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February 29, 2020

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Zoo Safari Park was offering Free February for seniors!  The FREE got our attention, but with other things to do and a bit of procrastination it was not until the end of the month that we finally set aside a day to check it out.

Last time we were here it was still known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park, the name was a changed in 2010.

The African Tram, which replaced the Wagasa Bush Monorail in 2007, offers a tour through the African enclosure.  The tram is included with the $58 ea. admission.  

The first tram departs at 10 am with a line already formed by the time we arrived at 9:40.  We were the last couple to board the second tram at 10:20.

The tram is included with the entry and a very popular attraction.  The ride is less than 30 minutes, but covers the highlites of the African Plains.

For a more in-depth experience, a 2-hour ride in the back of a pickup truck is available for $120 (and up) ea.  Or one of the other specific safaris can be purchased.

The park is massive! the only means of visiting the various themed areas is on foot.  Be prepared to walk, and then walk some more.

The park opened in 1972, my first visit was a few years later.  It was HOT the plants had not yet grown to provide any shade, ugh!  a lot is different this visit with more mature landscaping to provide shade along the pathways.  It now has ample shade and with a breeze very comfortable.

Many of the old favorite sites and exhibits are as they have been.  Such as the Nairobi Village.

New to us is the Australian exhibit featuring a most awesome platypus. I expect a platypus to be the size of a house cat, nope!  More like the size of a small squirrel … and FAST!, really fast.

I took a dozen pictures and this blurry one is the best, I did say he was fast!

Also new to me was the native plant exhibit. 

The park allows picnic lunches and sealed water bottles to be brought in.  That’s a good idea as a water bottle in the park is over $4.  

As with a trip to the San Diego Zoo I took dozens of pictures of the animals.  However, unlike the zoo, the animals are not 'caged', but rather 'fenced' into an area similar to their native habitat and the visitor may be allowed to enter their territory.

Unlike the zoo, the park's goal is to prevent extinction of the animals it protects and return them to the wild.  Most of the condors released back into the wild were raised and trained to hunt here.

If the park chooses to do another FREE senior admission, I expect we’ll return.  It was a fun day for a bit of education and more than a bit of exercise.  Altho we were not required to pay the $58 ea. admission, the $15 parking was not included.

February 26, 2020

Hornblende Canyon - Anza Borrego

As Jerry Schad's Roam-O-Rama column in the San Diego Reader offers “Explore a relatively unknown canyon”, in the description of Hornblende Canyon.  The canyon is named for the common hornblende crystals found here.

We've driven on S-2 south of Scissors Crossing past this canyon a few dozen times, the canyon is unmarked and we have never stopped at this gem.  The trailhead is south of Box Canyon Monument on the west side of S-2, but the small parking area is on the east side of the road.

As with my previous post on Rainbow Canyon there are dry waterfalls to scale.  But only two challenging ones this time and a dozen, or so, lesser to scrambler over.

Our destination is Kumeyaay site at the second large dry waterfall. Making this a 4.2 mi R/T hike from the trailhead.

The trail follows a sandy dry wash on the canyon floor.

We got a fairly early start with lots of cool shade as we begin.

At least until the sun climbs above the canyon rim

The trail quickly climbs through series of small dry falls,  

as it passes below the marbled colored walls of the canyon, looks like someone has called this spot home.

and about a mile from the trailhead we come to the first of larger dry falls.  This one has a trail leading around it on the south side of the wash, perfect for the geriatric hikers not wanting to exert themselves. 

Not far above this fall is a Kumeyaay village site, with moteros, shelters and storage.

Another mile contains many more scrambles over the small dry falls.  Fran makes quick work of them.

Two miles from the trailhead we arrive at the second dry waterfall.  At the top of this fall is another Kumeyaay village site.  There is a cool breeze coming up the canyon and enough moisture here for grass to be growing.  No surprise the Kumeyaay called this spot 'home'.

We’ll return to the Jeep from here, although the canyon continues another 4 miles as it follows along the side of Granite Mountain.

About the mid-point between the 1st and 2nd dry falls is an abandoned mine to the south of the wash.  I read there are bats in the mine ... we did not try to confirm that claim.

Although vegetation is not as dense as it was in Rainbow Canyon, there is a lot more variety, as Hornblende Canyon has a greater elevation change.

We spent another peaceful night in Blair Valley with only the stars for company.

February 23, 2020

Rainbow Canyon - Blair Valley

From Yaqui Pass we made the short drive to Blair Valley for a couple nights.  This is a popular weekend spot!  At least a couple dozen units were here when we arrived, but only three after the weekend crowd went home.

Most folks who visit Blair Valley are here for the ‘main events’ South Mountain, Moteros or Pictographs.  We’ve done those, several times.  We are here this time for a couple new-to-us hikes  -  first up is Rainbow Canyon.

In Afoot and Afield ~Jerry Schad says “Spectacular exposures of colorfully banded and folded metamorphic rock gave ‘Rainbow Canyon’ its so-far unofficial title.”   The Nimble Hiker scrambled easily over the the rocks on a previous visit.  Today it is the geriatric hikers turn.

