back-in-the-day the Impossible Railroad took passengers between Yuma and San Diego in scenic luxury.  While the steam engine took on water for the long climb over the mountains, the passengers could enjoy the comforts of the station, including its outdoor plumbing.

After crossing tracks, I hike the Mortero Wash for a mile to the entrance to the preserve.

Yup this is the glyph I’m looking for, I call it the ‘Horseman’, but officially known as 'Horse and Rider'.  The only known rendering in the park of a man on horseback.  This represents the first contact with the Spanish.

There are lots of cool looking rocks within the preserve.  I do think it would be fun climbing the rocks and leaving a sign marking your special place.  Kinda like carving initials in a tree, or tagging.

About a half mile from the trailhead is a 'Yoni' carved into the rock  A yoni is a natural rock inclusion that has been modified into a female fertility symbol.

Near the yoni are several small caves.  The light coming in from the far side of this little shelter made it particularly interesting,
Along the main trail to the pictographs are several sign boards
The colorful pictographs shown on this signboard are captioned as found in the Blue Sun Cave.

Lots of challenging rock to climb.  As the trail starts gradual uphill to another sign board.
The rock shelter would be fun to find, but in reality I'd not want to squeeze into it.

This is a fantastic little cave with what could be an alter in the center.  On the top of the alter, ceiling of the cave and walls surrounding the cave are cupules.  I can only image the ceremonies that might have taken place here.

Most if not all the pictographs in Piedras Grandes are in very poor condition, suffering from long term exposure to the elements.

Another cool shelter

I took a break here to enjoy my PB&J burrito, only to discover I left it on the counter at home.  At the time I was just hungry and ready for a break, now I'm famished and exhausted!

The Horseman is listed as a 3-mile RT from the parking lot.  That is not correct as the parking is now at the railroad siding 2-miles RT away.  If I'd looked closer at the sign at the trailhead I would have known the park literature is incorrect.  It's 1 mile to the trailhead, 1.5 to the horseman = 5 miles RT.

Back-in-the-day the park maintained ramps to allow safe crossing of the tracks.  The ramps have mostly been removed, and it is no longer permitted to drive across the tracks.

Despite not being permitted there are places where ambitious off-road enthusiasts have gathered stones to create a crossing

I took a detour on the way home to Borrego Springs to meet George and Suzi of Our Awesome Travels, who are spending the week at the Peg Leg Smith boon docking site.  We've been following each other's blog postings for a few years, and this seemed like a good time to meet.  And so glad I made the detour!  A very enjoyable couple who have been full-timers for over a decade.  We shared some great stories and places we've visited.  I stole this picture from their website - Thanks George!

This was a fun outing made even better meeting 'old friends' for the first time. 
Certainly No Bad Days!


  1. What a fun hike you had, you told us a bit about it but do love your posting.
    So glad that you made the detour and stopped in for a fun visit. Always look forward to your postings and adventures.

    1. Thanks George! it was a great hike in the desert preserve. And it was my pleasure to meet you and Suzi, hope to meet up again!

  2. Glad you have the right rig to get us here. An incredibly interesting site. Bonus to meet George and Suzi.

    1. Hi Gaelyn, Thanks for sharing the adventure with me. George and Suzi have been full-timers for quite awhile, it was fun meeting them and sharing some of their adventures.

  3. Very nice post and quite informative. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks Jeff, This is a fun easy walk... all sand with only gradual hills - very Declan friendly, but it is with the boundaries of the ABDSP.


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