Tag Archives: Anza Borrego

Princes of the Universe – A Mash Up of Camping Photos and Queen Song Titles

Princes of the Universe

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”.

God Save the Queen

God Save the Queen

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.

These Are the Days of Our LIves

Crash Drive on Mingo City

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.

Good Company

Good Company

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.

We Will Rock You

We Will Rock You

The title of this one says it all.  That’s my boy.

Hijack My Heart

Hijack My Heart

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.

Made in Heaven

Made in Heaven

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!”

Back Chat

Back Chat

A Winter's Tale

A Winter’s Tale

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.

Headlong

Headlong

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.

Another One Bite the Dust

Another One Bite the Dust

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.

Stone Cold Crazy Sheer Heart Attack Under Pressure I'm Going Slightly Mad

Stone Cold Crazy
Sheer Heart Attack
Under Pressure
I’m Going Slightly Mad

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.

A Human Body

A Human Body

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.

Hammer to Fall

Hammer to Fall

Mr. R. and Mikey, Mr. S. and Joseph, Mr. K. and Nolan.

Father to Son

Father to Son

Justin and Mikey under a skylight.

In the Lap of the Gods

In the Lap of the Gods

Transitioning from mud cave to slot canyon.

Rock It

Rock It

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…”

Tie Your Mother Down

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.

Fun It

Fun It

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.

Ogre Battle

Ogre Battle

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…

Doing it Right

Doing it Right

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.

The Night Comes Down

The Night Comes Down

Scenes from around the campfires, and more Munchkin playing in Sam and J.D.’s tent.

Dreamer's Ball

Dreamer’s Ball

Dragon Attack

Dragon Attack

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.

Put Out the Fire

Put Out the Fire

Friends Will Be Friends

Friends Will Be Friends

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.

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

Long Away

Long Away

Fight From the Inside

Fight From the Inside

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.

Spread Your Wings

Spread Your Wings

Staying Power

Staying Power

A group shot of the gang on our way back out.

We Are the Champions

We Are the Champions

A wonderful view at the entrance to the canyon, with small trees in front and purple desert mountains behind.

Heaven For Everyone

Heaven For Everyone

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…”

It's a Beautiful Day

It’s a Beautiful Day

Some shots on a desert highway.  This is the only street sign for miles and miles.

Now I'm Here

Now I’m Here

Sky, clouds, mountains, highway.

A Kind of Magic

A Kind of Magic

Sam and his buddy J.D.

Best Friend

Best Friend

A few hours later we were back home, with a dusty car, dirty socks, and lots of great stories to tell.

I'm in Love With My Car

I’m in Love With My Car

Postscript:

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!

1.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iqs8MF-CjNA

2.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E47lFeBRe3M

 

 

 

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A Desert Sunset, Moonrise, Moonset and Sunrise

"Then, when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared..."   (Homer, The Odyssey)

“Then, when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared…” (Homer, The Odyssey)

Fall is here, and that means camping season with my son’s Boy Scout troop has begun.  For our first outing the troop headed east, to the Wind Caves in Anza Borrego State Park, about 100 miles east of San Diego.  We were due to set out early Saturday morning and stay overnight.  Wednesday and Thursday were absolutely gorgeous in San Diego, sunny and warm, perfect weather.  Then on Friday the clouds rolled in.  And I’m thinking, of course, it’s going to rain.  Because we are going camping.

Saturday arrived, cold and overcast.  We hopped in the cars and headed east.  This is the view from my friend Tony’s windshield, as we were making our way over the Laguna Mountains.

Rain.windsheildFoggy, rainy, and an outside temperature in the 40’s.  I was having a flashback to a desert camping trip the troop did last year.  The view out the windshield on our way out then was not rain, but snow (see post http://samscout.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/desert-camp-out-a-rainy-windy-rocky-adventure/).  If you look very carefully in the last panel above, through the raindrops, you can see a bit of clear sky.  And if you can believe it, in about 20 minutes we were out of the rain and fog, with blue skies and sunshine overhead as we hit the desert floor.

