Borrego Springs (II)

February 11th, 2019

We drove to the trailhead for the Calcite Mine Trail which is back towards the Salton Sea along S22. There is a parking area on either side of the road where the trail starts. It is actually a 4×4 trail but requires a lifted vehicle for clearance on the rocks and large ruts along the way. The hike was about 4.5 miles out and back. We followed the 4×4 trail on the way out to the mine site. According to a plaque the optical-quality calcite was mined during WW2 for use in bomb sights. At the mine site small pieces are every where. There is a lookout point off to the south east off the mine site and there you can see veins of calcite in the rocks.

From the lookout point you can see out to the Salton Sea and south towards Brawley.

On the way back down there is a point at which the trail crosses the bottom of a slot canyon. At this point we turned and followed the bottom of the canyon back down.

On the way back from the Calcite Mine trail we stopped a couple of times along the road to take pictures of the many wild flowers that were in bloom. We also drove into the Arroyo Salado Campground and walked around looking at the flowers.

There were many varieties to be seen including:

Dune Evening Primrose

Sand Verbena

Desert Lily

Desert Sunflower

Desert Lupine

Desert Chicory

Brown Eyed Evening Primrose and a Purple Something or Other

The Ocotillo were very green and many had flowers on them.

This website maintains up to date information about the current flower conditions in the Borrego Springs and Anza Borrego Desert State Park area. There are maps and pictures for thos looking to head out flower hunting.


Borrego Springs (I)

February 10th, 2019

We arrived in Borrego Springs just after sunset on the 6th after the drive from San Felipe and stopping in El Centro to restock with the essentials (beer, wine, food and diesel).

The next day Jane and I went for a hike down to the Clark Dry Lake Bed following Rockhouse Trail Rd. It was about 6 miles down and back with our off path wandering around. There is an odd encampment off to the west side of the road and we walked across to check it out. Not sure what it’s purpose is. There are beds, camo netting, sea-can containers, kids toys and more all arranged and sectioned off with straw bales. Further down towards the lake bed there are a couple of concrete slabs and the end of a short roadway that look like a camp spot.

On the 8th we drove back down towards the lake bed. Jane spotted a coyote crossing the road out in front of us a ways and when we got to that point we could see it out in the brush. I switched lenses on the 7D and got a number of shots. This one shows it looking back in our direction.

We then drove on and followed the road out the north west side of the lake bed. The road is quite rocky in parts so it’s slow going and we stopped when we got to where the private road cuts off. I had forgot to bring the drone down with us… next time.

On the way back up we stopped at the old gravel pit area. I wanted to see if we could find the trail that runs up to Coyote Peak. We walked up to the top of the pit and then Jane waited while I hiked up the mountain ridge a bit. I found a faint trail there that follows the ridge line to the peak. According to AllTrails the actual trail is a 5.4mile out and back trip with 2618ft of elevation gain. At some point I’d like to do it and Jane says she’ll watch from the bottom.

The following afternoon while Jane was working on her crocheting I hiked from the trailer to a point northwest of the snake rocks. You can see the snake rock sculpture in the larger picture below. There are also a number of smaller rock sculptures in the same area. I was looking to see how far to the north I could get from this area but there is a large cut that I would have to climb down into and back out so I just looped back around and down.


On February 10th we drove into town with a few side trips on the way. We stopped at the Seeley Ranches fruit stand and picked up a bag each of fresh grapefruits and tangelos. Jane really enjoyed what I made from the fresh squeezed juice of the grapefruits. Greyhounds!

We drove out into Coyote Canyon. Last year we stopped at the creek crossing. This year the prior rains had rearranged things and the road was in a different place when we got to the creek. It was quite easy to drive up past the creek to the top end of the road. Much easier offroading with the Chev 3500HD than it was when we had the Ford F350 Dually which ended up with bushes scraping the rear fenders.

