Escondido Thursday Nov. 20
Sometimes I have given Chris grief that our hikes are not as frequent, long, or difficult as they were several years ago. Well, no grief today. We drove 60 miles over our usual two lane twisty roads to Borrego Springs, site of the visitor center for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This is the largest state park outside of Alaska. The park includes both high and low elevation desert areas. The route here again ascends and descends up various mountains, some new to us and some familiar by now, leading to a 10 mile descent to the park visitor center.
That is, once we found the visitor center entrance. The center is built into a hillside, facing away from the parking lot, to take advantage of the cooling effects of being underground. After all, this is the desert. We were told that the park will receive calls from people in the parking lot asking for directions to the visitor center entrance. We did find it on our own.
During the summer months, the park is only open on weekends and federal holidays due to the heat. This is the busy season. A park volunteer informed us that on New Year’s week, they can have 60-80,000 people camping out here. Luckily for us, today was quiet and pleasant, temperatures in the low 70s.
We watched the park film, showcasing the park in four seasons. Evidently it was produced by a local volunteer with Hollywood film making experience. For the music, since local orchestras were pricing their services for 25k and up, he flew to Bavaria and had the music scored for $7,000. It took 2.5 years to make the film. It was quite nice. However, the film states this park has 2/3 of the U.S. bighorn sheep. We did not see any. But, as I said, it is a big park.
There was no way we could see the entire park so three hikes in different areas were on our agenda. Two were a half hour or less. The third was 2.5 hours and we saw more on this hike than we had originally planned. I won’t say we were lost, we always were comfortable where we were and knew how to get back to our car. But, we were in locations that we had not planned to visit. The “extended” hike added time, distance, and elevation gain to our hike. It also added a little mystique, we are likely to recall this one from among the many we take.
The first two hikes were relatively flat and showcased some of the desert’s vegetation and geology. For instance, the second hike ran by several fault lines, evidence of plate movement. We did not feel the earth move while we were here.
For third hike, we drove to a spot that promised a year round spring just 1.5 miles away. That seemed cool, to see a spring in the middle of the desert. The spring had been vital to cattle ranching here in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are no trees to mark the trail. Stone markers are not of much value, there are stones everywhere. There are no “smooshed” leaves or tan bark to mark the trail. So you try to go by rocks, and sand, and foot prints. This 1.5 mile trail leading to the spring was to have 14 markers along the path, highlighting various vegetation or geology. A brochure details the highlights at each marker.
After marker 6, discussing the ocotillo shrub and its relationship with hummingbirds (we saw some), the trail took a turn that we missed. We continued along the wash, going uphill further and further, wondering if vandals had removed the other markers, looking for vegetation that might evidence a spring. Since we were comfortable in being able to find our way back, we did continue, stopping for lunch (PBJ sandwiches again) along the way.
Eventually we said enough is enough and headed back down. Somewhere along the way, Chris went exploring and picked up the trail we had missed. So now we continued to finish the rest of the hike. Up more hills and down we went, finding, at last, the spring! It was dry.
Still, we felt a sense of accomplishment, hiking farther than we planned and making it to the spring-and back. This time going back was just 1.5 miles. Not sure how far we went in getting to the spring. Once again clouds started forming and day was moving on. Borrego Springs, the community, has rust colored sculptures around town. We had seen several on our drive out to the hikes but our decision was to head back and forego visiting more sculptures.
The drive home was eventful. We had a nice “rest” while we waited 40 minutes to go through a construction zone. They just began paving this stretch yesterday, we had driven on this road Tuesday and had no difficulty.
Back at the resort, a well-earned shower was the reward for a solid day of hiking, followed by pizza and, yet to come, apple pie.
Ed and Chris Thursday Nov. 20 8:20 pm