Sunday, March 31, 2013

Borrego Springs week 2

March 31, 2013:

Sunday was a ride from Borrego Springs to Montezuma Junction on Highway S-22, it is a long steep grade to Crawford Overlook with great views of the Borrego Valley far below.  It is a different world on the other side of the mountain with green grass and trees, the desert is gone !  We turned around at Montezuma Junction then made a pit stop at the interesting Ranchita Store, with its Abominal Snowman. We then found our way down a dirt road for the Culp Valley Campground, parked and hiked about a mile to the Pena Spring.  This spring actually had water in it and was surrounded by lush green vegetation. This is a spring that was used by the Indians and early settlers.  We saw many beautiful wild flowers there and lots more hiking possibilities.  The ride back down the mountain was a thrill ride with these insane bikers passing us at 100 MPH and others coming right at us on the center line at high speed with the bike leaned over like they were on a motocross race course.  

Monday morning was a laundry trip into Borrego Springs followed by a hiking adventure to the Truckhaven Rocks close to our campsite.  We parked at a pull off along the highway and hiked into a wash that progressively became more interesting. The wash became very narrow in places, actually a slot canyon with sculpted hard sandstone walls probably 30 feet tall.  Lots of crazy geology going on in this place !  More short hikes on Tuesday and Wednesday to Surprise Canyon and to Smoke Tree Wash.  The washes are amazing, side canyons all over, so much erosion, it really gives you a respect for the powers of nature.

The wind here left for three days, but now on Tuesday and Wednesday, it's back !  Funny, we are sort of used to it now, it's part of the wild desert experience.  Marshall South said it best in his December 1941 article for Desert Magazine; Like a primitive woman,blending fierce love and savage fury.  There lies the fascination with the desert. Do you seek for something calm and ordered, methodical, dependable and listlessly "dead" ?  Then turn your search elsewhere; you will not find it here.  

We returned to Hellhole Canyon Trail on Thursday to do the entire hike, as previously we had only gone part way.  So glad we did, it was really special, the trail leads from the hot, dry desert into a rock filled canyon with a small trickle of water and huge Palm trees, then after a challenging scramble through a maze of boulders you end up at a pool of water surrounded by fern covered rock walls fed by a small waterfall dropping straight down from above.  Afterwards it was a stop at Carlee's Bar for a couple of ice cold beers.  

Friday after a stop at the Borrego Springs Farmers Market we headed for the town of Julian, California.  The ride on 78 west is really a thrill ride up a sharp twisty steep road to about 4,000 ft elevation. The scenery changes dramatically enroute from dry low desert to high desert to lush green mountain meadow.  The town of Julian was well beyond our expectations !  It is a tastefully restored old western town brimming with interesting history, restaurants, bars, shops, hotels and many bed & Breakfast places.  It is also a huge Apple growing center and all over town Apple Pie was flowing.  We stopped at "Mom's Pies, etc. on Main Street, it was packed with people buying Pie's for Easter by the hundreds, maybe thousands, and eating slices of Pie too.  Of course I had a hankering for a slice, it smelled so good, I got the apple cherry crump pie, it was really yummy ! Twinkles took a bite and gave it a big thumbs up and we all know she is a bit of a health food organic snob ! 

Saturday was a bouncy bone jarring drive up Coyote Canyon road (rough sand and rock) to Desert Gardens where I parked it.  The dually is useless in this terrain it just sinks and has lousy traction.  We then hiked from there  to the second crossing, which is the second place where Coyote Creek crosses the road.  Lots of people driving all kinds of vehicles on this road, (some shouldn't be there) which is best suited for 4 wheel drive jeeps.  Coyote Creek was flowing nicely at the crossing but not very deep, no one was having trouble crossing it.  It's always special to see free flowing water in the desert, that isn't in an irrigation ditch.  This was also the route that the Anza expedition took on their way to settle in San Francisco.  This was our turn around point, on the way back along the Creek, I found a rock dam with a small pond to soak my feet in, it felt real nice.  We also found a "mortero" which is a dished out area in a rock that the Indians used to grind seeds, they are common in this area.  The sun was getting very hot on the trip back and we were very appreciative for the AC in the truck.  We even stopped for an ice cream on the way back to Borrego Springs.

