Having stopped at the visitor center to gather the latest wildflower information and get our bearings, and having hiked The Slot, we were eager to accomplish the original goal of our day trip to the desert: to photograph blooming wildflowers.
The park guides at the visitor center suggested Mine Wash was the best place to see wildflowers right now. Mine Wash lies just south of Highway 78 about a 25-minute drive due south from the visitor center.
“Finally, the wildflowers we came to see!
Here again, there was no signage marking the turnoff from the highway. Luckily, with Siri and Google Maps guiding me, I was able to slow down enough to have a fighting chance. Confirming there were no vehicles behind me or in the oncoming lane, I made the turn off the highway,.. but just barely!
A winding, single-lane led us straight south from Highway 78 toward Mine Wash. Curiously, there was a public restroom in a small building a few hundred meters off the highway. One might think the restroom belonged next to the parking lot we presumed we would eventually find. I guess this makes it easier to service the restrooms. We didn’t know quite what to expect, but, clearly, that was not it. After bouncing patiently along for about a half a mile (no need to risk a puncture in the middle of nowhere), we arrived at a dirt lot with a small sign.
I think we are here.
The afternoon sun was bearing down on the desert floor by this time. The air was dry but, thankfully, not overwhelmingly hot. The sign marked this location as one of significance to the indigenous Kumeyaay Indians. These native people have inhabited great swaths of the San Diego region going back thousands of years. This site was just a small seasonal village to a single band of the Kumeyaay. The hills provided shelter from the wind. Native plants and animals provided the essentials: food, clothing, shelter and medicines. Mule deer, Peninsular bighorn sheep and black-tailed jackrabbits, some of which can reach up to 6 pounds, in years gone by, were plentiful in this area.
There are no real “trails” on this site, but you can follow the wash… a shallow dip in the natural landscape where water runs off from the surrounding hills. At the head of the wash, where it meets the hills, you can find morteros, or grinding stones. These large flat rocks lying close to the desert floor have small indentations where Kumeyaay women (gender equality was scarce back then) would grind seeds for food preparation.
We scouted the area for blooming desert cacti and flowers. We found several, interesting specimens… one was the most amazing, brilliant purple! We continued walking the wash in the direction of the highway for a bit, then retraced our steps back to the lot. Despite our efforts, we hadn’t seen any wildlife, save for a few small birds and colorful butterflies. We also saw what we assumed was excrement from jackrabbits… but no jackrabbits.
“…giving my best Seal Team 6 signal for “freeze”.
No sooner had I mentioned I was keen to see a rattlesnake before we called it a day, then BAM!… right in the middle of our path! My girlfriend was walking behind, so I immediately raised my arm at a right angle with closed fist… giving my best Seal Team 6 signal for “freeze”. This rattlesnake was relatively small… probably just 2-and-a-half feet in length but with unmistakable markings! I snapped a few photos from a safe distance, and we gave it a wide berth. Young rattlesnakes are often more aggressive and unpredictable than mature rattlesnakes.
Content with my shots, we decided to head back toward home… but not without one final stop.
Stay tuned for the final post in this series. Hint: This one involves my other favorite topic: delicious food & drink!
What do you enjoy most about getting out into nature?