With the rain that has fallen in the area this winter there were a lot of flowers blooming. These are Desert Agave and Dune Evening Primrose.

We continued on into town and stopped briefly at a couple of the metal sculptures that are part of Galetta Meadows. We’ve stopped a number of times here in past years. Jane made friends with what looked to be a havelina family.

There is a beautiful new library in town now. The complex includes a new police station, gardens and community park. The building is clad in unfinished steel that is assuming a natural patina. The library has free WiFi that even works out in the parking lot and the librarian said that people will park out there in the evenings to use it. The picture from the front is from a few days later which is why there are no clouds.


San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico (wrapup)

February 6th, 2019

Early each morning Jane met a group on the beach to meditate to the sounds of the waves washing onto the Gulf shore.  It is something she has kept up each morning even after leaving Mexico.

One morning (the 4th) a small group of us got up at sunrise and walked to the north end of town where there is a mountain to climb.

The peak is in the distance of the 2nd & 3rd photos. There are a whole bunch of RV parks on the north side of San Felipe. Many of them are are no longer being used. Some of them have elevated decks beside where the RV parks. It looks like they were all built before RV’s had slides though as not many current rigs would fit into the sites.

It seems that our leader was unsure of the correct path to get to the base of the mountain and the trail up. We first ended up walking into a gated personal residence from the beach side. The grounds workers let us continue out the other side (past a really nice pool!) and back down onto the beach. We next went past a military building where we were told we would have to loop back as the path forward was blocked by a tall fence. At least that’s what I think we were told. Yo no hablo español. The fellow explaining this had a large quantity of ammo clips stuffed into his vest so best do what he says.

After a couple more misdirects and retraces we found the base of the mountain where the trail starts. Not exactly a hiking trail. More of a climbing/scramble trail. It is used by the military to get supplies to the outpost on the top of the 2nd peak. They supposedly watch for dolphin poaching from up there….. maybe. After we had gone about 50ft up, Jane and a couple of other girls decided it was more climbing than hiking and they went back down to walk around to the other side of the mountain while the rest of us continued upwards.


I stopped at the first peak while a couple of others went to the top peak. On the way back down I figured just going straight down the face of the mountain wouldn’t be that hard. Most of it was large boulders with some smaller scree spots. The first picture below is about halfway down. Mark followed me down and we both made it to the bottom with a minor scrape or two and nothing broken. That makes it a good hike in my books!


One evening, a couple of days before the end of the trip, we all headed into town for dinner and drinks at La Vaquita restaurant. At the center of town there were a group of locals moving down the beach with metal detectors. I went down to talk to them and the lead guy was the only one who spoke any English. He said they come out after the tide has been high and there have been good waves to look for coins and other stuff along the ledge created by the waves. They moved pretty fast and he showed me a whole pocket full of coins.As I walked back up past where they’d been digging I picked up a 50 centavo piece they’d turned up but missed. Score! A whole 3 cents US!

We all piled around the San Felipe sign for a group photo. I couldn’t find the picture anywhere so this is a capture from a time lapse video shot by Wobly.


We stopped at a bar along the way to the restaurant where we all got free margaritas. This had been arranged by JP (Xscapers lead) and it wasn’t the first time he’d arranged for us to get freebies in town. The meal at La Vaquita was very good. The margaritas were free and also very good. I don’t do food pictures but the Rollo Vaquita looked good and tasted great.

Spotted this truck on the street. Looks like it was moving day for these folks.

The water wasn’t very warm during our stay. Okay, it was rather chilly but no way I’m going to a beach area and not going swimming.

We were out in town for food and/or drinks a number of nights. One of the bars is Al’s Backstreet Cantina. It looked to be the spot for the expats as every one in there was American or Canadian whenever we went by. The bar has bra’s and underwear hanging from the ceiling that has been left by patrons. None of our group contributed.

