Since the weather had thwarted our attempt to summit Indianhead on Sunday, I began looking for alternative dates. Thankfully, Greg Gerlach was free on Thursday, so I decided to take a day off and go with him. As I drove out to Borrego Springs, I was greeted with another spectacular sunrise as I descended toward the desert floor. I had to pull over several times to take some photos. Too bad Ted Markus was unable to tag along, as he loves his sunrises and sunsets.
I paid my $10 day-use fee and parked at the Borrego Palm Canyon trailhead to await Greg’s arrival. While the forecast for the summit was 57°F, my car said it was a brisk 39°F. I slipped on my wool cap and some gloves and we headed up the Borrego Palm Canyon nature trail. About .2 miles in, I realized I forgot my hat in the car. I hustled back and grabbed and stuffed it into my pack. The first palm oasis was quickly reached, and we shed one of our layers as we had now warmed up enough. Now we were ready to begin the second section of the hike, the canyon itself. Pushing past the palms, we began working our way through the canyon. The sound of flowing water was such a pleasant sound in the desert.
There isn’t much of a trail at this point, so we tended to follow the footprints left in the sand. We would cross the stream numerous times as we snaked our way closer to our exit point. I recognized portions of the route from the unsuccessful attempt back in April. Besides the sounds of the water flows, the occasional croaks of frogs were heard. This was a good reminder that water is life.
As we drew nearer to the third palm oasis, the summit of Indianhead again came into view. As it towered over us, I knew the real hike was about to begin. Greg and I took a break beside some very large boulders before we began our climb out of the canyon onto the ridgeline. I had brought a side bottle of water but was feeling confident that I would not need it, so I cached it here.
The climb out of the canyon was steep, in about .2 miles we gained some 500 feet of elevation. I was remembering all the trouble I had back in April on this section so this time Greg and I ascended in near tandem. Once on the ridgeline, we found a faint use trail that would guide us upward. The ridgeline would alternate between steeper bumps and then would ‘flatten’ for a brief bit. There were some portions that required care as we ascended, but nothing too difficult.
We soon reached the saddle before the rocky section of the ascent and took another break. As we sat marveling at the views, we tried to identify the peaks to the west. From here we had about a half-mile to the summit, but there was still some decent elevation gain to be had. I was still feeling great as we carefully worked our way up. As we neared the end of this section, we found a rock depression that was filled solid with ice. Soon, the actual summit came into view! I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. My 99th peak was right in front of me. We sat upon the summit and again soaked in the views laid out before us. We tossed back on a layer while I snapped my photos and Greg flipped through the register. So many familiar names filled its pages, to which I proudly added mine.
After enjoying my PB&J and some oranges, it was time to head back down. We were able to mostly follow our tracks back off the mountain. Finally, those big boulders and the third palm oasis came back into view. We carefully began our descent from the ridgeline. This was the worst part of the entire hike. It was steep, and the footing problematic. Once back on the canyon floor, I grabbed the bottle that I had left earlier and had a quick snack. Greg had taken a slightly different path down, and I actually beat him!
The sun was just setting behind the canyon walls as we began our trek back through it. We cruised again through this beautiful scenery. After about 1.5 miles or so, we reached the first palm oasis. We stopped for a moment to address a hot spot on my foot, then set off for the last 1.5 miles. We were back at our cars just after 4 pm. My tracker said we had covered 8.2 miles, with 7:40 hours of active hiking time, and climbed over 3,000 feet. But more importantly for me, that was my #99 peak of #100PeakChallenge! Since it was still early, we both decided to skip grabbing a meal in town and opted to head home instead.
I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest.