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Rockhouse Canyon 4 Day Backpack TR Messages in this topic - RSS

dsefcik
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10/28/2012
dsefcik
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One of my Bighorn Sheep Count partners invited me on a 4 day backpack trip thru Rockhouse Canyon and the lower Santa Rosa Mountains area. He has been hiking in that area for many years and knows a lot about the area. Rockhouse Canyon / Valley have an interesting history with the early cowboys of the Anza Borrego desert and the indians who called it their home. One great book you can read is Old Time Cattlemen and Other Pioneers of the Anza-Borrego Area by Lester Reed

I got out to the Butler Canyon / Rockhouse Canyon junction a little early so I decide to go explore Butler Canyon a bit. The road going in had about a mile long stretch of deep soft sand around Alcoholic Pass, I needed 4WD for sure in my big truck.

Heading up Butler Canyon I found this old hand cart. If you have been up there before you too have probably seen it.

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I saw there was a BM named "House" on the topo map so I thought I would go try to find it, that was when I bagged my first balloon bundle of the trip. These were a pain in the ass to get off the cholla and there was some bloodshed for my efforts


All three BM's were there and even a register! The last entry was Feb 2012 from the always present Monday Maniacs.

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Nice view of Butler Canyon from House BM


The next morning Gary and I drove out to the end of Rockhouse Canyon rd and it was pretty much a mess. We had to pile rocks in several places and at one point needed to tie a rope around a boulder and drag it out of the way so we could pass. We loaded up our backpacks and headed out. Gary knows many of the old indian trails so we followed them thru most of Rockhouse Valley.

Day One

On our first day out we would explore some of the side canyons and upper flats to the east of Rockhouse Valley and then camp out overnight at the old Santa Rosa Village ruins in upper Rockhouse Valley.

You can still see some faint inscriptions from the early 4WD folks that used Rockhouse Canyon as an off roading area. I think it says "Sand Buggy 8 VW's 1969"


Looking west out towards Rockhouse Valley from the upper flats east of the valley. Toro Peak is straight ahead in the far distance


Gary calls this the sweat house


This is the real Cottonwood Spring, the topo maps have it in the wrong location. It is mostly dry now and you can see where there were rocks piled up to help create a small dam of some type


Up in an unnamed side canyon you can find remains of small camps probably from early cowboys and ranchers.


Here is an old jug and a metal container that was for Log Cabin Syrup, anybody remember the originals?


Looking into Rockhouse Valley. Toro Peak is on the left and on the middle right Peak 6582 (Dawns Peak), Rabbit and Villager Peaks(click image for a larger view)


After a long day of around 10 miles and low 90 degree temps we made it to the ruins at the old Santa Rosa Village in upper Rockhouse Valley. There are around 7 old ruins and this was the largest of them


Here is a night shot I took while watching for meteors


View of Buck Ridge from the Santa Rosa Village Ruins


Some kind of old kiln or small fireplace, a small rock shelter and rectangle shaped foundation at the village

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Day Two

The next day we did some more exploring in side canyons and filled up our water bottles at an unnamed spring Gary found a few years back. It had good running water and it felt good to tuck down into a shaded area with some cool spring water. Our goal for the day was to be at the upper Cottonwood trees just below Toro Peak at around 5,000'

Gary is filtering water from the spring, the cool water was so refreshing!


Exploring in more side canyons I found a funky big crater on a hill and large rock pile next to it, I have no idea what it was from or it's purpose


Gary showed me where a metate and some pottery sherds were up on anther side canyon


We followed more old indian trails the rest of the day and there are sections where you can see large rock piles that some believe the indians would throw a rock on each time they passed by


Another long day and near 10 miles of hiking we finally get to the Cottonwood trees. We did a lot of hiking and gained probably another 2,000' in elevation. We were now at around 5,000' elevation and the cooler temps felt good.


