The Peyote Trail

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by Scott Schmitz

De Anza Resort held its first nude 5K on March 14, 2015.  The “Run for the Border” race started at the clubhouse, went up past the Dog Run and routed up Old Carrizo Road.  The course went by the Chimney Track and further up the road to the junction with the Walker Canyon Trail where there was a refreshment stop and signs to turn left.  The race went west on the Walker Canyon Trail to the railroad tracks.  There were no signs there but at the beginning of the race participants were told to run back down the railroad tracks to the Carrizo Creek Trail.  Runners surprised some bicyclists and hikers along the railroad, but as the participants were busy racing they just waved and ran by.  After taking the Carrizo Creek Trail back to the Resort, the course took the road down past the gate and over to the motel.  The participants turned right at the motel and followed the road along the edge of the resort until they got back to the clubhouse.  As the course was just shy of 3 miles at this point, the participants were sadistically directed to run the loop around the clubhouse and tennis course before finally finishing at 3.3 miles, slightly longer than 5K but what the hey.  There were only a dozen participants and almost everyone walked.


Train Cars On Dubber Spur

Still the feedback was positive and the “Run for the Border” was repeated along the same route in 2016.  But then the State Park Rangers, who had received complaints about the nude runners from some of the hikers, paid the Resort a visit and told Dave that an event like a 5K run through State Park land needed a permit.  Besides, the railroad tracks were on private railroad property and running along the tracks was forbidden.  So, the run in 2017 stayed inside the Resort and went around the existing roads twice.  There was negative feedback about staying on the roads.  The runners wanted a wilderness single-track experience.

In 2015, Hiker Clint began building a nature trail along the top of Squaw Ridge.  The western half of Squaw Ridge consisted of porous Anza Formation, the eastern half was on less porous La Posta granodiorite, and the ridge squeezed out precious moisture from passing rainstorms.  Squaw Ridge thus had overlapping biomes with a variety of mountain and desert vegetation.  It was the perfect spot to put in a nature trail.

Vista Point
Vista Point

By 2016 the western half of the Squaw Ridge Nature Trail was done.  It started down on the Carrizo Creek Trail and paralleled the road to Dubber Spur before meeting an old ranch road along the ridgetop.  Clint routed the trail to have the perfect overview of the abandoned train cars on Dubber Spur.  The trail then followed the old ranch road to the top of the western ridge.  From there he routed new trail down to the Squaw Peak Trail and lined the whole route with rock.  By 2017 he completed the Squaw Ridge Nature Trail across the eastern half of the ridge, routing the rail down Prospectors Hill Trail to the Dog Run Trailhead.  Along the route notable vegetation species had been tagged and the route was sprinkled with Clint’s trademarked rock art.  And then the State Park Rangers brought the hammer down on the “Run for the Border” 5k, leading to the disappointing 2017 race route.

The “Run for the Border” also attracted the notice of the San Diego County Archaeological Society which took a dim view of Clint’s work on the Temple Peak Trail and Chimney Track.  This led to the posting of signs along the beginning of the Temple Peak Trail about entering a sensitive archeological area with warnings against disturbing, defacing, and excavating in the area.  The State Park, while not against Clint’s trail building efforts per se, did strongly suggest the Clint should refrain from working on the trails in the State Park until certain ruffled feathers has calmed down.  Suddenly Clint was without a project and the Resort was without a proper trail run.  That’s when the “Ah-ha” moment arrived.

Eastside Trail
Eastside Trail

Of the 500+ acres that DeAnza Resort resides upon, only approximately 142 acres are developed campground.  The rest is open desert land.  It occurred to Clint that there was plenty of Resort property on which to build a decent running trail.  The idea was enthusiastically welcomed by the race committee as this solved the problem of running on public land yet still offering a desert wilderness experience.

Clint first extended the trail from the end of the Squaw Ridge Nature Trail towards the Northeast Trail.  This “Rabbit’s Run” section takes off at the Prospectors Hill Trail and meanders around the various ridges along the southern edge of the Amphitheatre Rocks.  The area is separated from the developed section of the Resort by a low hill, so runners and hikers along this section of the trail only catch occasional glimpses of the Resort.  The rest of the time is winding up and down small washes with beautiful views of the Amphitheatre Rocks and the desert beyond, giving one the feel of being in the middle of nowhere.  The entire trail was lined with Clint’s trademark rock curbing and art.

The 2018 5K race, now redubbed the “Bare Booty 5K Fun Run”, still ran mostly clockwise along the east, south, and west roads of the resort, but this time diverted down the Carrizo Creek Trail to the Squaw Ridge Nature Trail, climbed up Squaw Ridge before descending to the Prospector Hill Trail, and then took off along the new Rabbit’s Run to the Northeast Trail.  From there it followed the Northeast Trail back to the resort and followed the east and south resort roads back to the finish line at the clubhouse.

DeAnza Wash Crossing
DeAnza Wash Crossing

The new route proved to be very popular and spurred Clint to continue the project.  The next section, however, presented a problem due to the fact the houses on the east side of the Resort extended right up to the State Park boundary.  This section would have to be built through State Park land and on a route that did not impinge on the privacy of the home owners.  So, discussions on how to route this part of the trail caused a delay.  Clint during this time turned his attention to the southern leg.

