This is how my mind works. I went on another great outing to the Anza Borrego Desert east of San Diego with Sam’s Boy Scout troop, and took another excellent batch of photos during our weekend campout. One in particular caught my eye, a pic of Andrew, Irvan, and Ted getting dramatic with a flashlight inside a cave. Immediately I thought of the classic album cover from Queen II, and that was it, the kernel around which I would build this post. I went to Wikipedia, that online well of information, to find a list of songs by Queen. I have paired photos from our trip with song titles, some of which will be familiar, others more obscure.
Here is quick trip summary. One of our intrepid scout leaders, Mr. R., led us out to Anza Borrego Desert State Park to explore the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves, one of the largest collection of mud caves in the world. We had a nice sized group of 18 Scouts and 8 adults, and we all enjoyed fantastic desert scenery along with the perfect weather. It was warm with no wind and many Scouts slept out under the stars. On Saturday and Sunday we explored many mud caves and slot canyons in the area (Big Mud Cave, Plunge Pool Cave, Hidden Cave, Chasm Cave, E-Ticket Cave, and Canyon Sin Nombre).
Now, for a catalog of trip photos, each paired with a title from a Queen song. Double click on any of them for a closer look. Starting us out is the grande dame of our troop, Ms. M., who participated in Scouting with her sons, and is now back for more action with her grandson Vincent. Don’t let the crown fool you, she left me in the dust (literally), when we started driving on the unpaved desert “roads”.
A panoramic photo of our campsite. Some of us camped in the valley, and a group of scouts slept part way up the hillside on an outcropping.
After we set up camp and ate lunch, we headed out to explore some slot canyons and mud caves. First up, Big Mud Cave and Plunge Pool Cave.
Some of the photos below are from the hillside above our camp, some from the slot canyons we hiked in. The geology was fascinating. Swirling sedimentary rocks full of twisted layers and embedded stones.
The title of this one says it all. That’s my boy.
Many of the caves and canyons had skylights. The mud caves were formed by water pooling on top of the cliffs and then seeping down into the sedimentary rock, gradually eroding tunnels, canyons, and caves.
The slot canyon led up to a mesa, with views that went on forever, and a garden of ocotillo. Mr. S. took advantage of the high point to make a phone call. “Sell 10,000 shares of Acme, stat! I just had a conversation with a coyote out here who had nothing but bad things to say about the quality of their products. Sell, do you hear me, SELL!”
I know the title of that last one is a bit of San Diego weather snarkiness, but I couldn’t help myself. Below is a photo of the scouts heading back down into the canyon. Next up, Hidden Cave.
So the next cave we went into was in the cliff side just behind our camp. We wore bandanas because it can get pretty dusty. We had a conga line of 23 people who made our way into the cave, our destination was a small room a bit of ways in. It started out okay, not tons of room, but there was mostly a good foot or two on either side, and another several feet above our heads. It didn’t stay that roomy. After about 10 minutes of snaking our way in, I admit that I was starting to feel claustrophobic. But there wasn’t much to do but keep going. I can say now I went into a cave like that, and it’s not really something I need to do again. Sam and I positioned ourselves near the mouth of the tunnel leading out, and were #2 and #3 outta there, just behind Mr. R. Some of the photos below are from the next cave we went to (which was way bigger). In the photos you can see all the dust particles in the air, picked up by the flash.
Here we all are in the room at the end of Hidden Cave. A single song title was not enough to cover this one. Don’t be fooled by how light it looks, it was all flash.
I think most everyone except the slimmest and smallest of the scouts were on their hands and knees at some point, trying to get through the most narrow portions of the cave. Mr. S. shows off his battle wounds.
The next cave was Chasm Cave. It was a combination of slot canyon and enclosed mud caves. Again, amazing geology all around and fun rocks to scramble over. Here are Ted and Irvan, acting as Cave Bouncers.
Mr. R. and Mikey, Mr. S. and Joseph, Mr. K. and Nolan.
Justin and Mikey under a skylight.
Transitioning from mud cave to slot canyon.
Me and my Sam. How perfect was it that Queen had a song with the word “mother” in it?!? Wait a minute, what do they mean “Tie your mother down…”
Back to camp, time for a cup of tea/coffee for the parents, game playing and running around for the boys. Here I am relaxing with Mr. S. and Mr. R.
The boys had a different idea of fun, and broke out the Munchkin cards, which is becoming a bit of a tradition in the troop. The boys aren’t allowed to bring electronics, and it was gratifying to see them interact with other human beings, without being hooked up to a computer or phone.
Dinner time rolled around eventually. I always like to see Mr. Harris with his home-away-from-home set up. He looks like he is sitting in his living room, in the middle of nowhere. All he needs is a pair of bunny slippers and the picture would be complete…
Night fell, and it was a beautiful one. It stayed warm, there was no moon and the stars blanketed the sky. Mr. H. is an astronomy buff, and he got us all up together on the outcropping to watch a satellite go by, as we were in the right place and time to see an iridium flare. This is when sunlight flashes off of the solar panels on a satellite, and it becomes momentarily brighter than the brightest star. It only look the satellite a minute to fly by, and it flashed for about 3 seconds. It was really cool. Below is the night sky, taken by Mr. H., showing Orion, Sirius the Dog Star, and the Pleiades perfectly.
Scenes from around the campfires, and more Munchkin playing in Sam and J.D.’s tent.
In the morning we breakfasted, cleaned up camp, and then headed out to Canyon Sin Nombre to explore a narrow slot canyon. Here is Mr. R. with his cool camp kitchen.
The canyon was well worth the side trip on the way out. Really impressive cliffs rose up on either side, and the canyon ranged from quite narrow corridors to large open rooms and bowls.
I really liked seeing desert plants clinging to the edges of the cliffs. It drove home how dogged some organisms are, to survive in this harsh environment.
A group shot of the gang on our way back out.
A wonderful view at the entrance to the canyon, with small trees in front and purple desert mountains behind.
After some gnarly driving through deep sand in some places (at least it was challenging for me in my relatively low slung Outback – Mr. R. in his Jeep didn’t really bat an eye), we made it back to the highway. Everyone in my car breathed a sigh of relief that we did not get stuck. My motto was “Even if you can’t see the giant holes and ruts in front of you because of all the flying sand and dust, just keep moving forward…”
Some shots on a desert highway. This is the only street sign for miles and miles.
Sky, clouds, mountains, highway.
Sam and his buddy J.D.
A few hours later we were back home, with a dusty car, dirty socks, and lots of great stories to tell.
Videos links below from Mr. H. and Andrew’s GoPro camera. The first is of the drive out (you can see me, Sam, and JD packing up my red Subie at the start), and the second shows video Andrew took as he made his way out of Hidden Cave, with the camera strapped to his head. Check out their Youtube channel (SkyhunterSD) for more videos!