We left San Felipe on February 6th heading back to Mexicali and the crossing back into the US. Some people either remained behind in San Felipe or planned to travel elsewhere in Baja. There was about 40 rigs in the caravan back to the US.

Some large auto recycling yards on the way into town.

This wrecked Boeing 727 was from a controlled crash done in Mexicali on April 27, 2012. It was fitted with crash test dummies, cameras and instruments to determine crash survivability. It was also filmed for television.

When we got into Mexicali we again had the police blocking intersections so that we didn’t have to stop until the border.

At the border there were two lanes reserved for us to clear through. We ended up in the left lane and the turn into the booth was very tight with steel pylons protecting the scanners. The fifth wheel in front of us made the turn with an inch to spare. I went as wide as I could going through and cleared without hitting anything. The couple behind us weren’t as lucky. We heard later that they caught the back corner of their trailer and tore the awning loose and a rear stabilizer jack. Not a good way to end a great trip.

Next stop Borrego Springs a couple of weeks.

San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico (III)

January 31st, 2019


A large group of us left the resort and headed south to Valle de los Gigantos (Valley of the Giants) where there are many very large cardon cactuses (cacti? seems both are correct). These things are huuuuge! They can grow to 60ft or more and live for hundreds of years. Smaller organ pipe cactuses are also in the valley.

There were a variety of wildflowers in bloom there as well. These included Dune Evening Primrose and Sand Verbena.

Dinner was at Smokin’ Jo’s BBQ. We had stopped by on the way back from the cactuses to talk to the owner. He’s from Indiana and spends the winters here running the restaurant and cooking BBQ on his large smoker. We asked him about the many unfinished hotels, resorts and other buildings. He told us that many of them had failed during the recession of ’07-’08 and had never been restarted or recovered.


The restaurant has a small sitdown area and we brought our beer as he doesn’t sell alcohol. The pulled pork and the brisket were  both awesome. I was back there again on Superbowl Sunday just before they closed to grab some more BBQ to use on a large plate of nachos.


San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico (II)

January 29th, 2019


After a few days at the RV park we had walked down to the main beachfront area of town a few times. We also made a trip to Calimex to stock up on groceries, beer and tequila. Food is comparable to prices in California, alcohol is a lot cheaper. You can’t survive on beer alone though (maybe beer and tacos would work).

Jane’s birthday is on the 29th so we had dinner at the resort where the owners wife does the cooking. Bill and Sue joined us for a great seafood dinner with margaritas. They brought out a muffin with candles for Jane at the end. The guy in the background of the picture is the tourism representative for San Felipe who we were chatting with after dinner. It was cool in the evening but only the locals need toques and winter vests at this time of year. Canadians are out swimming instead.




San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico

January 28th,

The Xscapers arranged a 10-day convergence in San Felipe and we signed up to go. We had wanted to try Mexico with the RV and this allowed us to go the first time as part of an organized group.

There were 54 rigs headed down and on the Sunday night we all staged at Imperial Valley Mall in El Centro so that we could be ready to go first thing Monday morning. Prior to this we had already done the FMM and vehicle insurance paperwork needed to enter and drive in Mexico.


Monday morning, January 28th, we all lined up to head to the border as a single group. Each RV had been assigned a number that would be our position in line so that when we arrived at the RV park in San Felipe the parking of rigs would be easier. The trip had initially sold out in 10 hours of being announced back in late summer so we had waitlisted for a dry camping spot and got in that way.

The border crossing went well. The first 10 RV’s were inspected and checked and after that pretty much all of us were waved through after having the FMM visitor paperwork stamped. The mayor of Mexicali was there to welcome us to Mexico as well as the media. We grouped up after crossing by parking beside “The Wall” (a lovely steel thing 🙂 ) and waited for the police. There was a police escort all the way through Mexicali and we didn’t have to stop at any traffic lights as they blocked all the intersections.


Mexicali is nothing fancy and there were many run down buildings and houses that were pretty rough looking. This was mixed in with nice brand new construction of offices, retail and commercial buildings.


