Thursday, January 22 – Aguanga, CA

January 22nd, 2009

For the record, it’s pronounced, “ah-Wong-gah”, which, in the local Indian dialect apparently means “dog-place.”
Happily, the rain held off with just a few spritzes during the night. But it is quite cold this morning – around freezing and quite damp. The humidity is frighteningly high compared to what we’ve experienced ever since Dodge City back in Kansas and four months ago. Very chilling even with a serape to help.
Back in 1847, at least one of the Battalion had thrown away even his blanket to save weight. He recounted that he would wake up in the night and have to “rub and roll” himself to stay warm. I’m not going to reenact that particular journal entry.
As soon as Denny arrives with the yellow truck, we pack things away and trade for Jerry’s Suburban with the toilet trailer. Peter and I leap-frog hike through the valley courtesy of the Vista Water District which owns the land now. The staff was most helpful and encouraging towards our little project.
Remember the “Battle of the Cows” back in Iowa? See blog entry for July 8 if you don’t. It seems our reputation has somehow been telepathically communicated from herd to herd all across the Southwest. Denny was surrounded by a herd in New Mexico back on September 25 (I didn’t write about THAT one in the blog), and today we are beset by the herd here at Warners.
Peter dropped the vehicle and started hiking. By the time I arrived at the truck a few minutes later, it was swarmed with bovines that did not look happy. They were on the other side of a gate, so I climbed up and “shoo-ed” them from a respectable distance. They were not impressed and continued to mill around the truck. In fact, I could see that they were mauling the truck. That was distressing because of how much Jerry loves his Suburban. So, I climbed across the fence, started waving my hat and making “cowboy noises” like I knew what I was doing. Happily, cows aren’t able to distinguish bluff from substance and casually moved off away from the vehicles.
Yech! Bovine nostril and oral slime – all OVER the Suburban. The cows licked and boogered the windows, mirrors, doors and tires of Jerry’s truck. He is NOT going to be happy about this. Me? I just plain grossed out. Told you - I’m a city kid.
And on that happy note, Denny took up the driving responsibility. Kurt Castro and Don Smith from the ranch and Vista WD caught up with us and we shared our respective histories.
Warner’s was the keyhole entrance into southern California. Historically, there were a couple Spanish/Mexican land grants that nearly everyone passed through into the area. Hiking through the valley, you can see why. It’s the confluence of three routes. The hot springs are here. It’s lush and wet. The land is greener here than we’ve seen since eastern Kansas. The mountains that surround the area seem to protect it.
The oak trees along our route have dropped their long, thin acorns. Historically the Luiseno Indians made into an acorn mush they called “wee-wish.” Perhaps it was such a meal that healed Levi Hancock of his “gravely bowel complaint” back in 1847.
Returning to highway 79, we proceed northwest towards Temecula valley, passing the old stagecoach station at Oak Grove along the Butterfield stage route that came through here in the 1850’s. Off to our left is Mount Palomar Observatory, home of the 200-inch Hale Telescope and a bunch of smaller ‘scopes. We can see the protective white domes in the sunlight. I’ve loved that place ever since fifth grade when I read its story. Another juxtaposition of time-space and history for me.
The old trail seems to cut both left and right of the highway and isn’t very apparent for most of the day. But every once in awhile, a stretch appears that just “looks right.” Dr. Anne Miller is a local historian who is researching the early survey maps for the area trying to determine where the trail is located. Anne has been very helpful and will be important to our passage through the next 40 miles or so.
Our evening is spent as the guest of Mary Halley and the Rancho California RV Park. The Park is part of the Outdoor RV Parks of America chain. Anne Miller joins us in the evening for a presentation at the community center. About twenty folks show up and we have a good time sharing the Battalion story. The Park was wonderful to us and it is a beautiful community for folks who live the RV lifestyle. Manager Brian Boersma graciously provided for all our needs and took good care of us. We are most appreciative of the kindness shown to us.

Wednesday, January 21 – Warner Springs, CA

January 21st, 2009

We break camp and pack up the vehicles – our fairly faithful “wagons.” Our son Jon and Terry Wirth leave us for San Diego and home. Another division of our Trek personnel. One can better appreciate the original Battalion’s concerns when they were divided – small groups being sent into the wilderness with little food, equipment or protection. “Traumatic” seems too strong a word for us today, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s how it felt to them.

