Saturday, March 1, 2003
Led by Marv Patchen
Reported by Allan Schoenherr
Our official leader, Marv Patchen, met us (all 23 vehicles) at the Carrizo Badlands Overlook in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. There he stood, a slight man, with his old straw hat sewed together with yarn, and prepared us for our trip through the scenic Carrizo Badlands. He proved to be a knowledgeable guide. He is a resident of Canebrake, a nearby community that originally was established as a group of homesteaders. It is now a well-maintained desert outpost with a winter-resident population of about 50 and a summer-resident population of 3. Marv told us he retired in 1975 (You do the math). We had a glorious day, a little bit windy, but warm and sunny. Marv talked to us about the scenery and the geology. His CB was a little weak so we relayed his information to the group with a CB relay.
Our trip took us down Canyon Sin Nombre where we traveled through nearly 4 million years of geologic time. The canyon follows the Elsinore Fault trace, and the evidence of right lateral movement was displayed in the warping up and down of the ancient lake sediments. Our first stop was at a slot canyon cut deeply by flowing water into the sediments. Marv led us up the canyon to an overlook, gaining several hundred feet in elevation without cracking a sweat or showing signs of deep breathing, not so for many of our participants. After taking in the view, we made our way back down to the wash where we pushed out the first of our stuck vehicles, verifying once again that a few people pushing can usually get a vehicle unstuck in sand. No names shall be mentioned to protect the innocent.
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After leaving the slot canyon, we traveled northward to the main trace of Carrizo Wash. Here we encountered our first batch of mud. The clay that erodes off the old lake beds tends to hold water a long time. Nevertheless, it had rained the day before our visit, and the canyon bottoms had an abundant supply of mud that soon impacted itself in wheel-wells and decorated the sides of most vehicles. We traveled a short distance westward in Carrizo Wash to Arroyo Seco del Diablo which turned out to be a beautiful badlands wash fraught with mud traps. Here is where a real Jeep, a CJ with a 327 V8 and big-guy tires and loclers, sank to the frame. Being a Jeep, of course it was an elegant sticking. Nevertheless he was soon extracted with the help of a tow strap and a vehicle of unknown make and model. Again, no names shall be mentioned to protect the innocent. We continued traveling up Arroyo Seco del Diablo clear to its upper end where Marv encountered an impasse. We retreated to a wide spot in the wash, pulled out of the way, and ate lunch.
After lunch we crossed over to Arroyo Tapiado, the next arroyo to the west. We traveled down that wash with only an occasional delay while a Toyota 4Runner had to make several runs at climbing a little hill. We encountered a short stretch where the bottom of the wash formed a narrow “V”. Here we did a little sidewall driving, but everyone made it through unscathed. Marvin explained to us that “tapiado” in Spanish means blocked or dammed, probably in reference to the frequent mudslides that come down and block access. This is where we were treated to a short hike into a cave cut by running water into the mud hills. We had to limit access to ten persons at a time, but after winding about in the dark through a rather narrow passage, we emerged into a large room that opened to the light about 30 feet above. It was clearly a place where the roof had caved in, making everyone wonder when it was going to happen again. A short way down the wash we took another short hike to the "gallery,” a place where there were a number of sandstone concretions in a variety of free-form shapes that resembled a sculpture gallery.
We completed our trip by traveling up the main wash (Vallecito Creek) to the little community of Canebrake which Marv calls home. Here we visited the Canebrake Yacht Club which is an old boat hull that is being refitted into a home. The landscape at the Yacht Club was a tasteful accumulation of debris, detritus, and junk that had been placed artistically so that it represented a landscaped work of art, well worth visiting if you are in the area. After a quick peek at the Canebrake club house we made our way back to Ocotillo to bid on our favorite items at the silent auction, to feast on Mexican food, and to hear a fine talk by Diane Lindsay.