This is the main camp area at the Cottonwoods. You can tell this is where most everyone camps. Gary told me he has seen people up here before and most of them are coming down from Toro Peak and hiking out thru Rockhouse Canyon as a point-to-point trip. The wind was blowing pretty strong and the Cottonwood leaves shimmered with a brilliant yellow light in the wind. This was a very peaceful spot and I really enjoyed the blowing of the Cottonwood tree leaves at night in the moonlight


Day Three

The third day out we hiked over the Santa Rosa Mountains towards Toro Spring. There was a great view of Buck Ridge and Rockhouse Valley once we got up on a high saddle


We followed more old indian trails but Gary was leading and had to do a lot of brush trimming to get a clear trail. I don't think anybody goes out here at all. That is why it makes a great place to have a dope farm.

Looks like they cleared the brush underneath the Ribbonwood trees and brought in miles of irrigation lines that they tapped into an unnamed seep and also Toro Spring. We found lots of irrigation lines and bags of supplies like starting pots and fertilizer. Most of the lines have been cut by the DEA I guess.

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It looked like the farm was right on top of a large cultural site. There were some concentrated areas of pot sherds and morteros


I found a broken metate fragment


You could also find items of historic interest like these old square headed nails


It is rare to find pottery in the desert with ornate painting, this was a cool find


Up near the Cottonwoods are another set of ruins, I think these are usually referred to as the "upper rockhouse ruins". There is not a whole lot to look at


Here is a great view of Nicholias Canyon as we head down to find a place to camp for the night


Here is what is left of the old mining debris in Nicholias Canyon


Trekking down thru Nicholias Canyon was not as easy as one might think. It is filled with boulders and thick brush.


If you have read Schad's description of this hike you know he mentions a dry fall you will need some rope for to lower your packs. With two people you can hand them down without a rope but it would be easier with rope. There are several dry falls you need to negotiate but here is a photo of the largest


Down in Nicholias Canyon the wash bottom is cement hard from recent rains. We found a sandy spot to camp out for the night. Gary told me that mosquitos might be a problem so I stopped at REI on my way out and bought a Bug Hut Pro...turned out to be great advice.

Here is camp on the last night of our trip


Here is what the wash looked like most of the trip back down and thru Nicholias & Rockhouse Canyon


Day Four

On our last day of the trip we were going to just take our time and hike back down thru the wash and stop by the lower rockhouse ruins.

Here are a few photos of the more popular lower rock house ruins. You can easily see people have been piling the rocks back on over the years.

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During the trip Gary shared with me a location of some pictographs. Here are a few photos of them with before/after shots with DStretch applied. I spent a little bit more time trying to get just the enhancements to show thru and I like the result.

This pictograph figure was about 3' wide and 3' tall, a very large painting

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Most likely a painting of a man on a horse

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Not sure on this one

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These look familiar

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This was a great trip and I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my photos of the area. If you plan to hike a multi day trip in Rockhouse Valley you will need to know where water sources are and bring a filter. We carried 7 liters each day and filled up at springs along the way.

Total Mylar Balloons this trip - 10+ I lost count.

http://www.sefcik.com/2012/10/rockhouse-canyon-4-day-backpack-trip.html

Daren
edited by dsefcik on 10/28/2012
edited by dsefcik on 10/27/2015

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AdventureGraham
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10/28/2012
AdventureGraham
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Wow! What a great backpacking trip! I would love to check out that shaded cottonwood campsite one of these days. Looks like you guys covered quite a bit of ground. If that pot farm was busted and not just abandoned, its a shame they didn't haul out all that hose too.

Great trip, Daren. Thanks for sharing.
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AdventureGraham
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10/28/2012
AdventureGraham
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I've been to the end of Rockhouse Canyon once. Here area few photos.

End of the line for 4wheeled travel.
[IMG]http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f362/Rivershark/off%20road/IMG_0333.jpg[/IMG]

Turn around point.
[IMG]http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f362/Rivershark/off%20road/IMG_0335.jpg[/IMG]

I gets a bit rocky up in there...
[IMG]http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f362/Rivershark/off%20road/IMG_0328.jpg[/IMG]
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tommy750
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10/28/2012
tommy750
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Very nice trip. That one pictograph figure at 3'X3' is huge! Is that the largest one out there? Tom
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dsefcik
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10/29/2012
dsefcik
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tommy750 wrote:
That one pictograph figure at 3'X3' is huge! Is that the largest one out there? Tom

That was the largest I saw. It was a cool picto but I was more intrigued by some of the smaller more faded ones that only dstretch could bring out.

