Saturday, April 27, 2013

Someplace I haven't been before

I've sometimes thought about not writing about an area until I was done exploring it, but I'm never really done. I've been on four hikes in an area near Canyon Lake and now I have a bunch of pictures but I've probably forgotten what I was going to say about them. You may recall (but probably don't) that I have been hiking along Willow Creek several times. It's a short drive from the house and easy to get to and the area is scenic (at least to me). I decided I would hike around a relatively flat area between the road and the creek.

The place I was hiking is near the 20 foot waterfall that I got pictures of a few months ago.

As I was wandering around, I saw what looked like a small side canyon on the other side of Willow Creek. The more I thought about it that night and the next day, the more I thought that I needed to go check it out.

A bad picture of a small side canyon on Willow Creek. I didn't think much of it at the time or I would have tried to get a better picture.

This picture is taken from further downstream. It makes it look like it would be easy to hike up to that side canyon.

The side canyon is along a short stretch of Willow Creek that I hadn't explored before. I had no reason to expect it to look much different than the rest of Willow Creek. On the other hand, the scenery varies considerable along the short length of Willow Creek. Well, it does to me, anyway. I suppose some people would say that it's all rocky desert. I'm glad I don't see it that way. So I headed back to Willow Creek a couple of days later to check out that side canyon.

Prickly pears are blooming. Most of them have yellow flowers so I take pictures of the ones that aren't yellow and end up with lots of pictures like this.

I used to try to get pictures of every kind of flower I came across. Now I look at a flower and think, "I've probably got a picture of that somewhere."

I descended to the creek close to the 20 foot waterfall. I suppose I should give that waterfall a name so I can quit referring to it as "the 20 foot waterfall". Any suggestions?

Somebody recently built some cairns in Willow Creek.

I hadn't gone far upstream before I came to an obstruction. In the past I have referred to these as puddles but in the southwestern U.S. the proper name is tinaja. This one is large, deep, and has steep cliffs on both sides. Well, they weren't extremely steep on one side. I could probably have worked my way around on that side. I really did not want to fall in, though

A tinaja blocks my progress upstream.

Since I couldn't go further upstream, I decided to see what was uphill on the left bank of the creek. It looked like it might be pretty up there and it also looked like an easier climb that the right bank.

The view looking downstream along Willow Creek. The 20 foot waterfall is at those cliffs on the right.

I eventually got to a spot from which I could look down at Willow Creek just a little further upstream of the tinaja that stopped me. I could see another large tinaja that would have stopped me again if I had gone around the first one. There were also tinajas in a couple of streams that empty into Willow Creek near there.

There are at least 5 tinajas visible in this picture.

I made a short video walking to the overlook where I saw the tinajas. Sorry about the shakiness. Also, you have to use the camera's LCD display when shooting videos (long story) and I have a lot of trouble seeing that display out in the desert so the camera is often not pointed where I want it to be pointed.

Video made as I approached a cliff overlooking some tinajas.

I don't think I ever saw the side canyon I was expecting to see. If I did, I didn't recognize it. I saw enough, though, that I decided I needed to explore that area some more. I went back a couple of days later and took a slightly different route to the creek and crossed it a little downstream of the 20 foot waterfall.

There were cairns along the route I chose, and a very faint trail.

I started going up a wash on the other side of Willow Creek and there were cairns there, too. It wasn't easy to follow the trail, though, and I didn't really try. I just kept going in the direction I wanted to go. I kept running across cairns, though.

The predominate color of desert flowers seems to be yellow.

There's a pointy rock along the way. It probably has a name but I don't know what it is so I decided to name it "Dragon's tooth".

It was on this hike that I encountered a problem I don't remember having before. The ground is covered with some kind of grassy plant. It has produced seeds and the seeds are at about ankle height and seem to be designed to be distributed by animals, and they hitch a ride on animals by getting stuck in their fur. I don't have fur, especially on my ankles, but I do wear socks. I got lots of seeds in my socks and shoes, and they burrow through the socks and the linings of the shoes and poke you in the feet and ankles. It's very annoying. I was thinking about that and about how the gnats, though they aren't too bad this year, are also annoying and how the rocks are always trying to twist my ankles and the sweat from the effort of walking drips into my eyes and stings them and how there aren't many saguaros (which provide the only shade) in this area. Then I thought about what it would be like if I could drive on a paved road and walk a short distance on a paved walkway to get here. It would be like the north rim of the Grand Canyon; so thick with tourists you couldn't stir them with a stick. Thank God for grass seeds and gnats and ankle-twisting rocks and heat.

On this hike I encountered something else that probably keeps a few other people from exploring the desert. It was a friendly rattlesnake. I say he was friendly because he started rattling when I was about 4 feet away from him. I really appreciate those early warnings. I often go an entire year without seeing a rattlesnake, so this was a special occasion.

A friendly rattlesnake. His rattle is a blur. Also, notice the heads of grass seed around him. That's the stuff I don't like.

I mentioned the seed problem to some fellow hikers at work and one guy said he carries gaiters to keep that stuff out of his socks. I got some and they work great as long as you keep them snug.

As I continued up the wash, there was a faint trail and cairns there. I wasn't intentionally following the trail but it seemed to be everywhere I went.

One of many cairns.

I saw some mining claim markers out there and wondered if the cairns had been put there by whoever thought they had found their retirement fund. I have stopped stuffing my pockets with gold nuggets since everywhere out there seems to be staked out ;-) That's OK; all that extra weight was just another annoyance anyway.

I went as far as the top of a hill which was only about half a mile from where I had parked. It was not an easy half mile, though. The top of the hill was flat and smooth and had very few ankle-twisting rocks scattered about. I didn't dare take my eyes off the ground, though. I didn't want to find an unfriendly rattlesnake by feeling it bite my leg.

Cholla on the hill.

My next hike in that area was the first time I tried the gaiters. I didn't have a lot of sunlight so I just wandered around near where I had already been. I didn't take near as many pictures because I already had pictures of most of the stuff out there. Strangely, it seemed that no matter which direction I went, I encountered cairns. I started to wonder if some nutcase had spent several years putting them all over the place out there.

Several buzzards kept an eye on me during this hike. Maybe they had worked out some sort of deal with the rattlesnake.

An elegant but flimsy cairn.

I have a couple of specific places in mind that I plan to visit out there. I'll be doing that soon if it doesn't get too hot. Since I organize my pictures by date, there are several album links below.





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