I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Ranchita Yeti. The constant drip-drip-dripping of a San Diego downpour had woken me from a sound sleep that Sunday morning. After I had gotten out of bed, I had shuffled over to my rain-streaked kitchen window, and after squinting through it at the conditions, decided that after a week of clouds and rain, I needed some sun. I packed up some gear, and headed out to my car. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going, but figured that I could explore around part of the Anza-Borrego desert for the day without any trouble at all. There weren’t many cars or drivers willing to brave the wet conditions on a weekend on the city streets, and by the time I reached the 78/79 split in Santa Ysabel, the roads were completely vacant.
On that day, however, vacant roads did not mean calm roads. At that elevation, and at that time, the mountains were acting like highwaymen, yanking the clouds down toward the ground while stealing all of the moisture inside of them. Sheets of water cascaded over my car, and unpredictable yelling gusts of wind buffeted it between the yellow lines and the shoulder. As I turned toward Ranchita on the S-22, I could feel the temperature drop suddenly though the windows. As my visibility dropped, I nudged my brakes and kept moving – slowly toward Ranchita and the pass beyond. I could see light ahead of me though, through the haze of wipers and water on my windshield, and knew that once I cleared the pass, I’d be fine. As I edged into Ranchita, the last vestiges of the storm turned into a torrent of rain. I could not see. It was too dark and too confused. I pulled over and waited for it to pass. As I sat there, engine ticking, rain falling, I looked across the street. I couldn’t see much, my windows were foggy, it was raining, the light was low. But I saw something that looked like a person standing motionless in the downpour.
After a minute or two, I rolled down the window, and yelled something really snappy, like, “Hey dumbass, get out of the storm!”, while water cascaded into the driver’s side. As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized it was futile: there was no way he/she could hear me over the wind and rain. But now, I was curious. After triple checking to see that the route was clear, I drove across the road, intending to see what sort of moron stands outside in the middle of a cold weather storm. As I pulled up I realized that it wasn’t a person at all.
It was a Yeti. Moreover, it wasn’t even a real Yeti. It was a statue of a Yeti.
I started laughing at myself. It answered the question perfectly: no one in their right or wrong mind would be outside in that type of weather. And, I told myself, only in this type of bad weather could someone such as myself confuse a statute for a real person.
I’ve been back through Ranchita a bunch since then. The Yeti is still there, come rain or come shine. And, fortunately for me, I’ve never thought it was a real person – or a real Yeti ever again.
How To Get There (ARE YOU READY FOR THE YETI?): The S-22 goes through Ranchita East-West. You can see the Yeti going either way. It is right on the road, and very visible. More information about it here: http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20080518/news_1x18yeti.html