Sierra San Pedro Martir


By: John Robinson


Exploratory Trip - some Easter days

Beginning the longest trip in DPS history, we avoided the usual approach via the famed Meling Ranch to wend our way into the San Pedro Martir high country. This is the easiest route provided you possess a hardy 4-wheel drive vehicle capable of negotiating the steep, rocky, tortuous so-called road from the ranch into the giant pine forests. For those with autos of more common vintage the east side of the range offers a closer entrance, that is if one doesn't mind the 5000' backpacking gain into the high plateau.

Twenty seven hardy, adventure-bound souls, about 50% DPSers, joined leaders John Robinson and Bill Clifton in the latter attempt to Baja California's highest mountain range. After an early Sat morn San Felipe meet, the group caravaned forty five miles across the cactus-rich desert floor to the rocky entrance of Canon El Cajon. The precipitous eastern rampart of the range has many deep canyons penetrating well up into the innards, but only El Cajon possesses a passable trail from the desert floor into the high pine country. The trail is said to have been built by the padres and their Indian neophytes almost two centuries ago and today is used mainly for herding cattle to higher pasture. The trail in most parts is easy to locate - just follow the abundant and steady cattle droppings! With eight miles and 3000 knapsacking feet behind us on Saturday morning the PM found us on a mountainside's flat area, complete with plentiful firewood and water, seeping from a small spring. It was a fine campsite, but the cattle had been there first. After spending the afternoon clearing the cattle feces to make way for our sleeping bags, one wag dubbed the spot, "Cowshit Camp"-and thus it was christened.

Sun AM the remaining 2000' was sliced onto the pine plateau. Once in the high country, nature's contrast is startling. Ocotillo, scrub oak, and pinyon abruptly gave way to stately stands of Jeffrey pine, supplemented here and there by stands of Sugar pine, and cedar while the higher ridges are supplied with Lodgepole pine and White fir. A short hike brought us quite suddenly to spacious and serene Santa Rosa Meadow. After lunching along a small watercourse, most of the group began the long cross-country hike to La Encantada (the enchanted maiden), which is another large clearing ten miles north, being our bass camp for the ascent of Tres Palomas. Six hours of up-and-down struggles and we finally won our position on a ridgetop from which, just as the sun was setting, sprawling La Encantada was visible. A short downhill jaunt and we were there, tired from the long day's workout. We camped by a lazy stream adjoining the meadow.

After a 23 degree F nite we arose early and started off for our main objective of the trip-the highest of the "Tres Palomas", three white granite sisters projecting above the eastern escarpment of the range. After scrambling up a strange granite staircase yielding miniature waterfalls, we reached a high meadow just below Middle Paloma, highest of the triplets. A thousand foot of class 2 and 3 climbing over and around steep granite blocks brought us to the 9,250' summit. We had hoped for a first ascent, but a piece of broken bottle betrayed our desire. The view from the top was to say the least awe-inspiring. Two crow miles to the north loomed mighty Picacho del Diablo. Eastward, we looked beyond broken ridges and plunging rock faces to the San Felipe Desert, and on the horizon, the hazy blue waters of the Sea of Cortez. To the west sprawled the vast tableland of pine and picacho of the San Pedro Martir, with the distant glimmer of the Pacific as nature's backdrop. Indeed, this was the grand climax of the trip. Fourteen of us enjoyed the summit experience. Mon nite we camped by a hidden water source at the southeastern end of La Encantada. Tuesday began the long cross-country jaunt back. A lunch stop was made at Santa Rosa, followed by a short siesta. Several cows munching on the nearby meadow grass eyed us suspiciously. These high meadows are fine grazing areas for the several cattle ranchos in the western foothil1s. We had to say goodbye to our heights and plunged down the steep El Cajon trail, to be greeted once more in restful, familiar Camp CC.

Wed. we reached the cars by noon, all except Bill Clifton, who lingered in the high country several days longer. Enroute home, we stopped in Valle San Felipe to enjoy the great display of yellow, orange, purple, and white wildflowers. The Baja Desert is no wasteland; in the springtime it resembles a colorful, blooming fairyland of desert flora.

Desert Peakers are fortunate in having the San Pedro Martir relatively close at hand. While the topography, flora, and wildlife closely resemble the San Jacinto Range in So California, the wild, primitive nature of the Martir render it unique. One might compare it with the San Jacinto scene a century ago.

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