Apparently I have been living under the mistaken impression that when camping in the Anza Borrego Desert in the fall and winter, the weather is pretty cooperative. We have had a few showers here and there, but in general, we have not been assaulted by the forces of nature on trips with Sam’s Boy Scout troop. This era has now come to an end for me. A few weeks ago we headed out on our annual troop trip to Dos Cabezas, a primitive camping site near the town of Ocotillo. The lack of facilities doesn’t bother me. I can always find a bush or friendly rock to hide behind. What does bother me, it turns out, is hours and hours of gusting winds.
Not that the trip was no fun. The kids had a tremendous time clambering over the boulder strewn hills surrounding our campsite. We had a great hike to the Mortero palm tree grove, we explored the ruins of the old San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railroad Company train station, and we saw the “Horse and Rider” pictograph in Piedras Grandes (believed to be one of the first of early Spanish Explorers in the area) and another set of really striking pictographs at Indian Hills. There were flowers in bloom in the desert (see my previous post Desert Flowers in Anza Borrego), and the clouds cleared up at night in time to enjoy a beautiful sky full of stars.
That being said…the wind really was blowing hard. One tent came loose and was blown 30 feet in the air, and a few others lost poles and suffered tears. Many people slept in cars. I slept in a car with 3 children. We had trouble keeping the stoves lit, and while we were cooking dinner someone had to stand by holding various things down, since anything left unattended became airborne. And just the feeling of having strong winds knocking you around for 24 hours is kind of exhausting.
But we are a resilient group, and despite the challenging conditions we spent lots of time chatting and laughing, and then cleaning the grit out of our teeth. We had four boys complete their First Class cooking requirements, and the scouts did a great job of cooking and cleaning together as a team. And we were graced with the presence of not just one, but two Scoutmasters Emeriti. I am glad we went, but I am hoping for balmier conditions next time we venture east!
Click on photos to enlarge
When we arrived at the site around 9:30, there was enough wind that we decided not to set up tents yet. The boys clambered on the boulder strew hillsides and explored for a few hours.
JD and I had fun with the panorama setting on my camera. He ran behind me while I panned so he could be in the picture twice.
After lunch we set off to the Motero palm oasis. The hike up to the palms is very pretty, though I forget how steep some parts are.
The palms are a great place to hang out. The trees all have skirts of dried fronds, and a large fallen palm makes a terrific bridge. Amy found a nice comfy rock chair to while away a few hours in.
More palm oasis fun.
The canyon continues to rise up at the back of the palm oasis. There is a beautiful view down to the desert floor.
The desert was pretty green (for a desert), and I loved the way the plants dotted the walls. It reminded me hanging gardens.
On the hike down Emma found some morteros (grinding holes created by Native Americans), and an old cattle watering trough. She is pretending to wash up with some rock soap.
Two of our recent Eagle scouts. We will miss them when they head off to college next year!
Desert plants. The bushes on the top were like a fairy tale spooky forest, though on a much smaller scale. Bonsai shrub and wildflowers.
We left the palms and headed to the abandoned railroad station. This water tower is always a great sight, though I was sad that the sky was not blue this year. The rusty brown against a sunny sky is very striking.
Mikey is either rescuing Irvan or attempting to tie him to the railroad tracks. Andrew is neutral, like Switzerland.
Sam and JD having a race along the tracks. I was tempted to push them over, but opted for taking their picture instead.
Mr. S. in the “Instant Scoutmaster Machine.” Unfortunately, no one had a quarter to activate him.
Sam, Matthew, and desert graffiti.
Next up, a hike to see a set of petroglyphs believed to be the first depiction by native people of a man on horseback. Though it looks pretty level, it is actually a pretty consistent uphill slog. In deep soft sand. With a brisk headwind. Did I mention there was wind?
The petroglyphs are pretty faded, though there is a sign showing what you are supposed to be seeing. Stevie is complaining that I keep taking his picture. Don’t sit on a rock like the cutest little Buddha in the world, and then I won’t Stevie! It’s as simple as that.
The conditions were challenging, but the scenery was easy on the eyes.
At the trail head, waiting to head back to camp. The boys are playing a game to see how long they can balance on the poles before a wind gust knocks them off.
Morning at camp. After I crawled out of the car, I saw lots of dark clouds. We busted our butts to get the tents down and get breakfast started. It never rained, but the clouds did liven up the sky!
The “Old Guard” of our troop. These guys have been mainstays for years, and we hope they continue to come out with us. We need Mr. H. to tell us where to turn!
The last stop on our desert trip was to see another set of petroglyphs. These were spectacular. They were painted on a cave in a large grouping of rocks and boulders that rose up from the desert floor. Native tribes obviously spent a lot of time in the area, it must have been a comfy winter home.
A long view out from the rock pile. A short view of multicolored boulders.
On our way in and out we crossed the rail road tracks again.
Our scouts at the end of another great trip.
Mother, daughter (if you squint you can see her behind me in the pink), and son.