Mine Wash lies along a direct route between Mt. Laguna and the Salton Sea. The sea today is a pale cousin of the ancient freshwater Lake Cahuilla, which was periodically formed by the overflow of the Colorado River and which provided home to thousands of native people around its shorelines. The Kumeyaay Village site lies along the best route from the ancient lake to the Laguna Mountains to the southwest, the ancestral home of the Kwaaymii, the last natives to use the Mine Wash site. To hike to the mountains, continue south to the upper end of the wash, the nape of Mescal Bajada, through Mine Canyon and on into Earthquake Valley, where lookalike bouldered hillsides embrace another village site.
The blue waters of the Salton Sea can be seen through the Narrows to the northeast from the site, but as you explore the gentle hills west of the site for this nice vista, watch out for the rambunctious “Jumping Cholla,” aka Teddy Bear cactus–but in no way are they soft and fuzzy close up.
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With our spring rains of 2016–making it past the Julian rain shadow to the desert–the burst of color around the Mine Wash cultural site was worth a few spines around the boot edges. Just remember when you visit, wear solid hiking-type boots, because regular walking shoes can admit the spines readily, and getting the little jumpers off–once they stick your skin–is going to be regretful. The rough edges of a heavy rock or boulder lying nearby is sometimes your best friend.
If you’re looking for an ocotillo forest, Mine Wash is one of the best areas to find these beautiful plants in sufficient density to obtain good photos, as well as actually be shaded by clusters of them. Desert color can sometimes be a sprinkle here and a dab there, but after a good drink the forests of brilliant vermillion-crowned ocotillo seem to float above the desert floor like glowing candlesticks.