This post would have suited last weekend more, as there is a bit of a necromantic element to it… Better later than never, so here it is, another hiking story, but very unusual in a way, as the landscape through which this trail goes is deeply influenced and modified by people of the recent past. I call it a ‘rail-trail’, as it runs along an abandoned railroad, which in its initial times used to be called ‘Impossible Railroad’ due to difficulties with which it was built (in 1919). It was abandoned and then reused a few times in its history with last operation as late as 2011. As nowadays it is not in use, hikers and bikers are free to explore it. Although it might have been [nearly] “impossible” as a railroad, it is obviously very much possible as a hiking and biking trail, perhaps the easiest one in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, with as little change in elevation as it possibly gets in a mountainous terrain.
We started at DeAnza Springs Resort (I’ll review it in the next post), which is the largest clothing-optional resort in the US by territory. I don’t think I should even mention what option we chose in terms of clothing (none!) – the weather was perfect for that, as it usually happens in Southern California. Just the fist couple of minutes of the trail go away from the railroad through cacti and shrub.
The first ghostly train was already behind the first hill.
The train seemed so out of place there, that the fact that we were entering it in the buff didn’t make it much odder than it was…
How often do you get a chance to ride a train naked?
As it should be expected from a ghost train, there was a ghost floating through the aisle… :D
The cars were still in quite solid conditions,
but nature is slowly taking over. Clearly some birds were happy to have this shelter.
We felt like we could spend a lot of time taking pictures in the train, but our hike had barely started!
This view from the back side seemed irresistible to pose with,
so we had to stop for a couple more pics.
It’d be fun to ride a train like this, but the train didn’t move.
Even when we tried to push it!
… after which we were too tired to hike, so we decided to hitchhike instead…
Our train never arrived, we had to walk after all.
The first bridge was soon followed by the first tunnel, of which I wasn’t aware at all. This was just the beginning!
This tunnel was very short though,
with enough light passing through. Tunnel’s repeating geometry and symmetry were sort of mesmerizing.
After that straight tunnel, the road started winding quite a lot.
The valley of Carrizo Creek, which was dry at that time, was still relatively green compared to the rocks above.
Nevertheless, even the rocks were full of desert vegetation,
such as cacti and yuccas.
This dead stem of yucca looked as if it was made of metal.
But then we saw a “skeleton” of a cactus!
The skeleton was actually sticking out from a cactus that was still alive… so it was half-alive, half-dead… a ZOMBIE cactus! I knew something was wrong in that place…
But we continued walking, and there I remembered about an episode of ‘Walking Dead’ TV series that I watched on the flight… In those post-apocalyptic scenes, people were walking on an abandoned railroad towards a refuge center. Once they had to go through a tunnel, and of course there was a zombie ambush! If you look at this view below closely, you’ll see entrances to four tunnels that we had to cross…
Here is a zoomed photo of the farthest two, if you couldn’t see them…
And just like in the series, there were encouraging signs on the way.
Luckily, these tunnels were pretty short and enough sunlight could pass to see without torches.
Here we saw another ghost train.
And if that wasn’t odd enough on its own,
this train turned out to have been used in the city of Montreal! This is probably the most unexpected place to see a metro train from Montreal, and we could only guess why this train was brought here from across the continent and then was just left in the middle of the desert…
We got creative again with photography, so here is a scene of me typically being late and trying to catch the train in the last moment (would the train be more likely to wait, if I were naked?)
… and a bit of goofing around.
No zombies were spotted there, and only later on pictures did I notice that we were actually watched by the devil… However, judging by his mischievous smile, he was happy about the mooning :D
We continued our walk and were approaching another tunnel. There seemed to have been some construction planned but never finished.
Here, the railroad was at the edge of a very steep slope, and this was clearly a site of an accident…
After entering through that massive gate,
we realized that tunnel was quite different from the ones we had seen before. It looked more like a cave.
And it actually looked more like on the photo below, as brightness on the one above was adjusted. It was very dark, especially after leaving the bright sunlight, and we could hardly see the light on the other side of the tunnel… I wasn’t entirely sure if there was one at all…
And of course we didn’t think of bringing torches, when we planned a day hike in the desert… In this cave, if anywhere, zombies would definitely have caught us! We had to rely mostly on the tactile sense in our feet and could only hope not to step on a corpse or bump onto some kind of “walking dead”! This tunnel was half-mile long! Luckily, pretty soon it was evident that there was indeed light on the other side of the tunnel. The only problem with it is that once you pass the middle of the tunnel and there is more light coming from the front than from the back, you practically can only see this light and nothing else around you… Nevertheless, zombies missed all those wonderful opportunities to get us, and we were outside in the broad daylight again. Only cacti looked like they were gathering for an attack, but they were certainly not walking, and they were certainly not dead :-)
We didn’t have to wait long for another tunnel, and then yet another right away, but these were much shorter.
One more weird abandoned/unfinished structure…
Leaving the last of those tunnels, we came to a fork on the railroad with an option to either continue the road or enter yet another tunnel…
Although tunnels provided shade and coolness from blazing sun, we picked the open road, as that tunnel on the side looked particularly uninviting… We were rewarded with a spectacular view,
but soon had to go through a different tunnel. This one was was very short though, and we could see the goal of our hike right after it!
I think I forgot to mention that our hike actually had a goal to see “the tallest curved wooden trestle ever built in the world”, the bridge over Goat Canyon. Yeah, it’s quite specific, but how often do you get a chance to hike naked to the biggest something of the world?
Here it was, but we decided to cross it, as the other side seemed to provide a better view. It was quite scary to walk on that grid 60m (200′) above the ground! And frankly, the fear wasn’t unreasonable, as not all of the grid plates looked stable.
We saw a group of bikers who continued their way further (and who were utterly over-dressed for that place in my opinion!)
For us though, it was the final stop, as we still had to make the way back before sunset.
It was funny to see those messages on the cargo container: “longest hike of my life… brutal” and “I’ll be back when there’s helicopter service”. I’d have to agree with the one in between, who called the authors of the other two “wimps”. 11km one way is a good exercise, but it was still more of a long stroll than a “brutal” hike!
By that time, we forgot about threat of zombies, but I was a little afraid to look inside that wagon. There was… nothing! A much scarier sight revealed on now the opposite side of the Goat Canyon – a crushed tunnel. It was actually that same side tunnel that we saw at the railroad fork a little earlier… I hope no one was hurt in that disaster.
But then, from the corner of the Goat Canyon, we could see the bridge in its full glory.
The tallest curved trestle in the world!
Certainly not recommended for people who are afraid of heights… or zombies!