This hike can be done as a loop from Blair Valley, or an out-n-back from the trailhead off S-2.  Today we’ll use the S-2 trailhead at mile post 27.5ish.  There’s a parking area on the east side of S-2, follow any of the washes from the parking area into the canyon.

From here this should be ~2.5 mi (R/T).  There are a total of 8 dry waterfalls to scale, before the canyon tops out.   Our plan is to do an out-and-back, not the loop up.

Following the wash we come to a wire fence that can easily be bypassed.

And continue up the wash that is surprising lush with native vegetation. 
Barrel Cactus
Fishhook Cactus
The 'rainbow' in Rainbow Canyon could be for the variety of colorful vegetation found, and not the colorful rock formations.

In less than a quarter-mile we enter the canyon.

 The walls are indeed marbled and colorful.

Amazing that so many distinct colors are displayed.  And we reach the first of the 8 dry falls to scramble over in the canyon.

To scale the first dry fall Fran needs to get her right foot into the toe hold seen just above her hiking stick.  She's too short for the reach!  I'm tall enough but the arthritis does not allow the required mobility.  ARG! turned back at a Ez-Pz 6' dry fall!  

We'll be back !!!

Rather than just go-away we took time to explore the flowers, where I picked up a couple jumping cholla.

Fortunately, I keep a cholla removal tool in my day pack.  A pocket comb placed under the cholla will lift it off.

The geriatric hikers are disappointed we did not complete the canyon, but cannot complain of the unexpected vegetation and colorful marble walls we did enjoy.  

February 21, 2020

Mine Wash - the Kumyaay winter home and GOLD!

Yaqui Pass has a large flat boondocking area the overnight parking is fine for a self contained RV, but really it’s just a parking lot with no cell service.  But it does have one thing going for it ... It is also the trailhead for Kenyon Overlook, which is one of my favorite short hikes (1 mi R/T).

Although the hike can be done as a loop, I’ve always done an it as an out-n-back route to avoid walking on the narrow shoulder of S3.

It's a great hike for the morning sunrise or an evening sunset, which reflects off Sunset Peak. 

The trail passes through a pretty common desert landscape as it gradually climbs to the overlook.  Just prior to the ‘official’ overlook is a spur to the east that is worth a visit.  I’ve read there is evidence the native Kumeyaay enjoyed this view too, but have not found any.

The trail is in honor of William Kenyon who dedicated his efforts into preserving the 'magnificent desert lands'.

The overlook is of the Mescal Bajada (Agave Alluvial Fan)

Then K-POW, the view is truly worth it!  Spend some time to watch the shadows move across the washes.  I took the kids up here along with a Julian pie.  Hmm plates, knife, water, napkins ... no forks!  We enjoyed the view eating pie with our fingers.

Looking directly across CA78 is the entrance to Mine Wash in the Mescal Bajada, today’s destination.

The entrance is just short of 3 miles east from the junction of S3 and CA78.

Although there are no restrooms at the camping area at Yaqui Pass, there is a facility just inside the Mine Wash trail.

Although the wash is named for an abandoned and unnamed gold mine, it is also a good place to explore the native american winter home site.

It’s an easy 1.5 mile drive up Mine Wash to the Kumeyaay Winter Village Site, any vehicle can make it this far.  Like modern snowbirds, the native Americans would migrate to the Borrego Springs area from the snow and cold of the Laguna mountains to this desert oasis for the winter.

A fascinating site to explore, no hiking required  -  just park and explore.  This is probably the most accessible archaeological site in Anza Borrego.  The surrounding area provides water, food and more rabbits than we've seen elsewhere! 

The ocotillo here are green and full, not red as those near Borrego Springs.

The cholla are sporting a fair amount of new growth

The size of this winter community is amazing!  The moteros can be found most everywhere, there are rock shelters and roasting pits.  Pottery fragments can still be found near the big kitchen area.

A few pictures of the dozens I took of the moteros.

And a rock shelter

The shelter beneath this rock (I think it looks like a pirate from this angle) is the remains of what might have been a communal kitchen.  It's scarred with smoke from fires and open to the sky.

We could spend all day here, but we continue up Mine Wash to the end to find the Gold Mine, for which the trail is named.

The wash gets a bit technical past the winter home site.  A 4x4 high clearance should be used.

Pizza oven? fry bread?

The wash ends after another 3 miles

Gold Mine is at the Northwest slope at the end of the wash.  Rather a disappointment!  The white rock has been cut by hand, the entrance to the mine tunnel is just beyond.  It's a rock scramble we chose not to do.  

We decided to hike the wash up to an overlook of the Pinion Wash.  However the first dry fall we encountered was being 'guarded' by a several dozen bees.

They were busy doing their thing and paid no attention to us.  I thought I could throw a handful of sand to scatter them, but we decided that might just make them angry.  Better to let them be docile.  

We'll relocate to Blair Valley to explore a couple lesser known canyons.  It was a great day for us, hope you enjoyed yours.