Romero Pass

October 15, 2005

The long, long summer is finally drawing to a close and it's hiking season again! For our first backpack of the season, we chose Romero Pass, an area that has intrigued us ever since we hiked to Romero pools just after a heavy rainstorm last winter.

We knew this was a high-risk hike because this area was burned right down to the pools in 2003. We found a surprising amount of new growth, especially hopseed, cat's claw and sotol. Many Mexican oaks are charred but still sprouting green branches.

The famous upper and lower pools have mostly silted in because of erosion following the fire, but they still attract plenty of day hikers. Above the pools, the trail is overgrown with thigh-high sabertooth sock-eating grasses.

About a half mile upstream, the trail takes a sharp left and switchbacks 800 feet to the top of a ridge. The views are great, but we were salty, sticky, and covered with scratches from head to toe. Five miles out, where the trail rejoins the river, we cut short our hike and set up camp in a copse of Mexican oak that were somehow untouched by the fire. We bathed our wounds in the stream and fell asleep under a luminous moon in a forest that was dead quiet but for the soft babbling of the brook.

In the morning, I tied garbage bags around my ankles to stave off another shredding. It worked!

At about 4-1/2 miles, there's a promontory with great views just before the trail drops back into the valley. Below this promontory is a steep-sided canyon with numerous pools and water slides. We stashed our packs and tumbled down the bank to investigate. We found a great spot for our morning ablutions, and boulder hopping in the streambed in much easier than hiking the overgrown trail.

The best critters on this trip were toads who could hide in plain sight because they are EXACTLY the same color as pinkish gray granite that dominates this canyon.

The only other hike we met this morning was Victor, a fellow pilot and ham radio operator. He and Dennis had lots to talk about, and the return trip passed quickly and pleasantly. We're glad we did this hike, but will not return this area except after a good rain, and then we'll plan on hiking in the streambed instead of on the trail.