Mortero Palms to Goat Canyon Trestle & Indian Hill

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BorregoWrangler
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Mortero Palms to Goat Canyon Trestle & Indian Hill

#1

Post by BorregoWrangler » Mon Nov 24, 2014 9:32 pm

Mortero Palms to Goat Canyon Trestle & Indian Hill - November 22nd, 2014

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With November rolling around, it was time once again for a hike into the Anza-Borrego wilderness to check out the world's largest wooden railroad trestle in Goat Canyon. I've delved into the history of this "Impossible Railroad" in past trip reports, which can be found here.

I had considered making this an overnight trip, camping out near the trail head after the hike but decided instead to just spend the day hiking in the desert. On this outing, I was joined by Dave, Mike, Steve, and Tammy. I arrived early at Steve and Tammy's place to ride out with them, with Mike following. Dave, who had a much farther drive, met us at the trail head for Mortero Wash just off Highway S2. We would need to set up a shuttle arrangement with the vehicles since our hike would end a few miles away from the trail head. Along with the old railroad camp dwelling, we would also be making our way to the Blue Sun Cave and ancient Native American village site at Indian Hill. To check out my last trip to Indian Hill, click here.

Our meeting location was the Mortero Wash trail head, located just off Highway S2 about 0.2 miles west of mile post 56. This point is 8 miles northwest of the small desert town of Ocotillo at Interstate 8 in Imperial County.
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Mike, following us up the wash in his 4X4 Chevrolet Astro Van. Dave's H2 Hummer was bringing up the rear.
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While the guys went to drop off Dave's rig where our hike would end, I wandered around the old Dos Cabezas railroad siding.
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I wonder what this area looked like in the early 1900's.
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Soon after leaving the trail head, we negotiate the boulder strewn canyon that leads to Mortero Palms.
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The gang leading the way into the palms.
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Yeah, I'll let you Google what a "Yoni" is.
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Mortero Palms lies in the southernmost reaches of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, not far from the old Dos Cabezos railroad siding.
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Steve and Tammy, taking in the views.
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Looking down from the top of a dry waterfall that the rest of the group prepares to climb.
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Above the palms and still climbing.
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Group shot (from left to right- Steve, Tammy, Dave, and Mike) overlooking Mortero Palms, minus yours truly of course.
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Another "yoni" along the way.
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Still climbing...
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Dave, taking a break at the first saddle.
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We continue along a cholla covered hillside before dropping down into another canyon.
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Reaching the end of the canyon we start the steepest climb of the hike. Not our favorite part.
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However, the views are great! (Although they might be better with all the wind turbines.)
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Catching up to the others.
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We finally reach the top of the ridge. Its all downhill from here!
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Making our way down Goat Canyon, there's a few dry waterfalls, steep descents, and loose rock to traverse.
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The last steep pitch into the canyon is a nasty one.
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Once at the bottom we reach Goat Canyon trestle, in all its glory.
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Time for a lunch break.
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Steve has a lot of trust in the structural integrity of this thing.
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I guess I do too...
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After lunch we cross the trestle to check out the collapsed tunnel. You can see the buckled shoring above and on the right.
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Heading back cross Goat Canyon trestle.
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Heading down the tracks.
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More of Steve's shenanigans.
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Just before reaching this tunnel, we cross into a valley to explore the remains of the railroad construction dwellings and ancient Native American sites.
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This was the on;y photo I took of some of the graffiti that was all over much of the historic artifacts along the trail. Apparently, the "Freight Bandit" gets around. I don't care about this stuff in the city, but I'd rather not see this vandalism while out in the wilderness.
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This area, with its abundant pottery shards, is one of the oldest Indian encampments in the park. The ruins of the railroad camp dates back to about 1910.
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Often, there's no trail to follow, just cross-country travel.
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Indian Hill.
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This fire-blacked cave was once part of a Native American village site.
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Checking out the cave.
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Around the corner is the Blue Sun Cave with its pictographs.
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After exploring Indian Hill we started back towards Dave's vehicle, which would take us back to the other's parked at the trail head. By now the sun had slipped behind the hills and we were treated with a beautiful desert sunset.
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A big thanks to everyone who came along on this hike. It was fun exploring the fascinating history of this rugged area with such great company.
-John Graham
1989 YJ & 2000 TJ

