Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Alcoholic Pass

©Bert Gildart: The trail over Alcoholic Pass is a good route to follow in early January, for it twists and turns, “like a drunk,” is the legendary association, so serving to remind some of New Years resolutions. (Are you keeping yours?)


Alcoholic Trail twists and turns, and is here seen dropping down on to Coyote Creek, explored by de Anza in 1774.


Diana Lindsay provides a springboard for yet other thoughts, writing in her book Anza Borrego A – Z that the trail might have been so named because of the drinking habits of several early settlers, specifically the Clark brothers and Cod Beaty. Apparently these men made extensive use of the trail (often inebriated) and so their names are historically linked with the trail, a reminder that we must continuously tread our trails through life with circumspect. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m quite ready to give up cocktail hour around our evening campfire at Pegleg, for it’s now a tradition after a long day hiking, particularly following a rewarding but vigorous hike in California’s Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

With those thoughts in mind, yesterday, I joined Don and Nancy Dennis, our Airstream traveling companions, and made the short drive from our campsite here in Pegleg along the old Anza route to the Alcoholic Pass trailhead. The rocky path climbs through a forest of desert cacti to include various types of cholla, mesquite, and ocotillo.


Click on each image to see larger version and to see extended caption.

L to R: Don and Nancy, boulders at Alcoholic Pass, back lighting dramatizes ocotillo cacti.

The trail continues to climb until it reaches Alcoholic Pass, which is spectacular because it peers over several valleys and several mountain ranges. It also peers over one of the most spectacular boulder fields you’ll ever see.


From our vantage at the pass in the Coyote Mountains we could look east and see Clark Valley and the Santa Rosa Mountains. Looking the other direction we could see the San Ysidro Mountains, and then, between us and the mountains, Coyote Creek, the creek along which Juan Bautista de Anza rode in 1774. Indeed, this trail offers immense historical overviews.

There is a register at the saddle forming the pass, which Nancy signed. The trail continues and we followed it down, realizing that we didn’t have time to invest in a hike that would require about seven more miles, for the day was growing late – and so we turned around. But there were compensation for the light was casting lovely shadows along the aforementioned mountains.


To some the blossoms of the ocotillo look like tiny torches.

Equally as important for my photographic ventures were the ocotillo, which seemed so vibrant. Light on the flowers was soft, something I generally can create only with artificial strobe lighting. Over the past few years I’ve posted several blogs on lighting with multiple strobes, and on the ocotillo plant, and how it blooms only following rain storms. Obviously, there has been much rain in recent months as the blossoms are now radiant.


According to Lindsay it is this very radiance that might have given rise to their name. She quotes Mark Jorgensen, the former superintendent of Anza Borrego and an expert on sheep and desert ecology. Years ago I met the man and quoted him extensively in my book on Mountain Sheep.

Referring, however, to the ocotillo blossoms, Jorgensen says the Spanish/Mexican word ocote is a type of pine, which when lit explodes into a torch. Sometimes when the ocotillo is loaded with blossoms and the species is backlit you can easily make the association, for it appears as though the branches of the towering cacti are laden with tiny torches.

Lindsay also says Indians harvested the blooms and that the seeds made a flavored bitter-tasting drink.

Referring to the trail, Lindsay also says that the trail saved settlers six miles of trudging around the Coyote Mountains. If you were a settler, such as the Clark brothers or Cod Beaty on a mission to the local tavern in Borrego Springs, that could have been important. And so, as I made the final decent from Alcoholic Pass I was reminded that we’d soon have to make the momentous decision of whether there will or will not be a cocktail hour.

But why shouldn’t there be? I’m not one to make resolutions I can’t keep.




*By Their Beaks Shall Ye Know Them




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