Alma Wash to Starfish Cove Trail

Ocotillo Wells, California

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If it’s solitude you want, this is your trip. Years ago, I hiked it on a cold, silent winter night, under the pale light of a first-quarter moon. I felt as if I were traveling a canyon no one had ever visited before—and that may have been close to the truth. In my flashlight’s beam, I discovered fresh, fist-sized tracks of a mountain lion. The light of dawn revealed the densest population of elephant trees I’d ever seen in one spot. These trees grow on both sides of the canyon, but especially on the north wall, where the tiny leaves of the plants are exposed to the maximum amount of sunshine. Some stand upright 10 or more feet tall, while others, rooted to talus slopes, have limbs that slither along like stunted, battered conifers at timberline. Once the wiry saplings gain a foothold in small pockets of soil, they survive by rolling with the punches: Rockslides merely train the flexible limbs to grow in new directions.

Alma Wash to Starfish Cove Trail Professional Review and Guide

"If it’s solitude you want, this is your trip. Years ago, I hiked it on a cold, silent winter night, under the pale light of a first-quarter moon. I felt as if I were traveling a canyon no one had ever visited before—and that may have been close to the truth. In my flashlight’s beam, I discovered fresh, fist-sized tracks of a mountain lion. The light of dawn revealed the densest population of elephant trees I’d ever seen in one spot. These trees grow on both sides of the canyon, but especially on the north wall, where the tiny leaves of the plants are exposed to the maximum amount of sunshine. Some stand upright 10 or more feet tall, while others, rooted to talus slopes, have limbs that slither along like stunted, battered conifers at timberline. Once the wiry saplings gain a foothold in small pockets of soil, they survive by rolling with the punches: Rockslides merely train the flexible limbs to grow in new directions."

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Ocotillo Wells
Distance: 10
Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Moderate to Difficult
Duration: 7 hours
Season: December through March
Local Contacts: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Local Maps: USGS Borrego Mountain SE, Harper Canyon
Driving Directions: Directions to Alma Wash to Starfish Cove Trail

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May 2018