It’s all downhill from here. We’re descending from the mountains towards the coastal region and into San Diego. Peter starts hiking at Warner Pass all alone. The weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow says “buckets of rain.” Our planned camp for tonight is on dirt roads in Warner’s valley so we’re worried about getting stuck with the heavy vehicles. Having to be towed out of a pasture at Pawnee Rock in Kansas has made us mud shy.

Denny, Jerry and I go looking for an alternate place to put the RV tonight. There are few RV parks in the area for us vagabonds. Back and forth we go, up one road then another. We talk to locals. We call (when the phones work) various parks and camps. Jerry and I wait while Denny checks a side canyon ten miles in the opposite direction from where we’re headed. Frustrating.

Colonel Cooke wrote about his days like this – the guides not sure about the best route, not knowing where to find water or forage for the animals. You can camp almost anywhere, but finding a “great” camp is no easy task while finding one “on the fly” is probably more than doubly hard.

Eventually, Denny arranges for the big rigs to proceed to the next planned camp down the road while Peter and I will do our primitive camp at Warners’.

It’s one of those days we REALLY needed a volunteer to help revise our arrangements. It pulls us off the trail and the opportunity to make some sense of things. Happily, the trail is known through here, so we’re not crippled in our efforts to find it. Peter is hiking the route, maintaining our Trek’s continuity.

By the time we get things puzzled out, Peter has nearly arrived at our period camp for tonight. It was a straight shot down S-2 to the crossing. The valley is broad, grassy and I think this is another area that looks substantially as it did in 1847. Herds of cattle are here as back then. Fewer natives though. We didn’t see any today. To the north, Mount Palomar catches some sun between the gathering gray clouds, the observatory domes bright in sunlight.

Once Peter arrives, we unload our equipment from the yellow Henski truck, then Denny drives it away, leaving Peter and I quite alone out in the pasture. We place the tent on a high spot with the door downwind. With its’ US flag flying in the breeze the tent looks very small out here. One can image about forty tents and nearly 400 men making a much more imposing presence in this place. They were down to just eight wagons.

For fun, I decide to use cow pies as our fuel to cook dinner. I’d wanted to do this ever since entering Kansas, but the opportunity just never arose at a convenient time. Tonight is the LAST opportunity on the trail to pull off this “experiment”, so I get motivated, gather a bunch of chips and start them burning.

The “old ways” – sometimes called “primitive technology” – isn’t something I think we should all “go back to.” At the same time, I always marvel at the simple answers that exist for most of our needs. The cow pies – even though not completely desiccated as buffalo chips would have been on the plains – burn hot and make short work of cooking. They were faster than charcoal. I’d intellectually expected them to work, but I’m surprised they work so well and they weren’t even “optimum” examples. Goes to show how “in touch with nature” our ancestors were.

The night promises to be cold and wet, so Peter and I wrap up in our blankets and snuggle down into our bags for the night.

Tuesday, January 20 – Warner Pass, CA

January 20th, 2009

We stop back at the “three trail hill” to catch some photos with better lighting, then drive over to what is known as “Little Pass” or “Foot and Walker Pass.” Here we sit in the car and listen to President Barak Obama’s inaugural speech. “Sacrifice” was a major theme, one our Battalion predecessors understood very well by the time they arrived at this place. It’s a great speech and calls us all to do better for each other.

This is a mini version of Campbell Grade which we passed on Monday. It’s only fifty feet high or so, but still a formidable barrier. One explanation is that “Foot and Walker” means the stagecoach passengers had to get out and hike across the hill being too difficult for the animals to carry a loaded wagon.

The old trail is visible paralleling highway S-2 as we draw close to Scissors crossing, the site of the San Filipe village in 1847. Journalists indicate only a few deserted native dwellings near where they stopped to water the animals. The marsh was nearly eight miles from where they spent the prior cold night with little fuel and completely without water after passing the Box Canyon. They killed two beeves which they had to eat without salt – or much of anything else with nearly all rations depleted. Still, there was a little flour left in camp, because Levi Hancock says he got nearly a pound from the assistant commisarian.

As we walk along we cross the Pacific Coast Trail, our “Big Brother” trail that goes north-south along the mountain crests. Now, that’s a trail I don’t think I’d ever attempt. I’m not that rugged.

We pass Paroli Spring, the “brisk running stream” near where the 1847 camp was located for this night. No flowing water anymore; it’s been tapped for farming and the road crosses the old waterbed. And just about here, we start seeing stands of the “live oak” trees which gave joy to the Battalion. There are acorns – long, slender ones. Levi Hancock and others used them to supplement their rations. The area starts showing signs of green – even at this early time of year. Colonel Cooke drilled the men at the campsite while waiting for the wagons to arrive.