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surfponto
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10/29/2012
surfponto
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Great trip Daren,Good Posting

What an interesting area.
We have only been as far as the lower rockhouses in Rockhouse Valley.

Great find on the pictographs.

Bob

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ziphius
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10/29/2012
ziphius
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Daren,

Great trip! I was laughing at the handcart, because I had proposed this idea to my girlfriend to haul some gear out to one of our camping spots last year. She thought it was silly. But boy, you could haul some extra water that way....

It's hard to tell from the photo of the unnamed spring if a manmade dam or lip has been built up around it. Unnamed springs are my favorite.

Man, these pot growers will go to any lengths to find a secluded area for their operations. Arghhh.

Gary has a good beard going, he must be a true outdoorsman. - Jim

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anutami
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10/29/2012
anutami
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yeah that handcart had me thinking too, if I could just hitch it to my waist and load the kids up in it I could double or triple my range smile

Daren, thanks for posting your epic treks through the Desert.

You gotta check this out!
http://www.mondayhikes.com/12Hikes/hk120220.html
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ziphius
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10/29/2012
ziphius
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anutami wrote:
yeah that handcart had me thinking too, if I could just hitch it to my waist and load the kids up in it I could double or triple my range smile

Daren, thanks for posting your epic treks through the Desert.

You gotta check this out!
http://www.mondayhikes.com/12Hikes/hk120220.html


Wow, that bighorn skull on the mondayhikes link is epic. You couldn't ask to find one in better condition!

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dsefcik
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10/29/2012
dsefcik
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That is what we had to do a couple of times just to get thru, it was close to bottoming out on the floorboards.

BorregoWrangler wrote:

I gets a bit rocky up in there...
[IMG]http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f362/Rivershark/off%20road/IMG_0328.jpg[/IMG]


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dsefcik
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10/29/2012
dsefcik
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The Monday Maniacs get around, I pretty much always see them in the registers.

anutami wrote:

You gotta check this out!
http://www.mondayhikes.com/12Hikes/hk120220.html


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dsefcik
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10/29/2012
dsefcik
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ziphius wrote:
Daren,
It's hard to tell from the photo of the unnamed spring if a manmade dam or lip has been built up around it. Unnamed springs are my favorite.


It was a 50 gallon steel barrel split in half and then set in a cement base. It has largely rusted away and the cement base has preserved the water catch basin part. Gary told me they heard water running when hiking nearby and it was the overflow from the barrels. They cleared some of the brush back and voila, water!

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mrkmc
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10/29/2012
mrkmc
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Great trip report! I only drove to the end of RHC one time when my daughter was only 3 months old. My wife held her head so it wouldn't bounce around so much. She slept through the whole drive! Seems most of the BM's in ABDSP have registers. There are a handfull of them in the Clark Lake area I hope to check out one of these days.
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Buford
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10/29/2012
Buford
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Thanks for the report and Pictures. That looks like an awesome route. Good to know there is a spring in the area.
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rockhopper
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10/29/2012
rockhopper
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Fantastic photos and great report! I have got to get back out there this winter. I am amazed at how large the valley really is and the unlimited hiking available. You said you hiked to the east once entering the valley. Anything of note? Last trip in our party split at the Santa Rosa Ruins site, my friend and I headed west and our other friend went up and over east toward Martinez / Auga Alta canyon. He said there was a clear old trail. I think that would be a great day hike or loop back pack. I liked the "sweat house" I missed that . Your friend Gary knows the area well. How many times have you / he been hiking the valley? The "crater" may have been a looted burial mound. We saw two burial mounds and a third "unearthed" complete with broken arrow heads near the main ruins at 4000ft elev. The hand cart looks very familiar. I meet a Gold prospector who would huff in a "mini" dredge into the local mountians and gold dredge the normally dry creeks during the winter and spring. He had the same wheels complete with mountian bike tires! I hope I never run into any of the "farmers" yikes! Here is a pic at around 6000 feet Near Nicolas canyon about a mile from the abandoned saw mill on the west side of Toro peak.

[IMG]http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h294/metalmeister/ABDSP/CopyofSantaRosaMtnsJan1994001.jpg[/IMG]
edited by rockhopper on 10/29/2012
edited by rockhopper on 10/29/2012
<em>edited by rockhopper on 10/29/2012</em>
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dsefcik
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10/30/2012
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I love your old pictures, looks like they are in old photo album like a lot of my mexico photos are.

Gary has pretty much been everywhere out there, including the Martinez area and Toro Peak. I have some plans to try and backpack out thru the east area some more and explore, there is a large area we passed thru that looks a lot like the Jacumba area with all of the boulders just everywhere. That is an interesting idea about the burial "mounds", I believe I saw that near the main village site around the 4,000' area. I made a comment to Gary about all of the rock mounds along the trail, I said they were where the indians buried those that died along the way...I was kidding of course but now that you mention burial mounds.....

The large Rockhouse Valley is deceiving, Hidden Spring at the traill head starts at about 2,000' and the Cottonwoods below Toro Peak are at 5,000'. You pretty much are climbing the whole time going out but at least coming back is all down hill. We got lucky with having the wash be cement hard, it was like walking on a sidewalk most of the way back. It is a huge valley and there is plenty to explore, 4 days was not even close enough to seeing everything,

If the farm had been active I am sure our trip would have been quite different, that farm was acres big, crap was everywhere.

rockhopper wrote:
Fantastic photos and great report! I have got to get back out there this winter. I am amazed at how large the valley really is and the unlimited hiking available. You said you hiked to the east once entering the valley. Anything of note? Last trip in our party split at the Santa Rosa Ruins site, my friend and I headed west and our other friend went up and over east toward Martinez / Auga Alta canyon. He said there was a clear old trail. I think that would be a great day hike or loop back pack. I liked the "sweat house" I missed that . Your friend Gary knows the area well. How many times have you / he been hiking the valley? The "crater" may have been a looted burial mound. We saw two burial mounds and a third "unearthed" complete with broken arrow heads near the main ruins at 4000ft elev. The hand cart looks very familiar. I meet a Gold prospector who would huff in a "mini" dredge into the local mountians and gold dredge the normally dry creeks during the winter and spring. He had the same wheels complete with mountian bike tires! I hope I never run into any of the "farmers" yikes! Here is a pic at around 6000 feet Near Nicolas canyon about a mile from the abandoned saw mill on the west side of Toro peak.

[IMG]http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h294/metalmeister/ABDSP/CopyofSantaRosaMtnsJan1994001.jpg[/IMG]


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hikerdmb
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10/30/2012
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Thanks for sharing Daren. It is nice to have a buddy willing to show you the water holes and the great campsite under the trees. I have seen a couple other pics of that site and it looks great. Did you have a fire in that ring. I still am planning another trip out there again this year. Great photos as always.
David
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dsefcik
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10/30/2012
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No fire, the weather was very nice. A nice cool breeze and the moonlight made the cottonwood leaves shimmer a nice yellow color all night. I did not sleep much because it was so peaceful to watch the moonlight, shooting stars and cottonwood leaves dance throughout the night. The small red ants everywhere were not much of a big deal since we hung our food in the trees but big black ants that came out at night were something interesting. Gary had many stories of freezing cold nights at the cottonwoods so go prepared, snow, wind, rain etc.....

Let me know when you go if you want company.

hikerdmb wrote:
Thanks for sharing Daren. It is nice to have a buddy willing to show you the water holes and the great campsite under the trees. I have seen a couple other pics of that site and it looks great. Did you have a fire in that ring. I still am planning another trip out there again this year. Great photos as always.
David


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ziphius
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10/31/2012
ziphius
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Daren,

What was your menu like? smile

Jim

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dsefcik
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10/31/2012
dsefcik
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ziphius wrote:

What was your menu like? smile
Jim



Hah..! Great question, I was already thinking about posting something about it.....
Pretty simple stuff on the menu, no stove or cooking, just ready to eat out, of the bag foods.
I took a cue from a backpack of food left by an undocumented traveler out in Myer Valley I found. It had 16oz bags of refried beans ready to eat.


I went to my local Northgate Market and found SunVista makes a similar product but also in black bean flavor (which was my favorite). I bought a couple packages and tried them out at home first, they were good so I figured I would take them out on a backpack trip. The ingredients really are not too bad either.

