Wednesday, February 20, 2008

China Ranch

On Sunday, I took a drive to China Ranch, which is just outside Tecopa, California. I took the Old Spanish Trail (which isn't on my Rand McNally, but, clever girl that I am, I have a detail map.) Follow the signs and you'll find yourself on a winding dirt road that takes you through the badlands and into a small valley. This is where the date farm is located, and you can stop in at the gift shop for a sample of dates and a trail guide. The grounds are quite pretty, and include a bed and breakfast, The Ranch House Inn.

But I was looking for something remote, something as far away from civilization as I could get. Walking around the grounds was nice, but I wanted a trail that would lead me away from all the nice people buying dates at the gift shop. I consulted my trail guide, but without any signage to guide me, I wasn't 100% sure about what trail I was on. I wound up on a trail that began just beyond where I'd parked my car. I think I was on the Crack Trail, but honestly, I'm not sure which trail it was. It was gorgeous, and beyond the first 300 yards, the only other beings I encountered were lizards, hawks, and birds.

This is the kind of landscape that makes me wish I were a poet, or a painter. Words can't convey the aching vastness of the desert. Pictures come closer.

I was supposed to meet my husband at the cutoff to the Dumont Dunes at 2:00, and at 12:30 I had reached the point in this last picture. As a hawk circled above me in the thermals, I decided I'd better head back to the car. I wished I had longer to explore the trail, which seemed to keep going for a good distance. All totalled, I spent about two hours exploring China Ranch. Had I been with a partner, I could have easily spent the entire day on the trails; I'm cautions when I'm alone.

At about 1:15, I headed toward the Dumont Dunes, the ATV city in the sand, to meet my husband. I was looking forward to a hamburger and some friendly conversation. The sky above was brilliant blue, the desert below just beginning to bloom for spring.
I left behind the serenity of China Ranch for the chaos of the Dumont Dunes, where walking is dangerous and the desert creatures are drinking beer and driving sand rails up the face of sand dunes. But that's another story.

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