Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Land of the Giants, Past and Present

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

6am outside our Trailer

After spending some time in Yucca Valley catching up with friends and getting a few maintenance issues done such as brakes and wheel bearings on the trailer, brakes, tyre balancing and front end alignment on the truck. It was time to find somewhere warmer. Winter had come early and being in the high desert it was starting to get cold. Day light saving ended and it was getting dark around five. We had five days before we were due at the state park near San Diego in mid November, so we didn’t want to go too far afield. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a low desert east of San Diego and west of the Salton Sea. There is a difference of 10°F between the low and high desert, and the difference between 60° and 70° can mean that you are a bit cold or nice and warm. Low desert sounded good.

We are boondocking here in ABDSP, one of the few State Parks that allows primitive camping for free. Our neighbours are a few hundred yards away; it’s really quiet and pitch black at night. If we need a town, Borrego Springs is only 7 miles away. Our days started out in the mid 70’s with just a slight breeze, which meant we could get back into t-shirts. It was very relaxing.

Eons ago the park used to be part of the Californian Gulf, that is, under the water. Over the years the sediment from the Grand Canyon filled up this part of the sea and a desert was formed. They have found bones from numerous prehistoric animals such as mammoths, elephants and camels.

The park has 180 miles of walking tracks but we only intended to do a select few. The visitors centre’s guide gives you details of 20 walks to get you going.

Some trails are all uphill

Ghost Mountain Walk

Our first walk was to Ghost Mountain where a family called the Marshal-Souths decided to live off the land during the Great Depression. They built a home, called Yaquitepec on the top of a hill, which is not visible from down below. They raised their children there, growing vegetables and writing articles for magazines. It would have been a very hard life and after sixteen years the wife finally had enough and the family broke up. The house is now in ruins with only parts of a few walls remaining. It’s a mile up a steep rocky trail to get there, so I guess you would really plan your trips to town.

South House, there's not much left

Giant Sculptures

Borrego Springs Road has some very large freestanding sculptures made out of tin placed out in the desert; the visitor centre gave us a map as they are spread out, but mainly in two areas. There are dinosaurs, wild horses, sloths, elephants, a serpent, camels, sabretooth tigers, wild pigs, tortoises, scorpions, birds, a grasshopper, farm workers, a saguaro and a Spanish padre. It took quite a while to see them all so we spread it over two days.


Fighting Horses
The town of Julian is renowned for its pies. It wasn’t far from here so we went out there to check out what all the fuss was about. The road was very windy and narrow, so instead of taking Yaqui Pass back to camp, we went up Highway 78. The town is quite high and the temperature gauge dropped 15-20°, not t-shirt weather! We went to our first American diner, sat at the counter and Lindsay ordered for a milkshake. They didn’t understand him, so I had to translate. It turned out to be a thickshake, more ice cream than milk, but that’s okay as it’s the way I like it anyway. They asked if we wanted it in two glasses, we agreed. Good call. There is no way either of us could have drunk one each. So many shops were serving apple pies that we just had to choose one and we ordered our favourite - apple crumble. Even with cream, it was way too sweet for me, and I have a sweet tooth.

The Slot Canyon

The second walk we did was to The Slot – the slot canyons. Unlike Antelope Canyon in Arizona, you don’t need to do a tour to see these ones, but then nor are they as pretty. The canyon is very narrow in places so if there were other people there you wouldn’t be able to pass them. Most of the tourists start coming after 10am, so I was glad we came earlier and more rolled up as we were leaving. You can just imagine the force of the water, as it would rush through here during a flood.

Our last walk was to be to the palm grove in Borrego Palm Canyon but high winds on our last two days squashed that idea; we couldn’t go outside without being blown over. That’s the desert for you. We never quite got to Fonts Point for sunset either. So a few things to keep for another time.

You can download a PDF map of the park from their website and/or you can buy a paper map from the Parks office. There is no entrance fee to the park.

Related Post:

Boondocking at Rockhouse Track, Anza-Borrego Desert

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