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  • Writer's pictureDale Hill

Carrizo Mountain On A Whim

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

Date: February 6, 2022

Distance: 10.1 miles

Total Elapsed Time: 4h 47m

Total Moving Time: 4h 12m

Highest Elevation: 2,403 feet

Elevation Gain: 1,884 feet

Trailhead: Painted Gorge Road

Previous Ascent(s): N/A

After a very successful morning out tying up loose ends with previous survey mark recoveries, I was in the mood for a hike, preferably one that would also net a few more recoveries (of course!).

View from the Summit of Carrizo Mountain

Since I was already out and about, I decided to head toward Carrizo Mountain; I had dropped a variety of waypoints on my map months ago when I set out to the Yuha Desert for a long day of Survey Mark Scavenger Hunting. Still, I didn't have time to fit it all in. The planets aligned for me today, the weather was good, I'd already checked off a lot of "clean-up" recoveries earlier in the morning, and I needed to stretch my legs.

Survey Mark Recoveries

Enroute to the Trailhead

Access to the trailhead for Carrizo Mountain was pretty straightforward; I turned off West Evan Hewes Highway onto Painted Gorge Road, a well-established and graded dirt road, and followed it for about 4.75 miles. A little more than halfway to the trailhead, I rolled up to my first waypoint marking a potential section corner mark. The witness stake was easily seen from the road, and I recovered this quarter-section pipe-cap marker set by the Imperial County Surveyor.

I continued on Painted Gorge Road, deciding to see how far I could make it on the dirt road before it became impassable in my 2WD Dakota. Looking at the maps, the area is crisscrossed with jeep roads, and most of the hike would be on these roads. I passed multiple groups of shooters in what (hopefully) were dead-end canyons, parking on the far side of a small hill. The road down to the wash where I wanted to start was soft sand, so rather than looping around on the road, I crossed the plateau and found a motorcycle track that dropped down to the wash.

Once, in the wash and on the jeep road, it was an easy walk. This first segment was very cool, following the road through the canyons; the views of the canyon walls were dramatic.

As cool as this was, I knew I needed to start going up; besides the several jeep roads and 4WD tracks, there are many off-shoot trails throughout the area. Working my way up, I was rewarded with increasingly impressive views of the Yuha Desert Recreation Lands and dust clouds to the east, marking activity in the Plaster City OHV Area. Eventually, the road ended, and I could make out a faint trail of broken granite and loose rock that would take me the final distance to the summit.

The final push to the summit was straightforward but rocky, and the views from the top were excellent.

Summit Recoveries

This was the first disc I saw as I approached the rock outcropping at the summit; initially, I thought this was the station, but it is an unnumbered US Geological Survey Benchmark named "Near Station Carrizo" (for real 🤣.)

Locating the Carrizo Station disc was easy once I found the USGS BM; it was only a few feet away on the same rock outcrop! You can see both discs in the eye-level photo for DC1868 CARRIZO below (picture 4 in the set below)

It was more challenging to locate the reference marks; usually, I find them within 15-20 feet of the station disc; however, both were well below the summit, mounted on small rock outcrops. The natural patina of the weathered markers blended in well with the rock color, and it took me a long time to find these; it didn't help that they were further away from the station than I am used to finding reference marks!

The Carrizo Azimuth Mark (stamped RM 3) is located about a half-mile northeast of the station on another peak. I studied my map and then looked across the terrain to see if I could easily traverse the distance; however, the route would have taken me down the steepest side of the mountain, and it didn't look safe. I would have to return and plan a new route to that marker.

Along the Trail, "X" Marks the Spot

Going downhill always provides a better vantage point; on my way back down, I spotted an aerial survey target on a small plateau to the right of the trail. You have likely seen many of these targets painted on roads or sidewalks and never given them a second thought; when there is no pavement to paint them on, they may be constructed from durable plastic material. Whether you refer to them as an "X" or a cross "+" is up to you; typically, when the symbol is chiseled into a rock, it's referred to as a "chiseled cross."

Aerial targets are reference points for aerial photography used in surveying and map-making. To be truly useful, photos collected this way must be geometrically corrected so the scale is uniform (the technical term is orthorectification); once that is done, you can use the photo to measure actual distances. The process eliminates distortion based on the camera's original position; it corrects the photo so every point appears as if it was directly below the camera.

I always like to check out these aerial targets because there is sometimes a traditional survey mark in the center at the point of intersection; however, no such luck today. It did make my database, though, because the "DND" sticker (originally covered by a small pile of rocks) was cool, and this particular target was made with strips of drywall (gypsum board) spiked into the ground, something you can only get away with in the desert 🤷🏻‍♂️.

Relive® 3D Video From Today's Hike

To Hike Another Day

As I mentioned, the Azimuth Mark for Carrizo Mountain was on a nearby peak; when I got home, I created alternative routes to reach the Azimuth, as shown below. Both options are slightly longer than the hike to summit Carrizo Mountain, with Route A (green) retracing my path through Painted Gorge; too, there is always the option to make it a "lollipop" route by going up Route A and coming down Route B 🤔 decisions, decisions!

Whatever the route, I'm looking forward to returning and recovering the Carrizo Azimuth Mark. 😊

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