Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Villager/Rabbit/6582 Peak Loop Via Rockhouse Canyon - ABDSP

That ridgeline will never look the same again......

That is all I could think as I slowly drove my truck out of Rockhouse Canyon staring at Villager, Rabbit and Peak 6582 and all of the up’s and down’s in between. 3 Days earlier I parked my truck at the Butler/Rockhouse Canyon junction and waited for my ride to the S22 trailhead parking area to start my backpack trip that would take me over three major peaks on the Santa Rosa Mountains. Bob from the website joined me for half of the climb up to Villager Peak, it was good to see him again as it has been almost a year since our last hike together. I was fortunate enough to have someone offer their water cache near Villager to me. Knowing I would need at least 3 liters per day plus a little extra for morning coffee I hauled 10 liters away from Villager and that put an extra 22 lbs on my back bringing the total pack weight up to around 65lbs, something normally not a big deal but the 10,000’+ elevation gain/loss of the trip took it’s toll on me with that extra weight.

Steep cliffs on the west side of the trail going up to Villager
Trail up towards Villager

Probably old sleep circles
Sleep Circle on the trail up to Rabbit Peak

Heading up to Villager
Trail up to Villager and Rabbit Peak

The route up to Rabbit is somewhat uneventful but has some great views of the desert floor. There are numerous places to stop and camp overnight and enjoy the view, it would make a great trip for a one or two night backpack trip. The final ascent up Rabbit was tough with my heavy pack.

Rabbit Peak at sunset
I finally arrived at Rabbit Peak at sundown after a long day

Sunrise over the Salton Sea from Rabbit Peak
Sunrise over the Salton Sea from Rabbit Peak

The winds were fierce and cold, I tucked my bivy and bag down into a tight brushy area next to a large buolder and managed to stay out of most of the wind
Cuddled up next to a boulder and some small shrubs I was ablel to get out of the fierce wind and sleep well for the night

I read Doug Bear’s March 2000 report of crossing the Santa Rosa ridgeline when I got home and he mentions seeing something blue on one of the ridgelines that he believed to be a survey outpost of some sort, I also saw something blue down on a ridge and dismissed it as mylar balloons but now after reading his report I think it may be the same thing he saw.

Some very cool moss growing on the Pinyon Pines
Funky moss on Pinyon Pine branches

Looking back at Rabbit and Villager Peaks en route to Peak 6582
Looking back at Rabbit and Villager Peaks on route to Dawns Peak

Someone has built a couple of larger cairns along the way to 6582 (off in the distance)
On route to Dawns Peak. Two large cairns someone took time to create

Bighorn Sheep scat and tracks were everywhere
Small'ish Big Horn Sheep horn

The route between Rabbit and Peak 6582 shows some signs of Native American use. I found some pottery scatter and a few grinding slicks on the ridge line. I wonder if the Indians traveled the ridge line between Toro Peak and the desert floor to the Salton Sea or I guess Lake Cahuilla at the time..I am sure they did.

I have read other hiker’s reports that detail their trek from Toro Peak to the S22 or vice a versa and they all concur the same tough conditions between Rabbit and Peak 6582, the forest thick brush of Manzanita and Scrub Oak that make it almost impassable. I can also confirm the difficult passage to Peak 6582 with bloodshed and the loss of a favorite pair of pants and shirt due to tear wounds beyond repair. Leaving Rabbit Peak you are are on your own, there are no ducks, no use trail, nothing...pick your route. The bushwhack leaving Rabbit is mild and most of the trip to Peak 6582 is not too bad until the last ascent of the ridgeline that leads you to the peak, that is where it becomes extremely thick and impassable. Like other trip reports I found the best way to see the route options was to go out of my way and climb up some boulders and scout out the distant views.

The final ascent to 6582 was full of large boulders and Manzanita so thick that I could not hike thru it so I ended up dropping down into a drainage on the east side losing almost 700’ and then climbing back up again on the backside of the peak but it was worth it since it was void of the thick brush. I cannot overemphasize how thick the brush is the last mile or so on the final ascent.

I could see the large cairn of 6582 in the distance as I summited from the east side
Large Cairn on Peak 6582 in the distance

Looking back at Rabbit and Villager from large cairn on 6582
Peak 6582 and Rabbit / Villager in the background

I read thru the entries in the register at 6582, it seems that the original “book #1” was damaged from moisture so only books #2, #3 & #4 exist and #4 is empty...these are small books BTW. I signed my name next to the last entry of 4-5-2012, almost a year ago. In all of my peak hikes that I know Jerry Schad has hiked I have always looked for his signature in the registries and never found one...until now. The early books here have his signature and I was pleased to find them....RIP Mr. Schad....

Jerry Schad Peak Register entry

I knew I was running low on water but the thought of a second sunset and sunrise on the mountain peaks kept me there for one more night and then I was going to fast track my way down to Rockhouse Canyon and back to my truck the next morning. The wind died down a bit on 6582 that evening and after getting some food and booze in my gut I looked out over the eastern skies and was shocked at the overwhelming lights from the Coachella Valley.

Cochella Valley by night from Peak 6582

The sunrise on 6582 was beautiful and the hoots of a nearby owl woke me early and got me going for the final day of the trip. I wanted to descend the ridge from 6582 as Jerry Schad describes in his book but I went too far south and ended getting cliffed out by steep boulder faces. I had to gently maneuver myself across the boulder faces with my heavy pack on to get to the other side where I could safely hike the remainder of the way down.

Sunrise over the Salton Sea from 6582, this panorama photo also shows Clark Dry Lake and Toro Peak
Sunrise over the Salton Sea, Clark Dry Lake and Toro Peak from Peak 6582

Yours Truly....burrr, it's cold....
Me next to the giant cairn on Peak 6582 at sunrise

Halfway down the ridge into Rockhouse Canyon
Halfway down the finger ridge of Peak 6582 going into Rockhouse Canyon

Down at the bottom of the Santa Rosa Mountains I followed an unnamed drainage to the main Rockhouse Canyon trail. Along the way I found some large morteros, pottery and a petroglyph panel with pictographs.

Basketball size morters
Basketball sized morteros near Rockhouse Canyon

Cupules near Rockhouse Canyon

Large Petroglyph Panel
Petroglyph Panel near the Santa Rosa Mountains

Some rock art on the petroglyph panel

The temps were warming up and I was running out of water and still had close to 7 miles left to hike back to my truck which I left parked at the Butler/Rockhouse Canyon junction. I did not see any other people during my 3 days of hiking but I did see at least 10 cars parked or driving the Rockhouse Canyon trail that day so it was a very busy holiday weekend for sure. I had seen probably quite a few Ocotillos that were getting very green but none blooming so I was surprised to see this guy right next to my truck as I finished up my trip, great ending.

Ocotillo blooming
The only blooming Ocotillo in the area

This trip was tough for sure and I underestimated my water needs and suffered accordingly, the desert floor temps were in the high 70’s during the day and the mountain peaks were in the low 30’s at night. My GPS track showed total mileage near 29 miles and total elevation gain/loss just under 10,000'. I have to say this was a great trip and I want to thank everyone who helped me make it happen.

CraigS - Water cache at Villager
Sam - Ride from RHC to the S22 bright and early
Bob - Trip partner for a few hours

Total Mylar Balloon count - 5

Mylar Balloons in the Desert


  1. Great trek Daren! The Santa Rosas are still my favorite range. Was that Craigs cache you were able to use?

  2. Wonderful trip report & photos, as usual. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great report and wonderful pictures!