By: Leora Stoler
This trip was originally scheduled for the low desert of Anza Borrego, but due to the skimpy rainfall and early warming trend the location was changed to the McCain Valley area. We met at 8:30am Saturday at the intersection of the Cottonwood Campground and the McCain Valley Road. The campground is 13 miles north of I-8 on the McCain Valley Road just outside of the town of Boulevard. It is nestled among large Live Oak trees and an intermittent stream (although totally dry this year). There is a $4/vehicle charge per night but worth it for the fire rings, tables and toilet facilities. The west campground is much better shaded than the east. The town of Boulevard is noteworthy for its Basque Restaurant featuring dinner (without wine) for $19.95/person.
All 15 of us spent the next 6 hours finding flowering desert shrubs and plants with the help of Erik Jonsson (extremely knowledgeable botanist and author of "When Is The Best Time To Go To The Desert?" previously published in the Sage), Duffie Clemons (31-year Marine veteran and self-taught and very well-read botanist) and Larry Hendrickson (up and coming botanist from Julian). We located several well-known species to the local area along the trail to Pepperwood Canyon as well as a "Nolina" growing near a cluster of large granite rocks. It was so surprising to Erik that he took a specimen from the plant to be given to the botany department at the Museum of Natural History in San Diego. This particular plant has not been seen in the area before. We managed to locate enough shade under a low slung Oak to gather for lunch. It was quite warm in the direct sun even at 4000' elevation. Nearby were many signs of Indian use for living and travel.
Upon our return to the campground we were joined by several folks who were late for the botany lesson and early for the soon-to-begin fiesta. Sue Wyman and her clan arrived in time for an extensive array of chips and Mexican salsas. Soon thereafter Vic Henney and Rick Beatty arrived after a VERY long, hot (over 105F) successful climb of Pescadores. With that it was time for our Cinco de Mayo celebration to commence. We were serenaded by Mexican music and satisfied by Mexican food. As the air began to cool and the stars begin to shine we could not resist the guitar playing of Sue and her sister Leila and the accompaniment of Dove on his banjo. A great campfire with 28 voices resounded for the next few hours. We even sang the new DPS Mountaineering Liability insurance Song (Valderie!)
Bright and early (6:30am) Sunday, Ron and Sherry lead 5 diligent peak-baggers to the summit of Sombrero Peak. Lou Brecheen (dedicated leader that he is) made sure the correct trail was found for reaching the peak. It was approximately 8 miles RT and 800' feet elevation gain in an unforgiving sun. Gary Murta got his first DPS Peak. Five hours later the magnificent seven were greeted with chilled watermelon back at the campground.
This route should be listed in the next edition of the DPS peak guide. It is shown on the Sombrero Peak 7 1/2' quadrangle and goes as follows: Cottonwood Campground is not shown on the topo but is located at 4000' on the McCain Valley Road near the spring shown close to the intersection of sections 2 & 11. Hike through the east campground to the posted Pepperwood Trail leading north and shown on the topo as a new road leading to the old Canebrake Road. Hike along Canebrake Road to the posted fork leading east to Sombrero Peak and shown as a jeep trail. Follow this to its end at 4000' in section 30. Stay high on the ridge to the west base of Sombrero Peak (posted!) and scramble up the last several hundred feet to the summit.
Thank you Sherry and Ron for making this a successful and fun trip for all.
Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the|
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides
|DPS Archives Index | Desert Peaks Section|