Borrego Springs (again), Yuma (again) & Tucson

March 29th, 2019

After leaving Desert Hot Springs we headed down to Borrego Springs again. The plan is to work our way south and east to Phoenix and take Sheldon to a few of the places we know and have visited in the past.

We setup again off Rockhouse Trail but this time at the east edge with a view to the mountains.

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Sheldon and I decided we’d drive to Fonts Point as he’d never had the fun of ripping up a dry wash in a truck. Jane declined to come this time. This is the second time there this year and the fourth in total for me. The view never gets old.

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The three of us also went for a drive back into Coyote Canyon. The flowers along Henderson Canyon Rd were in full bloom and there were loads of people stopped taking pictures. When it rained on February 14th the entire wash area was flooded and now it was filled with desert flowers.

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The canyon had also changed up at the last water crossing. With the amount of water from those rains the stream bed had moved again and the initial part of the road in had been regraded and repaired.

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We drove in through town and stopped at a few of the sculptures. Sheldon was more interested in inspecting the welds and their construction than the artistry. I think Jane surprised him with this picture!

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I mentioned to Sheldon that I had climbed up partway towards Coyote Peak when we were there the last time. It’s the highest peak in the mountain group on the west side of the Clark Dry Lake Bed. The peak is at 3192ft and the base is 480ft for 2712ft of climbing. He decided that he wanted to climb it and would leave early the next morning to go. I figured I might as well go with him as I had wanted to do the climb and this might be the only time I had someone with us who also wanted to do it. After a very windy night we thought that the climb wouldn’t be possible but the winds were gone by daylight. We loaded our hydration packs and left the trailer at 7:30AM and drove down to the quarry at the base of the mountains. We thought it would be quicker and easier to climb straight up from there and intersect the trail running along the top. Quicker it was…. easier it wasn’t. We burned a lot of energy just getting to the trail and still had over 2/3 of the elevation gain to go. We did eventually make it up to the peak 2 hours after leaving the truck.

From Alltrails: “Coyote Peak from Rockhouse Truck Trail is a 5.4 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Borrego Springs, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from October until April.”

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Great views from the top. There is a survey marker there and an ammo box with a log book in it. The oldest entry I saw was 1988. In the one picture my hat is hanging on the marker stake. When we started back down I forgot my hat and didn’t realize it until we had been hiking for 20 minutes. It’s still there. If anyone goes up there please bring it back for me! LOL.

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From Borrego Springs we drove towards Yuma, AZ and boondocked off of Ogilby Rd just north of American Girl Mine Road. We made a trip into Yuma to visit the Territorial Museum. It was an interesting place to visit but it really didn’t take us very long to go through the whole place. We did try locking Jane up while there though. 🙂

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We also stopped in the old town area at Prison Hill Brewery for lunch and craft beers.

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Sheldon and I drove up American Girl Mine Rd to where the first open pit is. The equipment there now is for asphalt production. We climbed up the hill with the wooden structure on it and went into the mine shaft there. Nothing in there, it just goes in straight for maybe 35ft. We looked through all the bits of kyanite on the ground and we now have bag of it that Sheldon collected and and stashed in the trailer for us to bring home.

We left Yuma and took I-8 towards Tucson. We stayed at High Chaparral RV Park near Casa Grande. Nothing fancy for a park but they had a pool, full hookups and was halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. With Passport America it was $17.50 per night plus 3$ for the third person.

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The next day we drove down to Tucson to the Pima Air and Space Museum. Jane and I had been there before. Being a lover of anything mechanical or technical Sheldon was in heaven there. The three of us spent quite a few hours wandering through all the buildings and the outdoor aircraft displays.

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We stopped on the way back in downtown Tucson at Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House for a few of their beers and some food.

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On Friday we left the park and hauled the trailer towards Phoenix. We stopped at the Walmart south of the airport and Jane went in to ask about leaving the trailer. She was told no problems as long as it wasn’t there overnight so we unhooked and left it while we drove Sheldon up to Sky Harbor for his flight home. After dropping him off we did a bit of shopping, hooked up and headed out of town.

 

Desert Hot Springs

March 22, 2019

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Note: You can click on any of the pictures to see a larger view.

We left Borrego Springs on February 20th and headed to Sam’s Family Spa in Desert Hot Springs. We stay here each winter for a month, sometimes a bit longer. The actual dates we are here varies from year to year and I think this is the latest time we’ve been at Sam’s. The longer term section of the park was completely full so we were out in the unmetered area that is usually for shorter term stays. We paid a flat 50$ for electricity during our stay. Considering it was cooler for the most part of our stay the electricity was a good deal as we ran the fireplace and electric heater. We also use an induction cooktop when on hookups.

Bill and Sue arrived a few days after we did. They were unsure if they wanted to stay somewhere for a month but in the end they were at Sam’s as long as us. It’s a reasonably priced park with great hot mineral tubs and a heated pool. Not much else there but it’s also close to Palm Springs. I also use it as my Amazon shopping spree location for the winter.

We again stopped into the free Friday of the Palm Springs car auction which was the first weekend we were there. It’s billed as a collector car auction but in fact is a mish mash of cars of various years. Some later year cars looked like they were consigned by a dealer to unload them. There was a couple of reasonable deals on later model cars. As in past years the vehicles ranged from very nice (with high reserves) to ones that obviously had been treated to a quicky resto to make them look good from 20 feet back.

