A Four Day Sampling of Anza Borrego Desert State Park
First on the agenda for the day was a shower and soak. Spurred on by our friends Julianne Crane and Jimmy Smith [click here] we visited Desert Hot Springs Hotel and Spa. This facility offers affordable day rates that include soaking pools of various temperatures, a swimming pool, as well as the shower room. Ah yes, the showers and the soak were just what we were looking for.
Since it was getting late in the day we found a campspot (33.304, -116.280, elev 630) among the boondockers at Clark Dry Lake off Rockhouse Road. It wasn’t our ideal, but it’d do for the night. We’ll get an early start in the morning.
January 22, Clark Dry Lake northeast of Borrego Springs
Drove through the little village of Borrego Springs and stopped for breakfast at Jilbertos. Then out to the Anza Borrego Visitor Center for a little orientation. Anza Borrego is the largest State Park in the United States. At 634,000 acres, it makes up more than half the real estate of the entire California State Park system combined. The largest established campground is near the visitor center. It has a full-hookup section and two no-hookup sections. We made note of the numerous shower facilities for future reference.
A volunteer in the VC gave us the “skinny” on a number of primitive/backcountry camping spots when he found out our vehicle was almost go-anywhere capable. There are over 400 miles of roads (mostly sand, rock, dirt) that traverse the park and as long as you follow a few simple rules, you can camp almost anywhere. Now you’re talkin’.
We explored Borrego Springs a bit more and then headed out toward an area called Hawk Canyon. It’s also near a feature called “The Slot”, a popular slot canyon hike that we think we’ll do tomorrow morning. Today we just wanted to get to a secluded campspot and take it easy.
January 23, Anza Borrego - Hawk Canyon camp.
I should mention that all those 400 miles of roads and trails through the park are designated for highway-legal vehicles only. There is another area east of the park called the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area where all those 4 wheeler dune buggies, desert assault vehicles, dust bunnies, and Razor-like side-by-side thingys can go and knock themselves out making as much dust as they can and sending dirt flying in any direction they chose. The lack of these creations is just another feature that makes Anza Borrego a hit with us.
Once we got ourselves up and rolling for the day, we only had a short two or three mile drive over to The Slot, our hike for the day. This highlights a big benefit of our go anywhere, stay anywhere capability. If we had to base ourselves at a campground back in the Borrego Springs area, we’d have to add commuting time and expense to our day. As it is, at least here in this park, we can stay close to where we end the previous days explorations and be ready to explore right away the following day. It’s what the concept of linear travel is all about.
As we were preparing for the hike at the rustic trailhead for The Slot, we ran into a couple from Iowa, Leroy and Linda. As things developed, we made it a foursome and did the hike together. They were positively enjoyable and we had a wonderful time.
|Yep... this is the trail.|
After the hike we got back onto a hard road (asphalt) and drove toward an area called Blair Valley. Along the way we stopped and checked out the Tamarisk Grove CG, one of the handful of developed campgrounds in Anza Borrego. Met the camphost, Becky, and had a very nice long conversation with her. She filled us in on some Park secrets and lesser known facts. By the time we left we felt we had a new friend.
A few nights ago I said something about our camp for that night being the most secluded we’ve ever had. This one beats that one, hands down. We were miles from anyone and anywhere, and we slept well.
January 24, Anza Borrego - somewhere on a ridge above Blair Valley.
Our battery issue is still looming. We’re just not driving enough the past couple days to bring the battery up to anything close to a full charge. Clearly, a solution is going to be found so we can stay out, unplugged, for extended periods. Even during the summer, with more hours from a sun that’s higher in the sky, we’ll still have cloudy days and we’ll still want to camp in forested areas. Thinking strongly about a small generator.
From the Morteros, it was a short jaunt over to the trailhead for Ghost Mountain. In the 1930s, Marshal South and his wife Tanya, desiring a simple life and wanting to live off the land, built a homestead atop Ghost Mountain. Marshal, a tad on the eccentric side, cut a trail up the side of the mountain and then lugged most of their supplies and building materials the 1 to 1.5 miles up the hill. It had to be a rough life.
Their place on the mountain, which they called Yaquitepec, was left to the elements and is in ruins today. A few partial walls are standing, a metal bedframe, the concrete water system, some other things. It won’t be long and it’ll all be gone.
We had a snack and a small bottle of wine; toasted old Marshal and Tanya with hopes that the memory of them will linger a while longer. It was an entertaining and rewarding hike up the hill.
So, we headed back to “civilization”, thinking we might stop and camp at Becky’s Tamarisk Grove CG, if they had electric power at the sites… so we could give our battery a good soaking charge. Alas, no power at sites in Tamarisk, so we drove up to Borego Springs and the Park’s Borrego Palm Canyon CG. Unfortunately, their full hookup sites were fully occupied, so we reluctantly took a regular site. Battery won’t be happy, but I will be with a good hot shower.
January 25, Anza Borrego - Borrego Palm Canyon Campground
Broke camp and headed for home… back to North Ranch near Congress. Appears the weather is coming into an unsettled spell, cloudier and rainy the next few days. On the drive back we took Box Canyon Road which is a scenic shortcut between I-10 (at the southern entrance to Joshua Tree NP) and the northern end of the Salton Sea. A very pleasant drive. We also stopped at the General George Patton Museum just off I-10 at MP173 to check out how old George’s reputation is holding up. It’s safe to say his reputation is in better shape than the rusting collection of old war machinery parked around the museum. An OK stop.
Arrived back at the bushouse at sundown and toasted a very successful and enjoyable trip with the camper.
|Atop Ghost Mountain|