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Explore a lonely corner of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and visit a site of archeological interest.

Sunny winter days are perfect for exploring San Diego County's population-equivalent of Saudi Arabia's Ar Rab al Khali, or "Empty Quarter." Virtually no one lives in the county's northeasternmost 100 square miles, an arid region of fault-dropped basins and sinuous ravines bisected by the mile-plus-high summits of the Santa Rosa Mountains. More than a century ago the scene here was more lively -- at least in winter and early spring -- when bands of migrating Cahuilla Indians settled in at lower elevations to stay relatively warm and exploit the growth and ripening of the native desert vegetation.

Today, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (phone 760-767-4205) has jurisdiction over the area -- though you should not interpret the word "park" to mean a recreational area that's easy to get into, either by car or by foot.

The following long, looping walk -- ten miles over gently rising and then gently falling terrain -- can be a good introduction for experienced hikers who appreciate solitude and profound silence. Don't forget to pack along essentials such as plenty of water, food, extra clothing, and maps and skills to navigate the convoluted terrain.

At mile 26.7 according to mile markers on Highway S-22 (north and east of Borrego Springs), turn north on Clark's Well Road. Pavement soon ends and you continue driving on dirt, bearing left at 1.5 miles onto Rockhouse Truck Trail. In a short while you skirt the west edge of the normally dry and salt-encrusted Clark Lake. (When wet, after heavy rain, a short section of the road ahead can become muddy and impassable.) After nine miles of dirt-road travel in all, you arrive at the junction of primitive roads going into Butler and Rockhouse canyons. Park near here.

On foot, follow the Rockhouse "road," a rough jeep track at this point, north into the broad, dry wash of Rockhouse Canyon. The San Jacinto Fault (a San Andreas splinter) parallels this section of canyon. At about three miles, there is a road-closure sign. Continue another mile to Hidden Spring -- more of a seep than a spring -- identified by a sign on the left. The small basin there may hold a gallon or two of insect-infested, nonpotable water.

From the spring itself, a path past some mesquite bushes will guide you to a deeply worn, eroded trail slanting south and upward across a 200-foot-high bluff. Just over the top, on the eastern edge of Jackass Flat, are the remains of a Cahuilla Indian village occupied as recently as the late 1800s. You may chance upon some old fire pits, pieces of pottery, and flakes of a metamorphic rock known as wonderstone, which was once used for stone tools. Do not remove any items of any kind (a state-park rule), no matter how small they are.

Now head west about a mile to the head of Butler Canyon, which carries water from Jackass Flat south. Follow Butler Canyon, assisted by gravity all the while, as it descends for four miles through a sinuous gorge carved out of gleaming granitic rock -- a rewarding concluding segment of the hike. Beyond the mouth of this gorge you'll come upon wheel tracks that lead right back to your parked car.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

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Sunny winter days are perfect for exploring San Diego County's population-equivalent of Saudi Arabia's Ar Rab al Khali, or "Empty Quarter." Virtually no one lives in the county's northeasternmost 100 square miles, an arid region of fault-dropped basins and sinuous ravines bisected by the mile-plus-high summits of the Santa Rosa Mountains. More than a century ago the scene here was more lively -- at least in winter and early spring -- when bands of migrating Cahuilla Indians settled in at lower elevations to stay relatively warm and exploit the growth and ripening of the native desert vegetation.

Today, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (phone 760-767-4205) has jurisdiction over the area -- though you should not interpret the word "park" to mean a recreational area that's easy to get into, either by car or by foot.

The following long, looping walk -- ten miles over gently rising and then gently falling terrain -- can be a good introduction for experienced hikers who appreciate solitude and profound silence. Don't forget to pack along essentials such as plenty of water, food, extra clothing, and maps and skills to navigate the convoluted terrain.

At mile 26.7 according to mile markers on Highway S-22 (north and east of Borrego Springs), turn north on Clark's Well Road. Pavement soon ends and you continue driving on dirt, bearing left at 1.5 miles onto Rockhouse Truck Trail. In a short while you skirt the west edge of the normally dry and salt-encrusted Clark Lake. (When wet, after heavy rain, a short section of the road ahead can become muddy and impassable.) After nine miles of dirt-road travel in all, you arrive at the junction of primitive roads going into Butler and Rockhouse canyons. Park near here.

On foot, follow the Rockhouse "road," a rough jeep track at this point, north into the broad, dry wash of Rockhouse Canyon. The San Jacinto Fault (a San Andreas splinter) parallels this section of canyon. At about three miles, there is a road-closure sign. Continue another mile to Hidden Spring -- more of a seep than a spring -- identified by a sign on the left. The small basin there may hold a gallon or two of insect-infested, nonpotable water.

From the spring itself, a path past some mesquite bushes will guide you to a deeply worn, eroded trail slanting south and upward across a 200-foot-high bluff. Just over the top, on the eastern edge of Jackass Flat, are the remains of a Cahuilla Indian village occupied as recently as the late 1800s. You may chance upon some old fire pits, pieces of pottery, and flakes of a metamorphic rock known as wonderstone, which was once used for stone tools. Do not remove any items of any kind (a state-park rule), no matter how small they are.

Now head west about a mile to the head of Butler Canyon, which carries water from Jackass Flat south. Follow Butler Canyon, assisted by gravity all the while, as it descends for four miles through a sinuous gorge carved out of gleaming granitic rock -- a rewarding concluding segment of the hike. Beyond the mouth of this gorge you'll come upon wheel tracks that lead right back to your parked car.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

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Dine-in service is back, but the mainstay deli has embraced the art of take out and delivery
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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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