A Place To Contemplate
Bruce F. Barber
There are, within a 1-hour drive of San Felipe, at least one hundred fantastic places for desert devotees to enjoy. Extend that drive to 2 hours and add another hundred sites.
*** Imagine waterfalls, pampas grass, and cattails and you’re heading in the right direction.
*** Think of boiling mud pots, hot springs, wall paintings, petroglyphs and fossils, and you’ll “have your hand on the throttle”.
*** Do you know what Apache Tears are? Obsidian: little black pieces of Nature’s glass (about the size of your thumb’s outer digit). There is a place southwest of San Felipe—at the entrance to Crazy Horse Canyon—where nature has placed them by the millions.
*** Arroyo Grande, west of the gold mines, ranges from a few feet to 10 miles in width, 30 feet in depth and 100 miles in length.
*** Arroyo Tule, 1/2-mile farther west, is 100 yards wide with 50-foot sides. If I didn’t know better, I’d think someone dug these vertical-sided ditches by machine. But, I’m curious enough to have ferreted these places out (by myself!)
Earlier this year, I took a group into Diablito Canyon. It’s a long walk from the parking area to the river bed, but when we got there the kids enjoyed a waterfall pouring over glass-like granite in the shape of a 10-foot water slide.
In another canyon, ten miles farther south, there are no waterfalls but there’s a boulder with at least 100 petroglyphs on it. There’s another directly above that one with a dozen more drawings that I believe are at least twice the lower drawings’ age …judging by desert varnish.
Drive another mile south, and one to the west, and you come to Petroglyph Canyon where, two miles upstream, there is another Indian drawing site. But now we begin to see the problem. Each of these sites is hidden, off the beaten track—remote.
There is another place within sight of San Felipe that I call Hidden Valley. There is no water in this eastern site but the scenery is beyond compare.
Seventeen miles in length, Hidden Valley permits an interesting outing that includes features found nowhere else.
***At its west end, for example, there are a dozen eroded formations I call “The Cloisters”.
***Opposite the Cloisters (to the south) there is a mile-long stretch of exposed Cretaceous seafloor… topped by a layer of brick-red lava …topped by an extra layer of sun-blackened lava. Your presence here represents a lesson in Geology! This is “the real world!”
1/2-mile north of The Cloisters there are two significant riverbeds ending in twisting, winding gorges: One with 50-foot sides standing over an eight-feet-wide floor. The other bears an array of desert plants, including Cardón, to stagger the imagination. There are so many trees in this last one, it is the kind of place you enjoy during a picnic.
Nine miles south of San Felipe, in the lee of the Sierra Punta Estrella, there is a cactus garden you may have heard about. Called “Valley of the Giants.” It was here that a 43-feet-tall Cardón was selected, excavated, wrapped (in steel), and shipped to the 1993 World’s Fair in Spain.
Cardón is the king of all cacti including its kissing cousin ‘Saguaro‘ (of northern Sonora and southern Arizona).
Of course, there’s always San Felipe. Did you know the installation of its new potable water system is complete? With several new wells and miles of underground piping, the populace of San Felipe waited for its first taste of water from 700 feet underground and when it came, it was as sweet as the mind could dream of!
What’s more, when this job was done, curbs and gutters and pavement appeared and our distant desert community was equipped with a whole new batch of street lamps.
It is a quaint place …filled with friendly folks… and surrounded by a wealth of incomparable drama. It is, when all is said and done, a fantastic place to contemplate.