8 February 2003
By: Mary Jo Dungfelder
Leaders: Gary Schenk and George Wysup
I left the house a little after 2 AM armed with maps, compass, GPS, backpack, hiking sticks and CD's. I cruised down the 10 freeway headed for the trailhead to Rosa Point. I arrived early so I took a short nap waiting for the 5:30 AM gathering time. Thirteen of us would start out across the barren landscape up Palo Verde Wash toward our final destination, Rosa Point.
After a minor miss step we were headed in the right direction, reassured by the occasional duck marking our path. Clear blue skies, comfortable early morning weather made the slippery rock terrain more bearable. Our fearless leader was Gary Schenk and his backup, the infamous George Wysup. In between, eleven of us, six women and five men. Marching along in single file we traversed the landscape as cholla cactus stepped out to hitch a ride. The ocotillos were just starting to bloom. Small pale red-pink buds graced the tips of the shriveled arms of the plants. The desert appeared dryer than usual. Shades of brown and muted greens and occasional shadows helped define our path.
As we reached Pyramid Peak at 3490', the Salton Sea became a dominant feature. Out in the distance, it looked like a pristine lake, clean and clear, blue from shore to sky. Lunch was short. I wolfed down a Trader Joe's chicken sandwich and signed the register (even if it's not on the list). The day was slipping away. We needed to move faster if we were going to make the peak.
At times it did seem a bit redundant, climb from one bump to the next without a significant change in scenery. With few distinguishing features, desert hiking is tricky. Thank goodness for good leaders armed with map and compass (and a few GPS's in the crowd.)
At the real official saddle (we had passed several false ones), a decision had to be made. Daylight was a concern. The large group had 2,000 feet of gain to go in about 1.5 miles before reaching the summit. George exercised his authority, and requested the slower hikers remain at the saddle while the rest of the group turned up the speed to reach the summit and turn around time of 2:00 PM. We summited Rosa Point at 1:15.
As the afternoon sun began to fade, deep shadows began to make the canyons and ridges pop out. The sunlight shifted, turning the canyons a deep rich brown bathed in darkness, the light only reaching the ridges and teddy bear chollas. At sunset, fresh golden beams broke through the clouds sending celestial spotlights to the desert floor guiding us back to our cars down Palo Verde Wash. It was a delightful desert climb.
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