When Shuwen and I went for a Sunday drive in the desert, we stopped at an unnamed dirt parking area along Highway S2 and wandered around a little bit. The number of wildflowers and cacti in bloom was really nice, and so I returned a few days later to hike a little bit in that area. An unnamed wash looked interesting to explore in the satellite imagery. A little bit further, a peak was labelled “Red Hill” on the map. And yet a little bit further from that, a spot was marked “Piepkorn Slot”.
A desert wash with flowers, a peak that turned out to be on the 100 Peaks List, and perhaps even a slot canyon? I plotted a route and the distance to the furthest spot (the supposed slot canyon) was just under three miles. From there, I could then summit the peak, and take a more direct route back down into the wash.
The terrain seemed easy, and the total distance was only 5.4 miles – this isn’t the time to take any risks and in that regard, this seemed to be perfect. The nourishing of the soul that a solo desert hike would provide made the drive to southern Anza Borrego well worth it.
After parking my car (and finding, with some disappointment of course, that it was too cold and windy for the Desert Five Spots to open), I traversed the open terrain towards the unnamed wash that cuts through the rock east of Red Hill.
Hiking gently but steadily uphill in the soft, coarse sand and gravel of the wash was slow, and I also took my time to make plenty of flower and plant photos. Past a smooth and large dark boulder, the wash opened up considerably, and this would normally be a good point to approach Red Hill from the east.
Wanting to see the curiously named “Piepkorn Slot” though, I continued in the now very broad and exposed wash, and picked up a dirt road coming from Jojoba Wash. It wasn’t much further to the supposed slot canyon. Turns out though that it isn’t really worth calling it a slot – or a canyon. It’s a short narrowing in the wash that exposes some interesting rocks. I sat down and enjoyed my lunch, and then began to approach Red Hill, from the west.
At an elevation of only 505m/1657ft, it’s not really a challenging peak to summit, obviously. The open, rocky slopes rise gently and the only challenge is to avoid the cholla cacti. The summit is a small and flat plateau. It was really windy and cold in the desert, and after adding my name to the register and making some photos, I really wanted to get away from this exposed spot.
For the descend, I took the direct route, more or less east, which would lead me back to the smooth boulder, and the narrower, more enjoyable part of the unnamed wash. Hiking back in the wash meant going ever so slightly downhill, which was much easier in the soft sand.
All in all, this was a short, but highly enjoyable outing – mostly because this area had received nice amounts of rain, and spring was at its peak there. Below are a few impressions of and from Red Hill and considering that this is the desert, it was actually more green than red! Most of all though, all the uncertainty and anxiety of current events had been pushed aside for a while, and I had temporarily regained the mental space that “novel corona virus” had occupied. And I needed that to stay sane.
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Date hiked: March 26th, 2020
Total distance: 8.6 km/5.4 miles (including “Piepkorn Slot”)
Elevation change: 191 m/630 ft
Moving time: 3 hours 20 minutes
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