Gentle readers, it is time for another installment of…off-roading, four-wheeling, dust-covered, gear-mashing, rock-avoiding, wash board-loving vehicles, and the men who love them. Oh yeah, and we did some desert camping with the Boy Scouts again.
Once again I managed NOT to drive when Sam’s Boy Scout troop headed out to camp in the wilds of the Anza Borrego desert. I have a four wheel drive Outback, but the clearance is not great, which is the excuse I use for not driving. Unlike the dads in our troop, who love driving their trucks and SUVs up and down dirt roads, careening over boulders, and brushing into ocotillo and scrub, I prefer to sit comfortably in the passenger seat of Tony’s Ford Expedition and admire the landscape.
Amazingly, we had PERFECT weather for this trip, from start (when we gathered in the Von’s parking lot at 6:00 AM (except for Mr. R. who overslept, thus catching up on his beauty sleep)) to finish, (when we cruised back to San Diego on the 8, passing giant windmills, the Golden Acorn Casino, and the many cameras at the Border Patrol checkpoint (say cheese!)).
The troop hopped on a highway heading east from San Diego, and when we reached the middle of nowhere, we turned off on to a dirt road. The landscape was bare and beautiful, full of amazing geology and desert plant life. In the past few years the desert has also become home to many giant windmills, which are beautiful and impressive in a way, but also quite an intrusion on the wilderness.
After we arrived in the area where we were planning to camp, we settled on our sites, pitched the tents, ate some lunch, and then Mr. H. gathered the scouts together to head out on a few day hikes.
Our first destination was a Montero palm oasis, filled with at least 50 huge palm trees. We hiked up a canyon, to the oasis surrounded by boulder-strewn hillsides. The palms have never been trimmed, and their skirts of old leaves stretch from their crown to the ground. The scouts all immediately scattered, to scramble up the hillsides, or investigate the nooks and crannies of the palm grove.
We spent an hour or so in the grove, and then hiked back down to our cars at the trail head. I saw this perfect little desert bonsai tree on the way down.
We also saw morteres, or grinding holes, on the hike down. Kumeyaay Indians used to mash acorns in these holes when they stayed in seasonal villages in the area. Mr. R. demonstrates the technique. Doesn’t he look well rested?
We rested for a bit, refilled our water from containers in the car, and then drove a sort distance to our second hike in the Piedras Grandes (Big Rocks) area, just a mile or so away.
At the trail head to Piedras Grandes, there was this weird ocotillo branch, that looked like an alien head.
The hike was along a crushed rock trail, which was almost like hiking in beach sand. It was a gradual but constant uphill trek, and took a bit out of all of us, as we walked along in the afternoon sun. But there were incredible views to be had all around, from the rock formations forming walls to either side, to the fields of golden cholla cactus marching into the distance.
The shadows started to lengthen, and it was time to head back to camp. Night falls fast in the desert, and we had to start thinking about dinner.
Back at camp we took a moment to appreciate Andrew’s Clint Eastwood impression.
And while the dads cooked…
…I hiked up the hillside with a few boys for a look at the sunset. It wasn’t full of spectacular color, but the muted pinks and blues were still quite pretty. And the landscape was awesome.
We ate great food, hung out around the fire, and tried to watch for Geminid meteors, but with an almost full moon, it was challenging to spot them. After 2 hikes, a huge dinner, and a few hours of chatting by the fire, I hit the hay. And that’s when the miracle happened. I actually got a good night’s sleep! For the first time in forever when camping!! Yeah for me!!!
In the morning we had some breakfast…
…Mr. K. said a few words…
…and we drove to our last desert adventure of the trip, a visit on the way out to an abandoned railroad station. The building was torn down awhile ago, as it was deemed hazardous, but the foundation remains, along with an old water tower, and, of course, railroad tracks. Before we left camp we got a picture of the “No Shooting” sign, which was full of bullet holes. Sam thought this was very funny.
It is pleasant to get home from these trips and take a hot shower, put on clean clothes, and check my email. But I always think about the places we left behind, as I am lying in my comfy bed, wondering about the quiet nights and hot days, the rocks and plants, and the big sky. It’s nice to think back and know it is all still out there.