Along the southern edge of the Resort rises the eroded remains of Round Mountain, and the last of these cinder ridges was entirely in the resort and separated from the rest of the cinder hills by the Temple Peak Wash.  On the eastern edge of this ridge sits the water tanks that store water pumped out of the aquifer along the of the Gray Mountain horst’s southwest fault.  Along the top of this ridge Clint routed the Water Tank Ridge section, starting from the Heartbreak Hotel and ending in a small drainage on the ridge’s northwest side.  The trail by the Heartbreak Hotel first followed an old deer trail, crossed the water tank access road, and then, paralleling the access road, headed steeply up to the ridgetop.  The trail then undulated along the top of the ridge until, nearing the western end of the ridge, turned and switchbacked down a drainage to end on the southern road around the Resort’s Red section.  He then decorated this trailhead and the switchbacks to the top of the hill with decorative stone patterns.  The art that lines the trail look like fossilized bones, so this trailhead was named the Boneyard Trailhead.

By the time Clint was finished with this section permission was granted by the State Park to route the trail around the east end of the resort and Graham, with input from the race committee and the eastside homeowners, had sketched out a route.  The race committee also decided upon a name for loop trail. The entire loop was dubbed the Peyote Trail in honor of native Americans and, reflecting its hallucinogenic qualities, gave the trail a New Age vibe.  The race committee, with its vested interest in the Eastside Trail section, decided they would like to build this section of the trail.  It was also decided that, as nice as the Water Tank Ridge section was for hiking, it’s sharp turns and the possibility that its beautiful rock sculptures could be damaged by runners taking short-cuts at these turns didn’t make this section suitable for the “Bare Booty 5K”.

Lava Bluff Extension
Lava Bluff Extension

Graham, Scott, and Ben, among others, worked to complete the Eastside Trail section in time for the 2019 “Bare Booty”.  The Eastside Trail section takes off from the Northeast Trail where it hits Big Chief Wash, quickly enters State Park lands and runs along the base of rocky cliffs, as far from the eastside homes as possible.  A ridge juts out along the drainage divide between Big Chief Wash and DeAnza Wash which runners have to surmount and then quickly drop back down to the sandy flats east of the Resort.  The Eastside Trail section then hits the Temple Peak Loop trail at DeAnza Wash.  Minor changes were made to the Temple Peak Loop Trail here to make the route more runnable.  Signs were posted at the the Carrizo Creek Trail junction, where the Rabbit’s Run section hit the Northeast Trail, at the Big Chief Wash crossing, and where the Temple Peak Loop Trail enters the resort just north of the Heartbreak Hotel to help direct the runners.  Water stops were placed at the beginning of the Carrizo Creek Trail, at the Big Chief Wash crossing, and at the Heartbreak Hotel which has been freshly renovated by Alan and his crew.  From the Heartbreak Hotel, the runners were routed away from the Water Tank Ridge Section, down Lonely Street (the Water Tank access road) and back along the southern road of the Resort’s Red Section to the clubhouse.  All the runners agreed the Eastside Trail section was a welcome addition to the “Bare Booty 5K” route.

Clint remained busy.  Free from having to work on the Eastside Trail section, Clint worked on routing the Peyote Trail around the storage area on the south side of the resort, coming out by a white truck that seems to have been parked in the same spot for years.  This Boneyard section was interesting in that it provided easier access to Pumice Canyon, nicks a small corner of State Park land, and, running along the eastern cliffs of the Lava Bluffs, passes an old fire circle and other relics from the Thousand Trails era of the Resort’s grounds.  This is a very runnable section of trail and there is talk about maybe creating a more runnable connection between the Heartbreak Hotel and this section of trail along the flatter ground of Temple Peak Wash.  This section of trail was completed in the fall of 2019.

The winter of 2019 found Clint hard at work on the Lava Bluffs section of the Peyote Trail.  This section was to run up the Lava Bluffs, follow the bluff’s western cliffs to the Resort’s billboard visible from Interstate 8, and drop down into the brushy area around Arsenic Spring.  The trail through the brush would serve as an experiment on how to build a trail through the thick brush that lines the Resort’s west side, for eventually the trail will wind its way through the brush west of Dave Landman’s house and connect back to the Squaw Ridge Nature Trail, completing the Peyote Trail’s loop all the way around the resort.

But in March of 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic hit.  The 2020 “Bare Booty 5K” was postponed to 2021 and Clint retreated to Montana.  As of July of 2020, the Lava Bluffs section remains unfinished, its ends blocked by brush and hidden as the uncompleted trail is too hazardous for travel.  Hopefully Clint can return soon and complete his work on the Peyote Trail.  Maybe one day the “Bare Booty 5K” can be done completely on single track trail all the way around the Resort, providing runners with a near-wilderness experience along the entire route.

DeAnza Springs Logo
DeAnza Springs Logo

1951 Carrizo Gorge Rd.

Jacumba, CA 91934

619-766-4301

Stay@DeAnzaSprings.com

1951 Carrizo Gorge Rd.

Jacumba, CA 91934

619-766-4301

Stay@DeAnzaSprings.com

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