A Week in Anza-Borrego; April 4 -10 2002
Led by John Page and Paul Ferry
Reported by John Page
You’d think that one would run out of places to see and trails to run in the Anza-Borrego area in a week, but we still didn’t do it all!
Paul Ferry and I arrived at Culp Valley on Thursday afternoon. Gordon Lohan was there, as was a note from Warren Alksnis telling us he’d meet us the next morning at the Visitor Center. After marking the campsite with pie plates and pink ribbon in case the Martins got their truck repaired and were able to join us, we took a run down Grapevine Canyon. It was a little windy that night, an omen of future weather.
Next morning, Friday, we found Bob Day and Sally Kinsey in Borrego Springs and Warren at the Visitor Center.
We took a (mostly) off-highway approach to Vista del Malpais, where we spent a few minutes enjoying the view of the badlands. Then, over the ridge to San Felipe Wash where we checked out the Monument for the San Gregorio campsite of the Anza Expedition. Then up the unnamed “ridge run” to the Air Park and on to Banner by blacktop. We had lunch in a lovely grove by a stream in Chariot Canyon and worked our way down Oriflamme Canyon to the stream and morteros at the remains of the CCC camp at the mouth of the Canyon. We worked our way south to South Carrizo Wash, where we found Ron and Linda Lewis waiting for us near Bow Willow Campground. Up the wash a couple miles to a lovely, but slightly windy campsite. It just blew a little on Friday night.
Saturday we went to the Dos Cabesas area, first by attempting a run up Jojoba Wash, but got turned back by a steep, gnarly little dropoff that we decided not to attempt. We looped back and around by Mortero Wash, past the railroad siding with its picturesque water tower, to the parking place for the hike to Indian Hill. It was a warm, somewhat windy day, making the hike to the pictographs on Indian Hill quite pleasant. Ron led us to Ocotillo by way of some back roads. Bob and Sally had to leave us after lunch at the new Mexican Café. After topping off our gas tanks we headed north, back to the Pegleg Smith Monument where the annual Liar’s Contest was to be held in a few hours. We were told that the event was not going to be called off or postponed, no matter how hard the wind was blowing; it was beginning to blow pretty hard!. So we went back to Inspiration Wash to look for a less windy “safe haven” in which to camp that night. We finally found a little cove in the wash which seemed to be reasonably calm in spite of the strong wind. We made a GPS waypoint to use later in the dark, when we would return to camp.
The Liars’ Contest was fun, and worth the admission price (free) in spite of the wind and an erratic PA system. We were able to pull our vehicles close enough to the stage to hear pretty well without having to sit in the cold. Except for Warren who wanted to get up close.
We will long remember Saturday night as the “night of pixie dust.” The calm area in which we camped acted as a settling basin for the fine, particulate mica flakes that were borne in the sandstorm a few feet over our heads. In the morning, Paul and I, who had slept on cots, found our sleeping bags covered with a thick layer of sparkly little dust particles. Ron and Linda had the overhead vent on their tent open and they found an outline of the opening marked by dust inside their tent.
Sunday, we went back through Ocotillo to I-8 and up the hill to In-Ko-Pah off-ramp and into the hills in search of Smuggler’s Cave and the Rider’s Cabin. The Smuggler’s Cave area is now in a Wilderness Area. I hiked down a steep trail to find it and came back to the cars by a milder hike. When I tried to lead the rest of the group to the Cave by hiking the “short cut”, I took the wrong route so that all we saw during an hour’s strenuous walking was evidence that we were on a modern emigrant trail well-marked by empty gallon water jugs. I never did get them to the cave. Back in our vehicles, we did some more exploring of some of the very rough roads in that area. Ron and Linda left us as we returned to I-8. Gordon, Warren, and Paul and I returned to Carrizo Creek, where we set up camp. Some wind again that night, but the worst was over.
Monday morning we visited the Big Mud Cave in Arroyo Tapiado. Paul took a pretty serious tumble as he entered the cave; his eyes had not adjusted to the darkness and he slipped off a ledge and fell to the floor of the cave, five or six feet below. We are still wondering if he cracked a rib. After exploring the cave, we went to Agua Caliente where Gordon left us. The Agua Caliente County Park has a lovely, modern, clean, warm, swimming pool. We showered off our cave dust and took a long soak in the warm water. After lunch, we ran Arroyo Del Seco Diablo and the Diablo Dropoff into Fish Creek. We took the Dropoff carefully, but it was not very difficult; seems like the initial “pitch” is pretty gentle now, although there are big moguls which deserve attention. We camped that night in Sandstone Canyon, with no wind to speak of.
Tuesday we went down Fish Creek and did an exploratory run down part of the road alongside the tracks of the Gypsum Train. That road seemed pretty good and appears to be a viable alternative route from Plaster City/Ocotillo to the northeast section of the Park. We returned to blacktop at Ocotillo Wells and worked the northeast corner of the park and the new section of the Vehicular Recreation Area that now extends all the way to Highway 86 by the Salton Sea. We ran the Pumpkin Patch Trail, Tule Wash, the Pole Line Road, Arroyo Seco, part of the Truckhaven Trail, and the Cut Across Trail before we set up camp in beautiful Hawk Canyon in time for Happy Hour, dinner, and a good night’s sleep under the star
Wednesday morning Paul and I ran the Borrego Mountain Dropoff, and, with Warren, ran the Goat Trail to Highway 78. From there we went by blacktop to a Forest Service Road off Highway 79, a little north of Warner Springs. This road took us to the High Point fire lookout tower, from which we looked down on the Palomar Telescope Observatory structures. Then down a long, rough road to Aguanga. We passed a California Department of Forestry (CDF) crew performing a controlled burn in a very rugged area on the side of Palomar Mountain.
The trip was over when we parted company with Warren in Temecula.
All things considered, I thought it was a pretty good trip.