Mecca Hills, Orocopia Mountains
By: Paul Frieman
Ever since I read about Mecca Hills in Adrienne's "Away From the Crowd", I have expressed a wish to go there. Wes Shelberg said he would take me. So I rounded up a small group (DPSer Bill Stevens and his fiancée, Marlys, plus my friend, Suzanne Roth) and off we went.
There is a nice camp spot 4.0 miles up Painted Canyon where we spent Friday night. At 4.6 miles, the sandy road bifurcates at a sign, "END COUNTY ROAD". We took the road to the left, about one mile, to a spot Wes recognized as the trailhead. My car (Chevy Chevette) got stuck twice in the soft sand, but with two 4WDs along it wasn't any problem to pull me out. The route is a convoluted maze of washes that an experienced orienteer would have trouble with because the scale of the map isn't sensitive enough. We found the ducks that Wes put there ten years ago. After 11/2 hours we reached the benchmark "Mecca Hills", which marks the high point, and found the register that Wes originally put there. Only ten pages have been filled since, mostly by rangers who fly in and monitor the earthquake equipment near the peak. We next drove to "ladder Canyon" in the Mecca Hills for a two hour jaunt (Wes helped furnish the wood for the ladder ten years ago). We hiked north out of the canyon and came back via the wash in which we were parked. The rock and sheer walls make this trip very delightful. I would like to see Mecca Hills added to the DPS list.
Wes had to leave us on Saturday, but the other four climbed Orocopia via the Salton Sea the next day. This is an excellent route that is easy to find and only needs 2.7 miles of a high clearance vehicle. From Mecca take #111 SE along the northern shore of the Salton Sea 10.1 miles to Parkside Rd. (opposite visitor's center and headquarters). Left Parkside Rd. 1.7 miles to end. Left on excellent dirt (Desert Aire Rd.) 0.5 miles to canal. Right 3.5 miles on canal frontage road to Siphon #28. A high clearance jeep mine road takes off to the right on the north side of the siphon. Park after 2.7 miles (we only went 1.9 miles before Suzanne cried, "Hold enough!", but the road wasn't that bad. It added 500' and twenty minutes of walking by stopping short). We left the road where the 1200' contour meets the road and headed up the NE ridge to bump 1893. After this the route is obvious and a few use trails can be seen contouring some bumps. From the road 1700', 41/2 hour route Suzanne bagged her first desert peak. She then ran downhill to gain five minutes on Bill and I. We last spotted her at bump 1893. She was not in sight when we got to the bump and started the westward turn toward the road. We got to the road and still no Suzanne. I had Bill play lookout while I hiked back to the car to see if she was there. I felt it would be bad form to lose a new woman friend on the first outing. Besides, I didn't want to face her mom. Marlys had stayed behind and she was at the car when I got there. No Suzanne. I told Marlys to send Suzanne back up the road if she should come down off the ridge. Another 20 minutes and I was back with Bill. Still no Suzanne. As I was starting to climb the mountain to bump 1893, there was a shout. Suzanne had come down off the ridge and Marlys had sent her back to find us. It all ended happily as we visited "Oh My God" Hot Springs in Anza Borrego on the return home, then stopped at "Romanos" (B Street in Julian) excellent food and huge servings, for dinner.
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