Once outside of the city we had about 2.5hrs drive to San Felipe. There was a military checkpoint about 30miles out of our destination but they waved us through after checking the first few rigs.


Upon arriving in San Felipe we were again met by the local police and politicians and escorted through town to the RV park on the gulf.


After getting lined up on the road we then were moved into the dry camping or full hookups sections. A half an hour later and we were hanging out on the beach and relaxing 🙂

American Girl Mine

January 27th, 2019

We left Imperial Dam and headed over to American Girl Mine Road on January 22nd. It was very windy during the drive. Driving through Yuma on I-8 it was a crosswind that pushed us around pretty good. We setup off the south side of the road and positioned to get the best solar charging. Bill & Sue were with us at Imperial Dam and stayed behind when we left there. A couple of days later they messaged and said they’d come over to AGM as the cell service was non-existant where they were.


Jane and I hiked from the trailer to Vitrefax Hill. The round trip was about 6.5 miles round trip. There’s a mine shaft up and to the left of the old ore chute structure but I din’t venture into it past the opening. I climbed to the top of the hill to check out what the excavation near the top was mining. After climbing straight up the side I found that there was a rough roadway that was on the other side. I used that on the way down but the climb up was more fun. The cut near the top had exposed some white rock that was easy to break up by hand but I don’t know what it is. I looked for some Kyanite which is supposed to be in the area. I did find some rocks with bits of blue in them but not sure if that’s it. You can see the huge mine tailings pile in one of the pictures. There is an open pit mine on the other side of it.

Here’s a panoramic picture taken at the top of Vitrefax Hill.


The next day we did a bike ride up towards the Cargo Muchacho mountains. There’s a processing plant up near the end of the road. Not sure what it’s producing but it wasn’t busy and nobody was around although there was something running. I rode up to where I could see the end of the road and then we looped back around to another mine. There are a few large open pits in the area. This ride was just over 10 miles by the time we were back to the trailer. The open desert is great to ride through as it’s flat and you can ride straight through the small washes on a mountain bike.

The old Tumco town and mine site is north of where we were staying so we went for a drive up Ogilby Road and then into the parking area for the site. It’s a walking tour and there are a few numbered metal stakes at various places but there were no information plaques as to what was what and I couldn’t find anything on the Internet. There is a large plaque at the start and a couple within the town site that have pictures of the town as it was during its heyday.

There are various foundations scattered around the site. Some are reduced to holes in the ground or scattered piles of stones. A few still have a portion of a wall or foundation in place. The two wall sections were part of a hospital.

The ocotillo are quite green with the recents rains and some of them have flowers.

There were lots of spots with discarded tin cans from where the townspeople dumped their trash. It wouldn’t be the SW desert if there wasn’t a piece of steel with bullet holes in it.

We hiked out of the townsite to the north and up into a mountain where the was a large vertical mine shaft. It was secured with a large steel covering to prevent people from falling in. A stone dropped through the covering fell quite a distance before it hit anything. I was too busy dropping stones to remember to take a picture of it. A smaller horizontal shaft below it was also blocked off.

The large steel tanks were used to hold cyanide for processing the gold bearing ore. Now they are full of sand and slowly rusting away.

There is a small cemetery within the town site.

Just outside of the Tumco townsite is the Hedges Cemetery. Some of the graves looked to be children judging by the size of the stone pile.

Bill and Sue came over to American Girl Mine from Imperial Dam for the last few days we were there and I drove us back into the mountains to a large open pit mine and associated tailings pile. There was water in the bottom but no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t throw a stone far enough to hit it. We went as far as we could before the roadway got too rough for a 1ton diesel pickup. 🙂

Bill had brought so firewood with him so we had enough to have a fire one evening. Sue had the color chemicals to shake in so at one point it was also a colorful fire.

…and the stay at AGM ends with another sunset.