Hell Hole Canyon

Anza-Borrego State Park, February 19

We liked the distance and the destination; 7 miles and Maidenhair Waterfall. The mid-morning temperature was pleasant as we started our hike that would rise 1,000 feet over 3.5 miles. By later afternoon the temperature was expected to rise to the high 80s.

We expected to do some scrambling and bushwhacking up the canyon, later in the hike. The first mile went fine, on a trail that narrowed at times with bulb outs of jumping cactus.  The trail, nestled in a canyon, led us into an Octotillo grove.  Just past a bend in the canyon and after our first water stop we spotted a big horn sheepon a steep ledge on the north mountain side. That one sheep kept our eyes high on the mountain, while a group of big horn sheep frolicked in a creek bottom.

Another 100 feet and we were treated to the drum-like sounds of sheep horns banging into each other as sheep raised their front legs and danced with a head-banging partner.

We scampered up and beyond the elusive waterfall, eventually returning and resting by the ‘waterfall’s’ five foot pool. After some trail mix and water we retraced our steps the best we could, following our collective memory, cairns and footprints.

The sheep had moved across the canyon and allowed us to be within feet of them. 

While the waterfall pulled us along our hike, it was the unexpected visit with the big horn sheep that exclaimed the day.   As we travel across the southwest I will remember this lesson; always trust the journey to bring encounters with exciting ‘unexpecteds’.