View all my trip reports here at my blog: GrahamCrackers

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Re: Mortero Palms to Goat Canyon Trestle & Indian Hill

#2

Post by cruiserlarry » Tue Nov 25, 2014 1:09 am

Fantastic trip report, John... and the pictures are awesome, too !!!
Your ability to report with a focus on the history of an area always makes for a good read - Thanks :D
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Re: Mortero Palms to Goat Canyon Trestle & Indian Hill

#3

Post by BorregoWrangler » Tue Nov 25, 2014 5:09 pm

cruiserlarry wrote:Fantastic trip report, John... and the pictures are awesome, too !!!
Your ability to report with a focus on the history of an area always makes for a good read - Thanks :D
Thank you, Larry!

It was a good time out there. Now that I'm not feeling so sore anymore, I'm ready for some more hiking!
-John Graham
1989 YJ & 2000 TJ

View all my trip reports here at my blog: GrahamCrackers

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Re: Mortero Palms to Goat Canyon Trestle & Indian Hill

#4

Post by DaveK » Sat Nov 29, 2014 12:29 am

The scenery in Anza Borrego State Park is always worth the trip. For a November hike, we were blessed with perfect weather - low 70's, clear skies, and a mild breeze. Like many outdoor destinations, Anza Borrego has a rich history, available for those who discover it. The San Diego and Arizona Railway, which runs through part of Anza Borrego, is one such place. One of the best things about visiting this area is the fact that is local to most of southern California and Arizona.

Many thanks to John, Steve and Tammy for leading this hike. For the most part, there is no trail to the Goat Canyon Trestle and their knowledge of the area sure kept this strenuous hike to a minimum.

The Goat Canyon Trestle is an amazing feat of engineering and a testament to the tenacity of John Spreckles (the then Owner of the SD&ARR) and the extraordinarily hard work of the Railroad crews that built it. It is no secret that the weather gets extreme in this part of the desert in the summer and one can only imagine how difficult it was to construct the RR in that kind of heat. The Railroad began construction in 1907 and was completed in 1919 for a new route from El Centro to San Diego.

The Goat Canyon Trestle was not part of the original construction, but became necessary after a landslide destroyed tunnel #15 in March of 1932. One hundred and one days later, construction crews had built a new tunnel #15 and the Goat Canyon Trestle. That trestle is still standing, and when the entire line is operational, this trestle is still being used. The pictures below give a good idea of the trestle, but it must be seen in person to fully appreciate how difficult it was to construct and what an engineering accomplishment it really was.

For those who are interested in getting a much more complete history of the SD&ARR, Reena Deutsch, Ph.D, has written a terrific book, entitled "San Diego and Arizona Railway, The Impossible Railroad". Reena has made terrific use of a huge inventory of pictures ranging from its original construction to recent photos of the Railroad as it exists today.
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Carrizo Canyon (Gorge)
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(Note the Railroad in the distance with other wooden trestles)
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First views of the Goat Canyon Trestle as we descended
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Old Tunnel #15 - (note the tracks on the left that end at the berm and collapsed tunnel #15 on the right)
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Tracks going over the Goat Canyon Trestle and through new Tunnel #15
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Old Rails (1913 and 1914)
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Re: Mortero Palms to Goat Canyon Trestle & Indian Hill

#5

Post by BorregoWrangler » Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:50 pm

Great commentary, Dave! Now I'll have to get that book. :mrgreen:
-John Graham
1989 YJ & 2000 TJ

View all my trip reports here at my blog: GrahamCrackers

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