The guide Jean Baptiste Charbonneau returned this night from San Diego “with others” carrying information about the military situation and supplies. Due to his report, Cooke decides to press for Los Angeles rather than San Diego. It’s significant because from here, there’s a fairly direct animal path to San Diego. With this strategic decision that Cooke explains in his journal, the Battalion will head north-westward towards Temecula.

Our hike takes us to the pass above Paroli Spring camp. We can see somewhat into the Warners’ Spring area where we will be tomorrow night.

It’s been Peter, Jon, Terry and I most of the day. Denny hiked some and we got strung out along the highway – typically walking in pairs. Terry tells Denny that he’s enjoyed his days with us. It’s given him time to reflect and it hasn’t been chaotic for him. Well, I’m glad someone doesn’t think it’s been chaotic!

Part of our evening is spent preparing to move tomorrow to our next camp area. Southern California – especially San Diego County – doesn’t have many places for our little gypsy caravan. Deb and Duane Jenson have us for dinner and some table games. It has been a very pleasant time here for us. No pressure and lots of tender loving care. Thanks Deb and Duane. We’ve appreciated it very much.

Monday, January 19 – Box Canyon, CA

January 19th, 2009

Our hiker group gets a jump on the day – our long awaited passage through Box Canyon. We start by heading up canyon from Vallecito Spring Park for a few miles following the dry stream bed. There are LOTS of cholla cacti – the kind that has a barb on the end, like a porcupine quill, so they stick and hold. Ouch! Jon and I fall prey to some and it’s so funny we’re almost helpless from laughing as we pass the spines back and forth between us as we try to get them out of each other. Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby comes to mind. It’s quite humorous and we have a good laugh.

This same morning in 1846, Colonel Cooke was worried about California’s confused situation. Were they still at risk for battle or not? Therefore, they marched in formation, “with more military order.”

We arrive at the base of a very big hill. BIG. It blocks almost the entire valley. Campbell’s Grade is the modern automobile road across the “rugged ridge … some two hundred feet high” that stymied the Battalion‘s guides. When guide Pauline Weaver reported that he didn’t think they could get across, the good Colonel replied (with “warm words” and quite “haughtily”, I should think) with a subtle but very telling compliment towards the Battalion’s men.

Cooke wrote, “I ordered him to find a crossing, or I should send a company who would soon do it.”

In other words, if the “professional mountain men guides” couldn’t find the way across the hill, Cooke had complete confidence that he could select from among the Battalion companies and that the Mormon boys would accomplish the task – “soon.” It’s a very subtle clue to how Cooke has come to view his command of men. He trusted them to be able to accomplish just about anything he could ask them to do.

Within a couple of hours the large boulders had been moved, a primitive road made for others to follow and using ropes, all eight remaining wagons were across the hill, entering what we now call Mason Valley. My presumption is that they took lunch there, then moved forward to the next set of challenges at Box Canyon.

The original narrow spots where they had to take crowbar and ax to the rock are gone. Dynamite was used to widen the stream bed for stagecoaches and later, early automobiles. Terry Wirth is going to return and see if he can identify exactly where that section is located.

As we hike further, we arrive at the waterfall that most folks confuse for the rocks they had to cut through. They are mistaken. Cooke said it was the “narrower pass” they had to avoid. The “narrower pass” waterfall is downhill from the parking lot where an interpretive panel almost gets the story right.

Across the dry stream bed from the interpretive panel are a series of trails climbing diagonally northward up the hillside. The two lower trails are “cut and fill” roads. These have had lots of work to create and maintain them. The interpretive panel says the lower is the Butterfield Trail and that the upper is the Battalion’s route. We don’t think that’s correct.

A more recent interpretation is that the lower trail is in fact, the first automobile road from the early 1900’s. The next higher “cut and fill” trail is now believed to be the Butterfield route. It certainly is not the Battalion’s route.

To find the Battalion route, you have to remember that wagons have to go straight uphill on steep slopes. There are two eroded wagon road segments above the two “cut and fill” routes. These, we believe, are remnants of the oldest Battalion and Gold Rush period wagon roads.

At the base of the three road hill was the “great rock to be broken” before the wagons could ascend the hill. Cooke kept moving back and forth from one work site to the other. Taking ax in hand – something few military leaders of the day would do – he worked side by side with the men to show them what had to be done to get the wagons through.

