This is the continuation of my travels in early 2016. I did this trip for two reasons; doctors orders (“You need to go somewhere warmer for the winter”), and to start the search for a new place to call home. For the past ten years I’d spent my summers in Estes Park, CO., and traveled to Utah in the spring, fall, and winter, and Wyoming a few times, but I’d only been off the Colorado Plateau once when I visited Sedona one January. It was time to expand my comfort zone, and start looking for a new domicile. The Front Range of the Colorado Rockies was becoming over-crowded, and Estes Park was becoming intolerable to me in many ways. I’d been trying to get away from Estes Park for years, but every spring someone would call me with a job offer, and I’d return for another summer of work. It was time to ‘take action’ and start looking at other areas more seriously. I’d finally stepped out of my comfort zone of high desert and mountains, and was exploring the southern states.
Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge
After leaving Slab City (aka The Slabs) I decided to visit the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge along The Salton Sea. It was worth the trip, as I saw curlews, snow geese, avocets, herons, grebes, gulls, an assortment of ducks, along with coots, doves, and a huge variety of birds that I don’t know the names of. When I was a teenager in the UK, I was a fanatical bird watcher, and a member of the YOC, RSPB, and RSPCA, and I still enjoy watching wildlife and birds and rarely pass up the chance.
Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. Five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas and many miles of hiking trails. It is on the western side of the Salton Sea, and I’d arranged to meet some of my new friends there to camp for a while as there is plenty of dispersed and free camping. It seemed like a great place to spend part of February. The temperatures were in the 70’s, and 80’s with a lovely breeze from time to time. Back in Estes Park, it was –15 F or colder, and I’d suffered through those temps more times than I care for.
After visiting Sonny Bono W.R., I did my laundry in Brawley. On the way there a bee came in through my open window and landed on my lap, then fell between my legs. When I got out of my car in Brawley it stung me. I’ve had bad reactions to strings before, so I decided to stick around town a bit to see how this one effected me. I took plenty of natural vitamin C and Olive Leaf Extract (this saved my life when I had The Shingles in 2015 and I had such severe nerve damage that I couldn’t work for almost three months), and although the area around the sting swelled up a lot, I didn’t have a serious reaction. Anyway, it was getting late in the day by the time I passed through the border patrol checkpoint on the way to Sony Bono, and I ended up in a dispersed camping area just east of the park, on Hwy S22. I was the only one out there other than some flashlights moving around in the distance. I was aware that I was in a border crossing area, so I kept my windows up most of the way, and slept fitfully. The next day, I realized I wasn’t too far from the place I was meeting my friends, but if’ I’d traveled it in the dark, I would have missed so much stark beauty.
On the morning of February 9, 2016, I drove the rest of the way into the park, and found the spot that I would be meeting my friends, then checked out the town of Borrego Springs. I spent several days camping near Borrego Springs, and really enjoyed it. We were camped in dispersed camping a few miles outside of town, so everything we needed was close by, including a grocery store, internet, visitor center and more. There were a few hiking trails, and a group of us decided to hike up Hell Hole Canyon. Despite it being February, it was already quite hot, so these short hikes were actually more than enough.
A hike up Hell Hole Canyon with some of the new friends I made at The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in January.
There is an area near Borrego Springs with many of these beautiful sculptures, with horses, elephants and more…an outdoor gallery.
After a few of days camping with The Gang, I was feeling the need to spend some time alone. I learned that there was a small slot canyon aptly named The Slot near Ocotillo Wells, that one could hike down, so I decided to drive there, and after that I thought I would go to The Wind Caves. On my map it showed a small road that led from The Slot to The Wind Caves, but when I went down it, the road got really rocky and narrow, and I decided to turn around and go the safe route, via the highway.
Below is the road to the no-fee campground near The Wind Caves. It’s actually just a broad wash, and it took me quite a while to find it because the sign had fallen down. This is one of the reasons I like having 4WD, I’m not too sure that any of my friends in RWD vans could have made this, and for sure an RV couldn’t. The road up to the campground was right off the wash, and was rough and steep.
I hadn’t expected there to be camp fire rings in this spot so I hadn’t purchased any firewood. I was also the only person in the campground and decided it would be really nice to have a companion fire, so I went around each fire pit and gathered up tiny twigs from peoples purchased bundles and left over from wood splitting. When it got dark I had a very tiny twig fire with my Solo Stove. I placed it near a rock so that the heat would bounce back, because once the sun went down it got really cold, and I actually managed to make it last about an hour and a half. I played music and it bounced back off the deep walls of the wash and the rocks behind me. When one is truly alone like this in a very remote location, I often find that a companion fire and music are the best things to fight off loneliness.
The next day I hiked to The Wind Caves from the campground. I probably could have driven to the trail head, but even though I have 4WD I don’t feel comfortable taking these kinds of risks on my own, especially as I can’t really afford to break my vehicle or get stuck. I like to be able to get off the beaten path a bit, and get to trickier trail heads, but I’m not really into four-wheel-driving, at least not in my vehicle. (LOL). Besides, one misses so much when in a vehicle. Though I’m far from being truly knowledgeable about geology, I do enjoy exploring the levels of time that expose themselves in the rocks, and guessing whether an inland sea used to be there, or a flowing river or a lake, so the walk was full of interesting geology and worth the hike.
On the morning of the 11th decided I was well over due for a soak in some hot springs, and I’d heard that there was some at Agua Caliente County Park. One thing I’d started to learn about driving in the desert southwest, is that it was always a long way to anywhere, and between places. I didn’t rush this drive, and it took me most of the day. I arrived at the county park in the late afternoon, and managed to find some free dispersed camping just off the paved road. It was still hot, so I put up some reflective screens, to help keep the inside of Mitzi a little cooler.
I then sat back and watched the sunset on the various kinds of cacti around my camp. Although the cactus weren’t in bloom, it was still a very beautiful sunset.
I’d heard that some of my friends were camped down this way somewhere, but I couldn’t find the road that led to their location. This kind of desert was pretty new to me, and I’m still learning how to recognize a road, where there doesn’t appear to be one.
I spent the next morning soaking in the hot springs (oh what heaven), then returned to Borrego Springs and camped near there for another night. My friends had dispersed to various other places by now, so I made the decision to head towards Joshua Tree National Park the next day, which happened to be February 14 ~ Valentines Day. That night turned out to be one of the most breathtaking sunsets ever…but that will be in the next post.
Until then, Savor the Journey.
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature