By Laurie Baker
December 4, 2012 (McCain Valley) -- This is a warning for those who escape to Cottonwood Campground in McCain Valley for a tranquil and refreshing experience to explore the Great Outdoors: Your days of enjoyment are numbered. Wind turbines will soon be invading the area just like the ones in Ocotillo. The Sunrise Powerlink already obliterates the natural beauty along parts of the 13-mile dirt road to the remote campground. Building 450-foot tall wind turbines a little more than 1,000 feet away from it will completely destroy its appeal altogether.
McCain Valley, and the adjacent Wilderness Areas, are described in one hiking book as, "Some of the most wild, beautiful and serene territory in San Diego County". Therefore, demolishing its attractive natural resources seems unthinkable. However, the lack of attention which is already evident at the campground, on hiking trails, and on open countryside at this far end of the valley explains why it is possible. Sometimes there are no envelopes available to pay camping fees. The bathrooms run out of toilet paper. The trashcans are overflowing and trash bags left sitting on the ground next to them waiting to be collected attract wild animals, such as coyotes, that rip them apart. Many of the trail signs directing hikers to designated destinations are unreadable and have been that way for years. Sombrero Peak no longer has a hiker's register box at the summit to share and record hiking experiences. Tire tracks and crushed cactus on open countryside are encountered while hiking, even in State Park lands. "Booties" and garbage from illegals litter the stream near the spring in Pepperwood Canyon. Adjacent Wilderness Areas are left vulnerable.
A call to the Bureau of Land Management shed some light on this disgraceful situation. One ranger left, and the vacant position was just recently filled. Staffing is stretched thin for the amount of area that needs to be maintained. Budget constraints force having to set priorities for those needs accordingly. Cottonwood Campground must be near the bottom of the list.
Despite it all, the namesake cottonwood trees are lovely to gaze at as their golden leaves shimmer in the autumn breeze. The songbirds are fun to watch and pleasant to hear. Unseen owls eerily hoot back and forth to one another at night from the oak trees reminding you that they are there, hidden in the darkness. The Milky Way reveals itself in the dark sky. Gorgeous sunrises and sunsets illuminate unspoiled landscapes and skies with vivid colors. Mountain peaks and ridges that rim the valley rise far above the desert floor offering scenic vistas in all directions, some for a hundred miles or more. Large boulders are wind-sculpted into interesting and whimsical shapes and provide shelter from the sun or inclement weather. Raptors, including Golden Eagles, soar high above ridgetops on winds with outstretched wings. Relics of Native Americans and early settlers are discovered here and there. Cooling waters and palm groves in remote wilderness canyons below offer respite in an arid environment.
By the way, have you noticed the sign on McCain Valley Road recently? It is a sad sign of the times. It proclaims that McCain Valley is no longer a Conservation Area, but is now a Recreation Area. Considering the neglect Cottonwood Campground and the surrounding areas display right now, you would think it's been forgotten instead of being portrayed as one of the main draws on the website. Wind turbines must have some unknown recreational value or they wouldn't be in a Recreation Area, right? Whatever designation it is given, McCain Valley will endure. However, it will be FOREVER changed by the onslaught of industrialization, and it is all so very sad to witness!
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