Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Rockhouse Canyon / Toro Peak BackPack Trip - ABDSP

Gary invited Randy and I out to explore some more of Rockhouse Canyon over a 4-1/2 day trip. No real agenda, just explore and enjoy the desert...plans were extremely flexible. We hiked out at night after work in the dark and camped out the first night on some low benches at the mouth of Rockhouse Canyon. The next day we explored some side canyons and ridges of the Santa Rosa Ridgeline.

There are some great views of Rockhouse Canyon from above, here is a view of Buck Ridge and the valley from a ridge near the "necklace" vein.

View of Rockhouse Canyon fron an unamed ridge. Buck Ridge is in the background

On the way up the ridge Gary saw this large lizard, I am pretty sure it is a Baja California Collard Lizard
Unidentified Lizard

We made our way over to Box Spring and had some lunch under the shade of the trees near the spring. The spring was not currently a good source of water since previous repair work had deteriorated and only thin surface water was available. Using some materials left from prior repairs I made an effort to get the spring back to usable order. Gary and Randy helped out by supplying the rocks. If anybody goes out there after reading this please let me know how it is doing. Hopefully the animals will not kick it all over.

Here is the spring before I made repairs
Box Spring

Here is the spring after repairs
Box Spring Reapir Work. We fixed it up with parts from a previous repair.

There was quite a bit of insect wildlife down around the water, I especially liked all the Damselflies. Here is a Male Bluet Damselfly
Male Bluet Damselfly

This one was sharing a branch with some type of beetle
Male Bluet Damselfly and some type of beetle share a branch

Here a male and female are mating
A male and female Bluet Damselfly mating

We spent the second night at the Old Santa Rosa Village ruins. The lowest rock house at the village had a gate keeper there waiting for us

We stayed in the upper rock houses and enjoyed some great views of the valley and a colorful sunset
Sunset at the Old Santa Rosa Village ruins

As might as I tried I could not get my new Canon Powershot S100 to take good long exposure pictures, even with the CHDK scripts. This is a night shot of Rockhouse Canyon with Clark Dry Lake and probably Ocotillo Wells in the far distance

Most of the wildflower blooms in the lower elevations were done but as we continued to climb higher towards the Cottonwoods we started seeing lots of new blooms. At around the 4,000' level many of the wildflowers were still blooming like this Purple Prickly Pear Cactus
Purple Prickly Pear Cactus

Something I noticed on many of the agave stalks and am still researching is what looked like hundreds of pupae type skins that had been shed in small holes in the stalks. Anybody know more about this?
Some kind of pupae skin in the agave stalks

Exploring up another unnamed drainage near the base of Toro Peak we found some old historic debris and had a great view of Buck Ridge
Historic debris found in an unamed canyon below the Santa Rosa Rdgeline
View of Buck Ridge from about the 5200 mark in an unamed canyon just below the Santa Rosa Ridgeline

After a long day we finally reached the Cottonwoods and upper rock house ruins where we spent the third night. It was getting windy and cloudy and rain was in the forecast. We didn't get any rain that night but the morning clouds made for a brilliant sunrise
Sunrise at the Cottonwoods in Rockhouse Canyon

On the third day we climbed up to Toro Peak from the Cottonwoods. It was a long climb and the weather was getting cold and windy. From the Cottonwoods we climbed straight up the ridgeline to the Alta Seca Bench area. This is quite a change from the desert terrain below, it is much more of a forest at the 8,000' elevations
Alta Seca Bench Area

Lots of these Snow Plants were popping up out of the ground
Sarcodes sanguinea AKA Snow Plant

After almost 4 hours of climbing we got to the top of Toro Peak. It was very cloudy, super windy and we were getting some light snow falling on us. We checked out the towers and surrounding views of Rockhouse Canyon, Pinyon Flat and the Cochella Valley. Not the clearest day but great views anyway.
Toro Peak Benchmark

Looking down into Rockhouse Canyon from Toro Peak
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On the way back down to the Cottonwoods we saw a nice Gopher snake, maybe 4' or so
San Diego Gopher Snake

Knowing it was going to start raining we decided to hike down to the lower elevations of Rockhouse Canyon so after getting back down from Toro Peak we put our packs on and hiked down towards the lower ruins and camped out for our fourth night. We got some light drizzle overnight and the next morning but nothing too bad. We were treated to a nice double rainbow in the wash we camped out in
Rainbows in Rockhouse Canyon

Here is a morning shot of Dawns Peak covered by a cloud bank and peak 6300 to the left
Dawns Peak covered in a cloud bank. Peak 6300 to the left is still visible

On the last day out we decided to go explore the upper ridge areas above the Corps BM. There are some spectacular open valleys up there. You could easily spend days just exploring there. Here is just one view of those upper ridges looking towards Clark Dry Lake
Beautiful view of Clark Dry Lake and the upper benches of Rockhouse Canyon

Gary knew where some old pot sherds were
Large pot sherds

Total Mylar Balloons this trip - 6
6 Mylar Ballons this trip


  1. Always enjoyable reading about your trips, especially the great pictures. Nathan and I have been talking about doing some backpacking, your posts are pretty motivating to get out there. :)


    1. I say get out there...before it is gone! Let me know if you want any company..!

  2. Thank you for the report and the pictures, always a pleasure to read and look at. Hope I'll be better organized next year for making it to Rockhouse Canyon.

  3. Great reports and pics! How's the drinking water situation up there?

  4. Water is always good at Nicholas Cyn

  5. Nice trip report. Just wanted to encourage you to let readers know that the Santa Rosa band of the Cahuila Indians have requested that people stay off Toro Peak.