Wouldn’t you just love to have been able to see that sight? After the Colorado Desert crossing, almost at the end of their last rations, with bodies gaunt from deprivation, nearly naked and weary from lack of sleep, they were carving a lasting testimony into “living rock.”

I’m sure the sight made the angels weep.

Sunday, January 18 – Mason Valley, CA

January 18th, 2009

Church for us today is at Julian. It’s a small, touristy kind of place. It was a gold rush town with some diggings in the area.

The congregation is kind and we have a good Sabbath meeting.

We hang out with the Jenson’s today. Retired couple; former restaurant owners, trying to become very self-sufficient out here in Mason Valley.

Pardon the lack of detail. Kind of a day off for us. We’ll put more in “the book.”

Saturday, January 17 – Vallecito Spring, CA

January 17th, 2009

Up before sunrise, Terry, Peter and I rehydrate a hot breakfast and pack our stuff. We’d arranged to extract our overnight gear with the Scouts, but since they didn’t show last night, we cache our gear off the trail and away from the two-track road.

We finish filling our water bottles, put on our packs and just as we’re ready to start walking, the Scoutmasters drive up. They’re a couple miles off, so we pile into the Scoutmaster’s truck and drive over to their campsite. We’re all introduced, make ready to hike and start off up canyon.

The road markings are all goofy to us. “The Great Overland Stage Route of 1849.” Harrumph! The stages didn’t roll until the mid-1850’s and we left the DeAnza Trail yesterday. If not properly called “The 1847 Mormon Battalion Route” it should be called the “Gold Rush Trail of 1849” or the “Immigrant Trail.” As a joke, someone in the past planted a street corner sign in the desert – “Hollywood and Vine.”

A little after noon, we arrive at Palm Spring, No – not “that” Palm Spring. The Battalion’s Palm Spring is in Carrizo Canyon and in 1847 was a small spring surrounded by palm trees. Someone has manufactured a “replica” spring, collecting the water in a man-made basin. There are some non-native palms planted to simulate what the area looked like long ago. Still, poking around in the underbrush, it’s evident there were a series of small springs here. Lots of salt efflorescence on the ground at a number of locations.

The opportunity for some shade from the sun must have been a welcome experience. It’s fairly warm, strong sun and no breeze. Slightly uncomfortable – but then I’m not carrying a musket, pack (or bedroll for many of the original Battalion) and we have opportunity for all the water we want. We’re not at the end of a 90-mile, limited water, limited food experience.

As I had anticipated, this area, more than any other, excites my imagination. The land is the same. The route is under our feet. The journal entries are very specific and describe what they experienced – no, endured here. Their ghosts are at my elbow, in front of my eyes and I can only shake my head in disbelief over the difficulty. Over the course of years, hundreds of less well prepared and led people must have died following this route. The dream of “easy money”, “GOLD”, and a fool’s paradise must have been a siren song that led many to their death on this trail. It’s a miracle none of the Battalion died here.

They record that they followed the dry wash up canyon. Of course. There’s no reason not to. No boulders. No plants in the way. The sand is fairly firm, so why not follow the obviously easy path?

Today the trail slowly climbs from 600 feet to 1500 feet above sea level. Not a big climb, but for starved, dehydrated animals and men, it wasn’t easy at all. Mountains are piled upon each other, rising to over 5,000 feet within three miles, surrounding the hikers except for the narrow valley ahead and behind.

Back at Cooke’s Wells, the Colonel describes the danger they are in and gives his reasons for pressing forward boldly. There was nothing behind them. They didn’t have the water or the food to linger. They had to push here to Vallecito Spring. We had a great dinner awaiting us. They had almost nothing.

The sun is behind the mountains as Peter and I reach the restored Butterfield Stage Station at the County Park. Denny meets us and drives us forward to Mason Valley where we’ll be camping at the Jenson’s ranch.

We put up three tents and make a small formal campsite. Peter takes one tent, Terry the second and Denny and I take the third.

It’s cloudless, crisp and cool. A little snow from the big Christmas Eve storm is still visible in some of the crags high on the peaks south of us. The Milky Way glows, but we know our time in the wilderness is about to end because we can also see reflected light from some cities intruding into the darkness.

Late in the evening, our son Jonathon drives in from San Diego to spend a few days with us on the trail.

