Rosa Point, Indianhead
By: Steve Smith
Starting out Saturday morning, Dad and I went up the ridgeline between Rattlesnake Canyon and Palo Verde Canyon. Climbing over a point midway between the parking spot and summit, we dropped down 300' to cross Palo Verde Canyon and then proceeded on up the ridgeline to the summit. This ridgeline must be a favorite locale for Bighorn Sheep since there were many small clear areas where they bed down during the night.
The summit afforded a good view of Salton Sea and the Anza-Borrego area where Indianhead was prominent. We also noted the visual fact that Palo Verde Canyon appeared to offer an easier route back out by circumventing the intermediate peak but descending that canyon proved to be difficult since it was necessary to surmount two formidable waterfalls. The extra effort did allow us to observe 2 Peninsular Bighorn rams. The first was in some brush and bolted out when we unknowingly approached to within 50 feet. We noticed the second one while still about 75 feet away. After watching him eat off a palo-verde tree for a few minutes, we were able to approach to within about 60 feet before he detected our presence and bolted.
The following information about this particular species of Bighorn was in BLM's California Newsbeat newsletter: The Peninsular Bighorn sheep is deer-like and distinguished by pale color and a white rump patch. Males and females bear horns which do not shed. The males have massive curled horns. The species, classified as rare and threatened, occurs in the Santa Rosa Mountains and southerly in mountain ranges of San Diego county and Baja. There are an estimated 400 animals in California. Numbers of the sheep are declining because of habitat destruction and disturbance and illegal shooting. Hunting pressure is heavy in Mexico despite the existence of a 40-year closed season. The breeding rate in the wild is one lamb per ewe annually, although two may be born occasionally. The lamb mortality rate is about 90 percent.
The State Department of Fish and Game requests information on any sightings of Bighorn sheep to aid in their studies of these animals. A standard form is available for recording information which Fish and Game would appreciate your submitting anytime you observe a Bighorn. Since many DPS'ers have opportunities to observe the elusive Bighorn, a copy of their field observation form is being included in this newsletter for your use.
Since it was still mid-afternoon, Fran and I drove on over to the Anza-Borrego State Park headquarters to look at Indianhead. It looked like a fast climb so we proceeded up the Palm Canyon nature trail for about 1 mile and then headed north up a wide chute which leads to the southeast side of the peak. We observed 3 more Bighorns - a ram and 2 eves - across the chute and enjoyed watching how deftly they climbed over the steep and rocky ridge.
The summit was farther then it looked and darkness found us sitting about 1,000' below the summit, so we decided to try a moonlight ascent. With almost a full moon rising at 11:30p.m., it was possible to continue on and the summit was reached at 1:00a.m. The bright moon provided adequate light for safe climbing although it was necessary to go a little slower because of impaired depth perception. It was a pleasant, clear night with the desert lights of Borrego Springs, Salton City, and Brawley providing interesting views. The return descent was uneventful though strange in the quiet, dark night air as we returned to the car at 3:30a.m.
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