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My nightly dinner was bean & cheese burritos. I brought a 12 pack of Trader Joe's tortillas in a ziplock bag and Gary brought some mozzarella cheese so we shared.

Other foods were mostly Trader Joe's dried apples rings, trail mix, peanut butter filled cracker things, dried banana chips, oriental salty snack chip things and one of my favorites, pumpernickel pretzels. Also brought one fresh apple for each morning and two Cliff Bars for each day. I also brought a couple packages of ready to eat tuna, I am not a tuna eater but they did taste good.

The burritos were the best..I will definitely be taking refried black beans and tortillas on my next trip!

Oh yeah...the big bottle of Jack Daniels mixed with Bacardi spiced rum didn't hurt much each night either.....Toast

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ziphius
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11/1/2012
ziphius
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Nice menu. One of my staples is homemade hummus and pita bread, which is high in protein and tastes good. The pita bread will go for WEEKS in the pack without showing any green.

dsefcik wrote:
Oh yeah...the big bottle of Jack Daniels mixed with Bacardi spiced rum didn't hurt much each night either.....Toast

You know the rule: a minimum of one liter of hard liquor per person per day in a desert environment. You cut it pretty close. smile
edited by ziphius on 11/1/2012
<em>edited by ziphius on 11/1/2012</em>

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surfponto
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11/1/2012
surfponto
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Wow
I never knew you could buy refried beans like that.
Awesome!

Bob
dsefcik wrote:
ziphius wrote:

What was your menu like? smile
Jim



Hah..! Great question, I was already thinking about posting something about it.....
Pretty simple stuff on the menu, no stove or cooking, just ready to eat out, of the bag foods.
I took a cue from a backpack of food left by an undocumented traveler out in Myer Valley I found. It had 16oz bags of refried beans ready to eat.


I went to my local Northgate Market and found SunVista makes a similar product but also in black bean flavor (which was my favorite). I bought a couple packages and tried them out at home first, they were good so I figured I would take them out on a backpack trip. The ingredients really are not too bad either.

---

---


My nightly dinner was bean & cheese burritos. I brought a 12 pack of Trader Joe's tortillas in a ziplock bag and Gary brought some mozzarella cheese so we shared.

Other foods were mostly Trader Joe's dried apples rings, trail mix, peanut butter filled cracker things, dried banana chips, oriental salty snack chip things and one of my favorites, pumpernickel pretzels. Also brought one fresh apple for each morning and two Cliff Bars for each day. I also brought a couple packages of ready to eat tuna, I am not a tuna eater but they did taste good.

The burritos were the best..I will definitely be taking refried black beans and tortillas on my next trip!

Oh yeah...the big bottle of Jack Daniels mixed with Bacardi spiced rum didn't hurt much each night either.....Toast


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hikerdmb
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11/1/2012
hikerdmb
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Thanks Daren! I also never knew you could have beans like that. Now I can have a burrito instead of my usual tacos. Escondido is covered with markets that are sure to sell those beans!
David
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dsefcik
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11/1/2012
dsefcik
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At Northgate they sell the 1lb bag of beans (again I really liked the black beans) for less than $2. They also sell bags of shredded beef and pork. I am not much of a meat eater so I have not tried them and they cost around $4. If you are a meat eater they might be your bag......shredded beef burrito out backpacking..?? sounds good doesn't it.....

The $1 tuna bags at Food 4 Less were very tasty, mostly because of the salt I think but the solid food of beans and tuna really hit the spot after a whole day of carrying a big pack.

Wait...backpack, tuna, beans.....sounds a lot like what I found out in the desert near the border.....

hikerdmb wrote:
Thanks Daren! I also never knew you could have beans like that. Now I can have a burrito instead of my usual tacos. Escondido is covered with markets that are sure to sell those beans!
David


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dsefcik
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11/2/2012
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In my Old Time Cattlemen of ABDSP book the author mentions an old indian cemetery on the west base on the Santa Rosa mountains, where Nicholas Guanche was buried. Is that where this was taken?
The author writes that the name of Nicholas Cyn (Nicholias on current topo maps?) was named after him, the last one of the indians to live in the area.

rockhopper wrote:
Here is a pic at around 6000 feet Near Nicolas canyon about a mile from the abandoned saw mill on the west side of Toro peak.
[IMG]http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h294/metalmeister/ABDSP/CopyofSantaRosaMtnsJan1994001.jpg[/IMG]