Friday, January 16 – Carrizo Creek, CA

January 16th, 2009

Promptly at 5 AM, the alarms start going off. Everyone turns to, grabs some simple breakfast and helps pack the RV for travel. Jerry will transport the RV to Mason Valley where the Jenson family is going to host our home base for a few days.

While Jerry starts westward, Denny drives us out to Plaster City where Peter and I ended the overnight hike last Saturday. That’s where we pick up the Immigrant Trail an hour after sunrise – and an hour late.

This area is old dry lake bed. The desert floor is all dust – not like the basalt lava roadway a couple weeks ago where the road is visible because of rocks being moved. The trail here is literally, dust on dust. There’s no contrast difference to see for long stretches. That’s why it’s so hard to find the trail on the photographs – no contrast; it all looks the same. Only where there’s a rut in the valley floor can we tell where the trail exists.

As they left the Colorado River, they faced a week of travel to the next reliable water source at Carrizo Creek. In between, just a few small wells from which to hopefully obtain water. It was very different for a small group of travelers to get enough water – a few people and a few animals wouldn’t drain the well.

But consider the water needs for nearly 400 men plus at least twice that many animals – hundreds of gallons would be needed. Water obtained at Cooke’s (First) Wells got them through the first couple days. The next well was very poor. Alamo Mocho wasn’t much better and the next well – didn’t do much at all.

Where we are, there was no water source for the next twenty plus miles. Some men didn’t have canteens anymore – lost or broken. Some didn’t have blankets and the nights were cold.

We cross the railroad tracks and start hiking northwest. There are some back roads here and racing trucks go tearing by leaving dust trails pointing out their route. We make much less fuss and dust.

Our route today crosses two stretches that require permission: The first from the Navy as we cross their active bombing range; the second, from the State of California as we cross the old “inactive” portion of the bombing range. Back in the 1960’s, the Navy deeded back a seven mile stretch of the trail to the State. Sadly, there are still times when “live” bombs are found. One man was killed by a previously unexploded bomb some years back, so that’s why permission must be obtained – and it’s rarely given due to the dangers to Park staff as well as the hikers.

We have special dispensations to hike here today.

As we reach the Anza-Borrego State Park boundary, we meet our escort across the old bombing range. Ranger Steve of California State Parks points out the situation is so dangerous that any adult with a child caught in the posted area will be referred to Child Services for child endangerment. Ouch! They are serious.

Meanwhile, we find some serious trail sections, in particular a downhill slope for the wagons. It gets “hot” – probably in the mid-70’s. We exhaust our water. Ranger Steve keeps us moving. The ground is so light colored it hurts the eyes. I’m glad I have my sunglasses today. There are gypsum (selenite) crystals all over the ground, reflecting light like thousands of broken glass shards.

About 3:30 PM, we leave the “forbidden zone” and enter the thickets associated with Carrizo Creek. The water flow isn’t very much; just a few inches deep, some pooling in the two-track roadway and highly distasteful. I collected a sample yesterday and hope to determine the salt concentration levels.

Denny is waiting for us at 4 PM when we get to the water we cached yesterday afternoon. We refill and drink all we want. She drops off our food, equipment and camping gear for the night. Our last major tasks for the day are to get dinner, meet the Scouts and bed down.

Since we’re practicing “Leave No Trace” philosophy with our backwoods camps, we break out our propane stove and cook dinner. Joining us as we eat is a small kit fox. She’s cute and comes within a few feet of us. Inquisitive little fox.

Sundown is early – 4:30 PM; we’re only a few weeks past the shortest day of the year. Dinner is served in the dark, prepare our beds and look anxiously for the Scouts. After 8 PM, it becomes clear we’ve not met up as expected, so we bow to the elements, crawl into our nice warm sleeping bags, enjoy the moonless Milky Way for awhile and quickly go to sleep.

Thursday, January 15 – El Centro, CA

January 15th, 2009

Tomorrow, we will embark on the last portions of the “90 Mile Desert” which nearly killed some of the Battalion.

This is a preparation day for us. For the next full week, we will be in remote sections. We need to shop, fill the water tanks, finish scouting the route and prepare for the last desert leg of our journey. We also have continuing fallout from the financial crisis to deal with. Poor Denny. It really frustrates her. Me too.

About noon, Terry Wirth arrives at El Centro. We pick him up, get gassed up and head out for a reconnaissance tour from Carrizo Creek westward. But you need to know how important Terry is to this story.

