Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hike 13 - The Agony and Ecstasy of Early Morning on the Desert

Fout's Point and Truckhaven Rocks
A couple of miles at most, but hey, it was cross country ...

The intention was to arrive at Fout's Point in time for the sunrise. In actuality, despite having set out clothes, camera, and coffee gear the night before, I rolled over once too many times and thus was able to enjoy the rosy fingered dawn (thank you, Constance and Homer) light up the sand and sage of Fout's wash as the F150 rumbled along the sandy washboard track which makes up the four-mile approach to the viewpoint. Never mind, the early morning drive was gorgeous and the coffee delicious.

This image, along the Fout's Point access road, strongly brings to mind my early days as a geologist, when I explored many desert roads like this one in my lone quest to map, sample, and describe all of the springs within a 10,000 square mile area in Central Nevada

The Borrega Badlands from Fout's Point, in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Clark's Dry Lake and the Santa Rosa Mountains in the distance beyond a portion of the Borrega Badlands. There is a 6,000 feet elevation difference between the lake bed and the mountain peaks - tectonics is rampant here. In the foreground is a good example of desert pavement - pebbles darkened by desert varnish and concentrated on the surface as wind and water remove the finer particles as they erode the underlying sediment.

Borrega Badlands from the vicinity of Fout's Point

Wind-rippled dunes, badlands, and the Santa Rosa Range from the Fout's Point Road
Seriously afoot now, I have driven east a few miles on highway S22 from the Fout's Point turnoff. A scramble up a broad, boulder-strewn dry wash provides a path toward the Truckhaven Rocks, the sandstone bedrock formations in the middle distance. A Diamond Cholla in the foreground 

Wind and water have weathered the sandstone bedrock of the Truckhaven Rocks into interesting formations which invite exploration. Here I am contemplating extending my exploration by circling back to the truck by the dry wash I'm inspecting. From what I can see, it seems to deepen and narrow as it goes, possibly blocking me with a non-negotiable dry waterfall. What then? - a scramble back up the slick rock and its coating of ball-bearing-like gravel is not attractive, nor is the vision of my desiccating body and circling vultures. Sanity returns and I loop back more-or-less the way I had arrived.

See that glint on the horizon? It is not a mirage - it is the interesting Salton Sea. Once, back in not-so-distant geologic time, it was part of the Gulf of California, but was separated by the huge delta formed by the Colorado River. All of that rock eroded from the Grand Canyon had to end up somewhere. The river decided to flow south into the Gulf, and the now separate northern end dried out. But then canals were dug for agriculture in the Imperial Valley, and in 1905 a huge flood occurred on the Colorado, dikes were breached, canals became a raging river, and for about three years the entire flow of the river emptied into the old dry lakebed, forming the Salton Sea.

A water stop by an Ocotillo while I contemplate negotiating the ball-bearing slope before me

Ocotillo next to the Truckhaven Rocks

The interesting growth pattern of the Diamond Cholla. It was also interesting trying to remove one of the spines from my boot sole - they must have reversed barbs. Interesting also to contemplate the nature of a higher power, should one exist, who would design a reproduction mechanism that would inflict such an injury on the mammals passing by used as a vector. Go figure.

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