Another interesting thing; On our way out Rockhouse Road this morning the road was blocked by Park Ranger vehicles with lights flashing.  They had a guy with a pickup truck pulled over.  We were stuck there as they pulled an arsenal of guns out of this guys truck and confiscated them.  They then all got in their vehicles and headed back down the road with him to most likely search his RV. 

I'm struggling with income tax preparation this week and it's ugly, we may have to boondock full time ! 

The next stop is Joshua Tree National Park on Monday, but unsure what we will find there, the Park campground is pretty full with all the "Spring Breakers".  We think we will go to the Park overflow area just outside of the park on BLM land initially.  

Happy Easter to all, watch for the next installment.

Twinkles and Slick

Parked out in the great wide open

Famous Serpent sculpture in Borrego Springs

Orange trees at Borrego Springs

Beautiful Yucca in full bloom

The Ranchita Store

We go into the narrow  Truckhaven Rocks Wash 

Ocotillo against the mountain

Truckhaven Rocks  view

Smoke Tree Wash view

Cholla cactus blooms

Beavertail Cactus blooming along Hellhole Trail

Butterfly along Hellhole Trail

View from the pass outside Banner, CA

Hedgehog Cactus in bloom

Downtown Julian, California, Apple Pie on every corner

Interesting historical facts

Palm trees in Hellhole Canyon

View from Hellhole Canyon Trail

The waterfall at the end of the Hellhole Canyon Trail

Ansel Adams looking scene behind our camp site

Coyote Creek Road at 2nd Crossing

Nice place to soak your tired feet near 2nd crossing

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Borrego Springs, California

March 24, 2013:

We bid our farewell to Agua Caliente Park and continued down California S2 through very pretty scenery to Rt 78 East then onto California S3.  California S3 goes over Yaqui Pass which was a very steep and sharp curvy climb that was thrilling to drive.  We arrived at Borrego Springs around noon and found our way to Rockhouse Road and picked out a spot to boondock.  We have a spectacular view of the Santa Rosa Mountains ahead, the Coyote Mountains on the left and in the distance the Clark Dry Lake Bed. The geology here is incredible, the mountains are still rising, the valley is dropping, but the erosion of the mountains washing into the valley maintains the same level in the valley.  The Santa Rosa Mountains have amazing colors, shapes and shadows, they almost don't look real. Anza-Borrego State Park

We then explored downtown Borrego Springs, a nice small downtown with a few good stores and restaurants, appears to be a pretty upscale senior community.  There is nothing very photogenic about it except for the surrounding mountains and the palm trees.  No old buildings, no murals, no graffiti, no dive bars, no train tracks, not a lot of character.  It was a burning hot day on Friday, 94 degrees, seems to be a heat wave in the area, about 10-15 degrees higher than normal and we are feeling it.  As a result, we took hiking out of our weekend plan, instead we went to the art show in downtown Borrego Springs on Saturday and took a ride to the Salton Sea area on Sunday.  

The Salton Sea looks beautiful from a distance but up close and personal it is a nasty, smelly, dumpy place. We took the road sign for the beach expecting something nice and scenic.  What we found was a deserted smelly beach with rotting fish, foul looking water, lots of deserted buildings, lots of trash, it was very sad.  The Salton City area in general looks like a real estate scheme gone totally bad !  We did have an enlightening experience in this poor trashy depressing area.  I stopped to take a photo at a deserted building next to a poor looking trailer park and these four cute happy young kids ran up to us wishing us a happy St. Patricks day and giving us a handful of real shamrocks they had picked, they were the highlight of our day.

We have serious wind issues at this camp site, every night, shortly after dark, the wind starts, then intensifies throughout the night to near hurricane force.  On the first night, the kitchen area slide was rocking so we retracted the bedroom and kitchen slides, but still the roof vents were flapping, the RV was rocking, all sorts of wind noises and rattles.  We initially thought that it was a weather front coming through, no big deal, but it seems to be the norm here, almost every night.  

The Anza-Borrego Park is huge and has incredible terrain, lots of excellent hiking, camping and jeep roads.  On Monday morning we took a beautiful hike on the Alcoholic Pass Trail, it was a steep strenuous climb to the Pass, then a gentle downhill to a large wash.  They say the trail name comes from this being a shortcut to the bar in town, or something like that. I can't imagine needing a drink that badly.  The views from the Pass, the mountains, the rocks, the spring flowers and the cactus flowers were well worth the hike. Also the ride to the trailhead was special going through the Orange and grapefruit groves. 

Back to the monsoon wind situation, we repositioned the rig to turn it to face into the NW wind, it was much better, not so much rocking, but still lots of wind noise.  It's now 5 AM Tuesday morning, the wind is howling and and I feel like I'm on a small wooden boat out on the ocean in a storm. The wind didn't really stop until noon time, we considered moving to another location, but nothing else appears that much better.  So, I added more wheel chocks, cranked up on the X-chocks again and we will stick it out here a while longer.  What an adventure !  Somehow in this process I twisted the wrong way and pulled my back out.  This happens to me about once a year, but this is not a real good time for it, so many cool hiking trails to do here, that's killing me. 

This has been a tough week so far, first the cat dying, then my back issue, then I get a call from my credit card fraud prevention service about suspicious charges (which I confirmed were not my charges) and now the credit card is closed out and they are sending me a new one. Twinkles amazingly has the same issue with her credit card. It's a good thing we have backup cards. 

Friday AM, the wind was particularly strong all night until 4 AM or so, now it's calm and a beautiful day.  I now understand why this area of the desert is mostly only Creosote bushes and low growing grasses, other plants like cactus can not survive in this wind.  That's also why no one lives here, it seems to be a no-mans land, it's not BLM land, Borrego State Park land or privately owned.  In spite of my back pain, we went for an easy two mile hike to a place called Yaqui Well.  It was beautiful trail with many small wildflowers in bloom (still tying to figure out the names) and we saw hundreds of blooming Pincushion cactus for the first time.  It is an actual low lying spot where there is water and this is a real Indian trail that was used by the natives for centuries.  It feels special to be walking in their very footsteps. 

On Saturday a 3-4 mile hike on the Hellhole Canyon trail just outside of the Anza-Borrego visitors Center, another great popular hiking trail.  We saw our first Hedgehog cactus in bloom and there were huge towering Ocotillo plants and some Agaves with huge bayonets already shooting upward 4-5 feet high. The Barrel and Cholla cactus are just starting to bloom also. The next week is going to get exciting on the trail. I hope my back can take it, also my lungs ?  Lots of dust in the air even though the wind stopped, the mountain views were all hazy.  Saturday night was a treat, we went downtown for dinner at Carlee's Bar & Grill, then back to the camp and for the first time all week, all night and no wind !

Anza-Borrego week two starting, stay tuned for more action.

Twinkles and Slick

Peg Leg Smith Momument

View of the Clark Dry Lake 

The cute kids with their Irish shamrocks

Ajo Lilly in bloom

The Salton Sea

Ocotilla's in bloom from Alcoholic Pass Trail

View from Alcoholic Pass Trail

Beautiful Beavertail Prickley Pear Cactus

The Borrego valley from the Alcoholic Pass Trail

Barrel Cactus in bloom

View of the Santa Rosa Mountains from our RV

Agave plants sending up new bayonets

Cholla Cactus in bloom

Another Beavertail in bloom

Impressive Hedgehog Cactus

Pin Cushion Cactus in bloom

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Yuma Lettuce Days

March 16, 2013:

Yuma "Lettuce Days Festival" was very interesting, Yuma County is the top winter lettuce growing area in the country, remember that for the next trivia pursuit game.  Of course, there are probably those who would dispute that.  Anyhow, lots of good local produce, I loved the chicken salad lettuce wraps.  We watched a celebrity chef cooking demonstration by Ben Ford of Ford's filling Station, son of actor Harrison Ford. It was a very well sponsored event and a well done event.