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rockhopper
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11/3/2012
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dsefcik wrote:
In my Old Time Cattlemen of ABDSP book the author mentions an old indian cemetery on the west base on the Santa Rosa mountains, where Nicholas Guanche was buried. Is that where this was taken?
The author writes that the name of Nicholas Cyn (Nicholias on current topo maps?) was named after him, the last one of the indians to live in the area.

rockhopper wrote:
Here is a pic at around 6000 feet Near Nicolas canyon about a mile from the abandoned saw mill on the west side of Toro peak.
[IMG]http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h294/metalmeister/ABDSP/CopyofSantaRosaMtnsJan1994001.jpg[/IMG]


We came across the burial ground heading down towards Rock House Canyon from the abandoned sawmill at the base of Toro peak. I could probably find it a gain. It was on knoll with a fantastic view to the south overlooking rock house canyon. I figured they were either white settlers working at the sawmill or native peoples converted to Christianity or a combination of both. Either way if I were buried there I would be just fine with it!

kickin it at the main ruins
[IMG]http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h294/metalmeister/ABDSP/CopyofSantaRosaIndianRuins1-23-1993007.jpg[/IMG]

Water flowing near Buck ridge after the winter rains
[IMG]http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h294/metalmeister/ABDSP/CopyofSRMntns005.jpg[/IMG]

Speaking of Martinez canyon.....

Brenda navagating the stream bed
[IMG]http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h294/metalmeister/ABDSP/CopyofSRMntns012.jpg[/IMG]

Cooling off in Martinez creek
[IMG]http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h294/metalmeister/ABDSP/CopyofMartinezCanyonJan1993005.jpg[/IMG]

Almost there! Note: this is the pre hiking pole era. The stuff we did with out poles amazes me to this day.
[IMG]http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h294/metalmeister/ABDSP/CopyofSRMntns006.jpg[/IMG]

Jack Millers 1925-1955 cabin
[IMG]http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h294/metalmeister/ABDSP/CopyofSRMntns011.jpg[/IMG]
<em>edited by rockhopper on 11/3/2012</em>
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dsefcik
dsefcik
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11/4/2012
dsefcik
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rockhopper:

very cool pics, thanks for taking time to post .

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Clifford
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1/20/2013
Clifford
Clifford
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Great post, thanks for sharing! You are lucky to have a knowledgeable companion to go with. I have been car camping a lot since I got my 4x4 a few years ago but did one night in RH back in June and man I have been looking forward to getting out on foot and pack ever since. I used to camp in AB back in the mid nineties before I had my truck- I got a Datsun 280ZX way up Coyote canyon one year and stayed a couple nights in Sheep Canyon. There was a lovely spring and pool near there. https://plus.google.com/photos/105266388149148864163/albums/5758276332908868161
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dsefcik
dsefcik
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1/20/2013
dsefcik
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Nice pics...the Angelina Springs Cultural Preserve sign is fairly new....what is up with the doomsday 2012 sticker? Did it look like someone put that there?

Clifford wrote:
Great post, thanks for sharing! You are lucky to have a knowledgeable companion to go with. I have been car camping a lot since I got my 4x4 a few years ago but did one night in RH back in June and man I have been looking forward to getting out on foot and pack ever since. I used to camp in AB back in the mid nineties before I had my truck- I got a Datsun 280ZX way up Coyote canyon one year and stayed a couple nights in Sheep Canyon. There was a lovely spring and pool near there. https://plus.google.com/photos/105266388149148864163/albums/5758276332908868161

edited by dsefcik on 1/20/2013

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Clifford
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1/20/2013
Clifford
Clifford
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Ya if you look close you can see it is an add on. Pretty quirky!
Also, you referred to your friend as a sheep counter, is that just a nickname or does he actually caount sheep for the park service or something?
C
edited by Clifford on 1/20/2013
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dsefcik
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7/21/2013
dsefcik
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Clifford wrote:
Also, you referred to your friend as a sheep counter, is that just a nickname or does he actually caount sheep for the park service or something?
C
Gary and I count sheep every year as part of the annual bighorn sheep count the park does.

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