The Rabbit Escapes Us

(2/12/07) Before leaving my house to drive to Anza Borrego State Park for our Chasing the Rabbit backpack, I checked the national weather service on-line, and my eyebrows instinctly raised as I read 14 degrees as the night low on Villager Peak. A freeze warning was in place for many SoCal areas as a cold front was making its way down. This was the same weekend that ice crystals covered the lawns in Palm Springs and California's avocado industry pretty much got the axe. Regardless of the cold north wind, two of us, Arthur and myself, braved the elements as we set out to chase the rabbit.

Fortunately, it was a beautiful sunny day. I never thought in a million years that I would be hiking with almost all my layers on in such a gorgeous sunny desert day. We carefully made our way up from one false peak to the next. Villager Peak is notorious for its many false peaks. I like to call them falsies. Having completed this hike numerous times, I was used to the many falsies, but it was always the main thing I hear from other folks on the trail. There we're a few folks on the trail this year. Some of them we're coming down after a night on Villager Peak and they mentioned the temperature got down to 7 degrees.

We arrived at Villager Peak in perfect time (due to our perfect pace -- hehe), with lots of time to chill out at the top before sun-down. We found the registry stashed in a can lodged between rocks. In the past I didn't bother to enter anything in summit registries. But now that Perfect Pace has a logo, heck why not -- great PR for the group. So now I draw a picture of the logo and enter the date and www.perfectpace.com. That's it. If folks want to check it out later, the url is easy to remember.

We found a perfect campsite which wasn't there the year before, with leftover scars of an illegal campfire. It was perfectly situated for views on both sides of the ridge and protected well from the wind. It was cold even before sun-down; We already had all our layers on. I'm guessing by then it was well into the 30's. We both agreed we would probably be hitting the tent early that evening.

I kind of wanted to study the stars with the new star wheel I bought from the Inyo National Forest Visitor Center from one of our previous trips, but it was waaaayyy to cold. I wimped out. Laying warm and snug in our sleeping bags, we chatted about everything and nothing before finally drifting off to sleep. I've always enjoyed just hiking with one other person. It's a great way to really get to know the other person.

Last year the wind on Villager Peak was atrocious. One of the tents came completely down. This year, it was windy as well, but our campsite was so well guarded from the wind that we we're spared the Villager's wrath of wind.

Early morning after about 10 hours of sleep, I got up to take a leak. I noticed the sky was slowly lightening and I immediately thought -- oohh picture time. I suited up warmly and watched the sunrise, taking pictures. But then I got cold and went back in the tent.

Arthur and I chatted for a while in the warmth of the tent and decided due to the crazy cold wind, we would change our plans and chase the rabbit some other day. We thought of the cool alternative of climbing mile-high peak instead. I didn't think I would ever give up the opportunity to catch the darn rabbit, but the attractive option of finally climbing mile-high peak was too good to pass up. So we changed course to mile high.

On our way to mile-high, we passed one point of the ridge where the wind brought the temperature down to zero degrees. Raised in SoCal, I've never experienced biting cold like that. It felt like liquid nitrogen being pressed against my face. I've got to admit, it was kind of cool. No pun intended.

When we got to the logical junction point for mile-high, we dropped our packs, grabbed our ten essentials and headed off cross-country to mile-high. It was obvious the peak was rarely visited. The trail was almost non-existent.

The view at the summit was spectacular with views of Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, the peak we spent the night the previous night, and the pesky rabbit. Arthur found a great spot for us out of the wind to have lunch. We basked under the warm sun and enjoyed the expansive view of the Salton Sea. On the way back to our packs, we played in the enormous strength of the wind on the saddle. I felt like I was in a wind chute, with the wind being so strong, it blew my hiking poles easily at an angle and Arthur was able to sit back against the wind. We got to our packs and continued on our journey down back to the trailhead soaking in the magnificent views and Mother Nature's handiwork at the many beautiful desert garden pockets we passed by.

For remote desert beauty and serenity in SoCal, I really don't think you could beat Villager Peak. If you guys can think of a better place, let me know; I would love to go there. And as for you wascawwy wabbit, we'll get ya next year!