I ended the afternoon with a ramble just off of Ogilby road near our campsite where I found several Beavertail Prickley Pear Cactus's in bloom.  They have spectacular large pinkish red flowers, see the photo.  Lots of things are starting to flower, it appears to be a very good flower year due to the good winter and early spring rainfall.

We have now boondocked for 30 straight days.  We have learned a few things so far:
1.  We hate the generator (although it works great)
2.  The RV's Convertor battery charger is either faulty or not adequate as my batteries have to be about stone dead for it to put out more than a float charge of 13.1 volts into the batteries, consequently the batteries never get fully charged
3.  We can do this boondocking thing without immense pain and suffering.
4.  It's really great for the budget and allows us to splurge in other ways
5.  In some sort of sick, demented way, it just feels good to get by with less

But now it's time for a short spring break :

Tuesday morning we left for the 120 mile trek to Aqua Caliente County Park in California.  We checked into a full hookup site for three days to get well cleaned out (holding tanks) and fully recharged (our Batteries).  

Aqua Caliente is more like a Spa than a County Park.  It has three natural hot spring heated pools and is in a beautiful postcard setting.  We are in spot 103 which backs right up overlooking a green wetland area that is teeming with birds, quail, rabbits and other assorted wildlife.  Wednesday morning we took a 2 1/2 mile hike on the Moonlight Canyon Trail.  It was one of the best all around hikes we have done, with a rocky uphill section, followed by a downhill trek into a canyon, then into a wet swampy area, then back into a flat desert and hot sun.  We then tried the pools, all are fed by natural hot mineral springs, one indoor pool is supplemented by heating to 102 degrees with water jets, another outside pool is around 75 degrees and the third is the natural spring temperature of 90 degrees.  We repeated this same exercise on Thursday.  The only negative here is no cell service or internet, but you can drive 5 miles north to the next county park, Vallecito Stage Station County Park, which has service.  This was an original Butterfield Overland Stage Coach stop, with the old adobe station stop building recreated back in the 1930's by the WPA.  There is an event there this weekend to celebrate the Overland Stage Coach route and it's history.

We learned about a man, Marshal South, who lived a few miles away in Blair Valley with his wife and started a family.  He built a house in the desert in 1930 and practiced living a natural and primitive lifestyle there until 1947.  Divorse ended it all, imagine that !  He also wrote monthly articles, essays and poems for "Desert Magazine" during this period and developed quite a following and much publicity.  

In spite of all the beauty here our stay was stressful as our beloved cat of the past 18 years, Marley, was slowly dying. This blog was almost named "Travels with Marley".  On Wednesday evening I had to bury him up on a beautiful hill top along the Moonlight Canyon Trail. He was an exceptional cat and it was a sad, sad day. 

On Friday we are back on the trail for Borrego Springs, California, stay tuned.

Twinkles and Slick

Fruit carving demo at Lettuce Days

Twinkles was amazed

Train cars at Lettuce Days next to All American Canal

Beavertail Prickley Pear Cactus bloom

Dole truck at Lettuce Days

McCormack-Derring Tractor at Lettuce Days

Ocotilla in bloom

Fairy Duster in bloom

Open mine on my hike off Ogilby Road

Our site at Agua Caliente County Park

Windmills at Ocotilla, California

The Butterfield Overland Stage Line building

Having my morning coffee

View from the Moonlight Canyon Trail

Chupa Rosa in bloom

View from the Moonlight Canyon Trail

Another view from the Moonlight Canyon Trail

Marley's final resting spot