Terry has spent about fifteen years correlating Battalion locations and putting them into mapping software. We first made contact at Fort Leavenworth in early 2006 as I just started making plans to hike the trail.

Terry was using a road mapping program, the same software I used for my business back in Michigan. Terry was kind enough to share his road file with me. Consequently, from my perspective, Terry Wirth is the “father” of Battalion electronic mapping methods. Thanks for all your work and encouragement, Terry.

We take I-8 west to pickup California highway S-2 (aka, “Old Imperial Highway” and “Sweeny Pass Road”) headed northwest. As we reach the crest area just before the switchbacks head down, a panoramic view to the northeast opens up. We can see a hundred miles, down into Carrizo canyon, to the creek bottoms and all the mountains surrounding. Being 750 feet above the valley, it’s almost like being in a light aircraft. We can trace parts of our expected route for the next two days. The view is stunningly beautiful and detailed.

But, as we’re interested in knowing how close our support vehicles can get to us in case of emergency, we head down into the valley. We also need to let a Scout group how to meet us tomorrow night. To save time, Jerry decides to leave the port-a-potty trailer attached to us – and off we go, down bumpy, back country dirt roads.

I won’t tell the whole story here in the blog, but we had lots of fun down in Carrizo Creek. We were lucky (VERY lucky) to get out before nightfall, but we had fun.

Denny feeds us a good meal then heads back to the store for some more items. I spend the evening entering GPS coordinates into the hand-held unit so we will have some checkpoints to hit along our hike. Somewhere about midnight, we finally pile into bed for a few hours of sleep.

Wednesday, January 14 – West of Calexico, CA

January 14th, 2009

Peter and I get a VERY early start, before sunrise, and knock out our sixteen miles very quickly. This brings us back even with Signal Mountain where we hiked with the Scouts last Friday night and Saturday morning.

Early in today’s hike, we arrive in the Imperial Valley agricultural zone – where the canals have made the desert “blossom as the rose.” All around us are fields of produce; lettuce of many varieties, broccoli, cauliflower and other winter crops. Alfalfa is being cut. Bales of hay are stacked – hundreds of feet long. Dairy farms and some small cattle feed lots are nearby. The canals deliver water to the crops which transpire it into the air raising the local humidity and carrying scents of the land and crops.

The smells today are incredible. Fresh air – clean and crisp, slightly humid, then as we walk, these various smells, subtle but seemingly strong because of their novelty to us after so long in the remote areas, makes us aware of just how far from a normal existence we’ve been for weeks at a time.

It has been a good day to be alive.

Tuesday, January 13 – North of the Border, CA

January 13th, 2009

“North of the Border” isn’t a town; it’s a state of mind – or something like that. If you’re following our progress by map, there’s not a town we can refer you to. We’re halfway between Yuma and Calexico following highway 98.

We continue westward, a few miles north of Cooke’s Wells – originally known as “First Well” as they left the Colorado River. First Well existed long before the Battalion’s time. They just enlarged it and dug at least one more well at the site. Subsequent farming, flooding and erosion have erased all surface traces of Cooke’s Wells, but, if you’re interested in seeing the location in Google Earth, enter latitude 32.669200° and longitude -114.926800° which will show you the place historians say was the wells’ site.

I may have told this story before, but a person corresponding from El Paso Texas keeps asserting that the Battalion “never went into Mexico.” I keep reminding him that ALL of this area was Mexico in 1847 – in fact, until 1858 and the Gadsden Purchase. Actually the Battalion’s route did slip into the modern Republic of Mexico and let’s just let it rest at that, shall we?

On the morning they left these wells, the Battalion went a short distance northwest and then climbed up onto the mesa on which we have been hiking. So, our topography, fauna, flora and view is almost exactly the same as theirs – we’re just separated by a few miles and an international border fence. Well – for the purists, it’s true that some of the plants and animals have changed since 1847, but essentially things are the same up here on the desert. Except for the flood of 1905-06 – but more about that another day.

After seventeen miles, Peter, Denny and I arrive at the eastern end of Calexico’s agricultural fields which are like Yuma’s. Here is where the Colorado River water makes its power known today. The variety and amount of produce grown is staggering and it all depends upon using the Colorado. Without this water, the area would remain much as it did in 1847, with little vegetation and almost no inhabitants. It is intensive farming with irrigation pipes, canals, field labor, numerous specialized farm vehicles, fertilizers and lots of other stuff I’m ignorant of. I just know it is an impressive display of efficient farming that helps us have a high standard of living at a comparatively low price.