Jane and I drove up to Mission Creek Preserve one day to hike the trail there. It’s west of Desert Hot Springs off of the highway. After driving up the dirt road we arrived at the small parking lot and there was one spot left. The road crossed a large wash and you could see where the Valentines Day storm had taken out a section of it. It had been graded back in but water still flowed across it. There is a year round stream that runs down out of the preserve but the big storm looked like it had widened the stream bed and rerouted it in parts. The gate is locked with a multi-padlock system where any one of the locks can be removed to unlock the gate.

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The area was supposedly used as a spa by movie people at one time. Then again I also found reports that it was a nudist camp. Not sure what the real story is.There are four stone structures just inside the gate. Also a large pool, a fountain and a tall stone chimney.

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After hiking for two miles along a dirt roadway we arrived at the Stonehouse. There is a picnic area there and washrooms.

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Continuing past the Stonehouse the trail crosses over the stream and winds up through the valley. There was the remnants of a past brush fire and the vegetation has grown back surrounding the charred stumps and branches. After two miles the trail meets up with the Pacific Crest Trail. The PCT runs from the Mexican border up to Canada. My nephew Nick hiked the trail last year so he would have walked this part of the trail which is north of Whitewater Preserve.

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We celebrated St Patricks Day while at Sam’s. Each year Jane brings a collection of dressup items for each of the holidays that occur over the course of the winter. When she was working for the Upper Grand District School Board she was the goto person anytime someone was in need of a costume for anything, whether it be disco, the 80’s, St Patricks Day, Christmas or anything. Jane also brought the green dye from home as we had been unable to find it the first winter we were away. Bill and Sue joined in and donned hats for the picture. Not sure how it ended up being me with the green wig!

The four of us usually get together for happy hour each day and other friends from the park drop by. One day we decided that it should be all about margaritas. It then turned into a tequila tasting session. After many shots I think we determined that the Kirkland silver was the worst of the three. After that it was a personal choice between the Don Juilo silver and the Jose Cuervo Reposado. Personally I preferred the Jose and after four or five shots Jane concurred.

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One of our nights out during the month was to Casa Blanca up in Desert Hot Springs for Mexican food. A busy place that’s popular with the locals. The food was very good and the drinks were too. Bill and I had us a couple of fancy margaritas!

Sheldon, our oldest son, flew into Los Angeles at the end of our time at Sam’s. He had intended to rent a car one way for the drive and return it in Palm Springs. Due to an issue with the mag stripe on his credit card he couldn’t complete the rental. After trying a few other places to no avail I ended up driving to LAX to pick him up. I hate LA and the associated traffic. While the drive in during the middle of the day wasn’t bad, the return trip was terrible. I don’t know how anyone could do that on a daily basis. The speed on the return trip ranged from a dead stop to 10mph to 95mph (once we were past Beaumont). He’s with us for 10 days and will fly back out of Phoenix. No way I’m going back to LAX any time soon.

He and I climbed up to the top of what’s referred to locally as Flag Mountain. It’s across from Sam’s and there are a few peaks that have flags on them. Not a very good pano stitch but it’s the only pic I took of us up there. It was very windy at the top. The Canadian flag was shredded but we didn’t have any tools with us to replace it with the new one in the ammo box that is up there.

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We went into Palm Springs a number of times. We always do the Thursday night street festival downtown at least once.

 

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Sheldon and I dropped into the Caddyshack golf cart store while Jane shopped for swimsuits next door. Some real fancy golf carts available for those who have a use for them. I thought they were pricy too. The ones with the body kits ranged from $15,000 and up…. way up!

I’ll wrap up Desert Hot Springs with a view of the windmills in San Gorgonio Pass and a couple of pictures of local flora. The truck front end decor is due to the swarms of Painted Lady butterflies loaded up with pollen from all the flowers. From here we’re headed back to Borrego Springs. Sheldon will get to experience some boondocking as we plan to make a few different stops on our way towards Phoenix.

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Borrego Springs (III)

February 20th, 2019

At this point I’ve gotten behind on the blog updates. We left Borrego Springs on the 20th to head to Desert Hot Springs where we are staying at Sam’s Family Spa. This is the balance of the pictures and commentary from Borrego Springs.

On February 12th Jane and I hiked the slot canyon off of Hwy 78. The hike down through the canyon is quite easy and the only workout was the short hill at the end to get back up to the off road vehicle trail.

On Valentines Day there was a lot of rain that started the night before and lasted until the day after. There was a fair bit of flooding in the area and most roads in or out of town were closed at one point. We saw the road grader heading east on S22 to clear sand from the road caused by the water flowing out of the mountains and across the desert. The road into Coyote Canyon was also closed due to the flooding. The rains have made for a lot of green in the mountains. The shiny spots in the picture are the sun reflecting off the road that heads west over the mountains towards Warner Springs.

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After the rains the dry lake bed wasn’t so dry any more.

Lots of interesting skies around us in the days after the rain.

We drove out the bottom of Borrego Springs one day and went to Julian. Had to get the standard Julian Apple Pie when we were there which was in fact very good. Also went to the JuLian Beer Co where Jane and I had a couple of very good beers and a slice of pizza each. Some twisty roads on the route and we travelled through a few climatic zones and ended up in coniferous trees in town.

 

 

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.

BorregoBlooms.org

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.