In tiny Octillo Wells, just across from the airport, we turned right down Split Mountain Road.  The road lived up to its name.  It quickly turned into a dirt road, that wound its way up Fish Creek Wash, in between two opposing cliffs of sedimentary rock.  On one side is Fish Creek Mountain and the other Vallecito Mountain. (For all photos in this post, double click on them for a larger view)

Split mountain.labeled

The geology was really interesting, with bulging, lifted layers of sedimentary rock pointing in all different directions.  There were huge boulders sandwiched into the layers at random places, some of which we drove directly under.  Hope you aren’t in the car underneath one of those boulders when it finally erodes its way out of the rock wall.

Bulging rock

We worked our way into the park, our destination the trail head for the Wind Caves.  The hike up to the wind caves is less than a mile, with an elevation gain of a few hundred feet.  We shouldered our packs, as we planned to spend the night sleeping in the caves, and headed up the trail.

Up trail

When we arrived at the Wind Caves it was a free for all, as everyone scrambled to find a cave.  Sam and Matthew, our two scouts, snagged this beauty for me and Tony.  Thanks boys!

The gang

The caves, tunnels, and alcoves have been eroded out a sandstone formation by the wind.  The scouts had endless fun scrambling around the caves, poking their heads out of holes, and even playing a moonlit game of hide and seek later that night.

Wind caves

The view out over the Anza Borrego desert was incredible.  Mountains in the distance, and in front of those the Carrizo Badlands, washes, and a formation called the Elephant Knees.  Here are a few panoramic pictures of the view looking out from the caves.  Matthew is posing in the bottom photo, looking like he is part of an ad campaign for the Boy Scouts.

Pano.caves.view.labeled

Pano.Matt.knees

Now for some geology!  Those flat hills in front of Matthew are called the Elephant Knees.  They, and the badlands and mudhills that we will hike out into later are the remains of a tropical sea that existed here from six million to under a half million years ago during the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs.  The park has many fossils that illustrate the quite different habitat and life forms that used to live in what is now a desert.  The fossil record from the park includes many marine invertebrates (clams, oysters, sand dollars, sea urchins and corals) vertebrates (sharks, rays, bony fish, and baleen whales) as well as terrestrial vertebrates like mammoths.  The marine environments that were fossilized are part of the ‘Imperial Formation’, and are made up of shelves, reefs, beaches, and lagoons.  As the seas became more shallow over time, estuarine and brackish environments prevailed, and the Elephant Knees formation is made up of thick deposits of oysters and pecten shells from this ancient environment (thank you Wikipedia).

After lunch we headed out on what would turn out to be a 7 mile day hike out to Elephant Knees and back.  Andrew, Ted, and a few of the older scouts wanted to take the trail straight up the face.  Mr. H., our scoutmaster, opted to go around the back instead.  Have a mentioned how much I like our Scoutmaster?

Knees.trail

Day hikeWe made our way to the backside of the Elephant Knees and then up, up, up, past barrel cacti and creosote bushes.  The rock was pretty easy to walk on, it was grippy and sharp and all glued together.  The view from the top behind the Elephant Knees into the badlands was spectacular.  The Y-shaped wash you can see is on the map at the beginning of this post.

Pano.knees.back.combo

We hung out at the top for a bit.  We drank water, had some snacks (Ted brought Oreos!), the boys threw about a million rocks over the edge, and Mr. H. got out his binoculars.  We posed the boys for a photo near, but not too near, the edge.

The upper left panel shows the view back towards our camp at the Wind Caves.

The upper left panel shows the view back towards our camp at the Wind Caves.

Scouts on top of the Elephant Knees.

Scouts on top of the Elephant Knees.

Heading back

We got back to camp at around 4:30, and we set Matthew and Sam to cooking dinner, as they were working on finishing one of their rank requirements for 2nd Class.  They wanted to run off and play, but Tony and I insisted they cook while we still had daylight, which I hope is a camping lesson they remember.  Everything is easier when the sun is up!

