Sunday, March 2 , 2003
by John Page
It was still dark, early Sunday morning, when the rain started banging on the corrugated metal roof of the tool shed I had confiscated for the weekend, waking me up with a jolt. Great, I thought, now we’re going to have sticky mud on the flats and slimy mud on the hills. Besides, on Saturday, someone had gotten stuck in mud in Arroyo Seco del Diablo, even before this heavier rain. To make it worse, once we take the Diablo Dropoff we can’t turn around and come back, so we have to run the Fish Creek drainage, no matter how mucky it gets. Maybe I should cancel the trip?
A few hours later, the sun and a light breeze were drying out the Anza-Borrego desert and I was feeling a bit more confident. Six vehicles joined me in what I hoped would be an interesting run from Ocotillo to S22 at the western boundary of the Park. These brave souls included Betty Wallin and Don Sweinhart, Robb Anderson, Ana Romero, Allan and Ding Wicker, Gordon Lohan, and my buddy from a couple of Baja trips, Dick Taylor.
We were rolling a few minutes after 9 AM; the leader had forgotten to top off his gas tank after the Saturday run. After airing down at the Carrizo Overlook and enjoying the spectacular view of the Badlands on this fresh, clear day, we ran Cañon Sin Nombre, crossed Carrizo Creek and made our way up Arroyo Seco del Diablo, past a couple of muddy spots, and across the mesa to the infamous Diablo Dropoff.
With the moist sand, the Dropoff was a lead-pipe cinch! Everyone ran the moguls at the top of the first, long, sandy slope like they weren’t even there.
The second dropoff has changed character in the last couple of years; it no longer has an intimidating sharp drop over a large rock. Instead, it is now a sandstone hump with a couple of ruts containing some loose rocks to raise the belly of your vehicle. The initial pitch is not nearly as abrupt as before. Piece of cake!
On the other hand, what used to be a gentle runout into the narrow, rocky wash that takes you to the main Fish Creek channel is now mogul-rich and deserves your undivided attentionand a slow pace to keep from rockin’ and rollin’ more than is comfortable. Then the wash itself, which is a lot of fun if you don’t let the bottom or sides of your vehicle kiss the rocks, which I did, scratching the same side-panel that I boo-booed on the Miller Jeep Trail a few months ago. My error alerted the others, who took the obstacle a little more to the left and had no problems.
Is it true that chicks dig body damage?
We ran Fish Creek and had lunch near the Split Mountain anticline. Our Saturday night speaker, Diane Lindsay, had compared the anticline to the wrinkle in a rug when you push it sideways; in this case the push was caused by the top of a mountain which fell over. Well…hmmm…OK, Diane…if you say so.
Then blacktop through Ocotillo Wells and along 78 to the southern terminus of Goat Trail, which we ran, trying not to collide with, or run over, any of the munchkins on quads that had strayed from the OHV Recreational Area.
At the end of Goat Trail, I made my first mistake of the day and turned onto Buttes Canyon Road instead of the Borrego Mountain Wash Road. I had planned to run the intimidating, but very easy, Borrego Mountain Dropoff. By the time I realized my mistake, we were almost to San Felipe Wash, so I just figured that God did not want us to run the Dropoff today.
We ran up San Felipe to the obscure turnoff to the San Gregorio Monument where we stopped for a minute before continuing uphill on an unmapped, scenic climb to the Borrego Air Ranch. At one point, I thought I had made my second mistake and taken another wrong turn, sent my troops ahead, then changed my mind and recalled them (no one said a word) to follow me alongside the landing strip, through the Air Ranch, and back to the new Borrego Valley Road, which we took south to 78.
Heading west on 78, we turned up the Grapevine Canyon trail to the turnoff to the (challenging) Jasper Trail, which Robb and Ana elected to run.
As the rest of us continued up Grapevine Canyon road, I caught a piece of a conversation between Robb and Ana; Robb saying “Jeez, Ana, this is really a bitchin’ tra…..”
[This from Ana, by email, on Monday: “I really enjoyed Sunday's run. The Jasper Trail was really fun, too. Most of it was pretty easy, but there were spots that you definitely needed lockers. Also, there were quite a few pretty deep ruts, so you needed a lotof articulation. We loved it! I got high-centered once, but it was my fault-- I took a bad line. The view from the top was beautiful--- A nice 360 degree view. Could see the Salton Sea to the east.”]
Once on S22, Don and Betty turned east for the run along the Salton Sea towards Desert Hot Springs while the rest of us continued west to pick up 79 and I-15 to the LA area.
I may be prejudiced, but I thought we had a pretty darn good trip on an absolutely superb day. Sunny, cool and clear with no dust and firm sand all day long. It doesn’t get any better than that. But, most of all, a great group of friends with which to share the experience!