Warner Springs Ranch
Heading down to San Diego to be there in the morning, I could not very well pass up using some of the day for a hike on the way. But what to do? I decided to do something silly. I would go and see this rock that is claimed to be the most photographed on the Pacific Crest Trail just because it looks like an eagle. The thing is, it is not the passing resemblance from just the right angle one typically finds with the various edifices named "Eagle Rock" scattered around the world. This is an animal that flew around in the time of the titans until it was frozen into stone as it landed. Or maybe it was a victim of a trick by a jealous Raven. However it came to be, the bird still rests about forty feet off the trail and I will go see it in person. The trail crosses road often in the area, so it is a reasonable day hike going northbound or southbound. I find my way to the Warner Springs Fire Station, which makes an easy landmark for finding the trail for the shorter southbound approach. Stepping out, it is hot. Even the mad dogs and Englishmen have ducked away somewhere in the post-noonday sun. Words like "riparian" are used to describe the trail from this side, but I am suspicious it is by people who do not know what it means. There are a few drying oaks that will provide some shade, but it is hardly riparian. Still better than out in the blazing sun. The sooner I get started, the sooner I am under their bows. I have not yet eaten, so gobble down a cherry turnover I had grabbed earlier rather than a proper lunch before cracking a couple windows and taking off with extra water.
|The trail passes through private ranch land in this area, so the gate had better be kept closed.|
The pools of shade under the oaks are pleasant enough, but it is not even the hottest part of the day yet. The trail seems flat at first, so it does not take much effort to proceed. This is replaced by an ever so slight upward grade as it curves around some tiny dry canyons that serve as tributaries to the dry wash below. Dry and eternal buckwheat serves to provide a color slightly different from brown among the grasses. Still, the brush and trees, though clearly also feeling a bit dry, continue to wear their various shades of yellow-grey-green. It is certainly summer.
Up ahead is a tree that does not fit in with the rest of the scene. Wide, bright green leaves and thin, white bark set it apart from the greyer oaks with dark, tough bark. The wash has thinned to a stream. Glancing down, there seems to be green grass growing in the bottom. There seems to be water somewhere. A little further and there it is, a thin line that reflects the light flows below. Well, dribbles. As I walk, it is small, but constant.
I am not the only one out here. As I am contemplating a rotting tree, a couple of women pass by with entirely too little water in hand, in my opinion. They appear to be at home, so must know what they need. Meanwhile, the trickle of water below is nice, while it lasts. The trail is not interested in the water, though, and starts to climb away from it. The cactus become more prevalent. There are many kinds, but they all look a bit dry too. Some of them still carry the dried buds from the last flowering.
|Looking back, the thin line of water in a small slot is easily picked out by the crowns of oaks and other trees rising out of it.|
The trail reaches a very low ridge. Beyond it, the hills roll away covered mostly in dried grass. A few steps more climb and it is clear there is some water in the distance. A reservoir shimmers far away but not far below. Outcrops of rock appear. One must be my destination, but it is still unclear which.
|Distant hills of a different look from those before after climbing the rise.|
Old ranch roads cross the trail as it drifts downwards and up again. Some are being reclaimed slowly while others seem to have been used recently. There are fewer hints that this is ranch land than might be expected.
|This small oak is probably deceptively old, hanging on in this desert.|
|Trail and ranch roads, from here it is hard to tell which is which, as the rock outcrops grow.|
The trail drops and gains again. One patch is rather like a little cactus garden as I note another very distinct kind among it. As I go, I pick out a likely looking outcrop. The trail does not seem to go past it, but that is because the likely looking trail I have picked out is actually a ranch road. The trail ignores it and climbs toward the outcrop instead. I notice that I have not quite picked the easiest and shortest route out to here as there seems to be a paved road nearby. It would have been a much less interesting route in. As the trail passes the outcrop, there is even more used trail to it. This is definitely the correct one. I walk around, and there it is. There is a metal post in the ground as if to mark the spot from which to photograph the rocks. The sun is getting a bit low for it, but I obediently hit the mark and take the indistinguishable photo.
It is a good spot for a snack and even a little scrambling, but then turn to return across the rolling hills to the start.
©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 2 August 2016