As promised in the title to this post, a desert sunset.  It went down behind a bank of far away clouds.  Venus was amazingly bright, as the last light from the sun faded.

As promised in the title to this post, a desert sunset. The sun went down behind a bank of far away clouds. Venus was amazingly bright, as the last light from the sun faded.

After sunset, dinner, and the moonrise over the hills behind us, Mr. H. gathered the boys on top of one of the sandstone formations for a dramatic reading of Flash Gordon.  He found scripts from two old radio episodes on the internet, and we were all regaled by the adventures of Flash, the delectable Dale Arden, the evil Ming the Merciless, Flash’s friend Prince Thun the Lion Man of Mongo, and a host of other characters.

Listening to the adventures of Flash Gordon, under the desert moon.

Listening to the adventures of Flash Gordon, under the desert moon.

After Flash Gordon, the group scattered.  Some scouts started up a game of hide and seek under the light of the full moon.  It was amazingly bright, but running around, especially after hiking for 4 hours, was not on my itinerary.  The adults sat for awhile star gazing and chatting, then gradually headed off to bed.  I don’t sleep terribly well when I am camping, so I got to see sunset, moonrise, moonset (took the picture below from the snuggly comfort of my sleeping bag), and sunrise.  That has never happened to me before!

Moonset

The setting moon.

And about 45 minutes later…

Pano.sunrise

The rising sun lights up the mountains, behind which the moon just recently set.

Matt and Sam.sunrise

Breakfast

After breakfast we packed up, gathered for some final words and a group photo, and got ready to head back to civilization.

Group shot

Mom+Sam

Me and my favorite scout.

A line of scouts trekking out…

Trekking out

Until next time, we bid farewell to the quiet beauty of the desert.

Post Script

Mr. H. took this video as we drove into the desert.  It gives an idea of the wild scenery we enjoyed all weekend.

Also, Mr. H. took his GPS info and created this map and graph of our hike.

WindCaves-ElephantKnees hike

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Destination Borrego Springs

Andrew and I took a few days off from the kids.  We spent them in Borrego Springs.  We headed east into the back country, through Lakeside, Ramona, and Julian, and then kept going.  We drove up and over the San Ysidro Mountains, and finally dropped down an 8% grade of twists and turns, losing a few thousand feet of elevation, until we were on the desert floor.  Mountains behind us, nothing but the flat desert in front.

It is only two hours away from San Diego, but it is a different world.  Slow, sleepy, dry, cactusy (if that’s even a word).  There were palm trees and sand, but not much else to remind us of home.  We stayed at the Borrego Valley Inn, a 14 room inn with caramel colored adobe buildings.  There was a courtyard with a zebra finch aviary, fountain, and outdoor fireplace, private patios off of the back of the rooms, and home made cookies in the main building in the afternoon.

We took a trip out to Galleta Meadows, a large dedicated open space with dozens of iron sculptures of animals and fantastical creatures by Ricardo Breceda.  The rust brown patina on the sculptures is perfectly complimented by the intense blue desert sky.

A photo gallery of our trip is below.

Green.door.m.n.a

The green door to our patio, at different times of day. Morning, noon, afternoon.

The hallway outside our room.

The hallway outside our room.

Our room, on the end of building.

Zebra finch aviary in the courtyard.

Zebra finch aviary in the courtyard.

Zebra finch up close.

Zebra finch up close.

Cactus in the courtyard.  I love the way it is backlit, it has a halo of sunlight around it.

Cactus in the courtyard. I love the way it is back lit, it has a halo of sunlight around it.

Clouds, mountains, road

Clouds, mountains, road

Giant sea serpent sculpture.

Giant sea serpent sculpture.

Close up of the scales.  See what I mean about the brown and the blue?

Close up of the scales. See what I mean about the brown and the blue?

Velociraptor in the desert.

Velociraptor in the desert.

Happy tortoise.

Happy tortoise.

Gives a new meaning to suckling pig...

Gives a new meaning to suckling pig…

Desert road in Galleta Meadows.

Desert road in Galleta Meadows.

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