On Sunday, after running with my friends, we knocked out some high-carb fare at the Breakfast Club at ECM. Later tat afternoon I popped back out to the trails with my bike. I had been planning to go at a pretty good clip, but ran into some friends - two of whom I had biked with around France in 2001 - so my plans changed to a fun ride spent catching up.
I had returned from a camping and hiking trip to Anza Borrego in southern California. I had never been to the park which sits in the Colorado desert inland from San Diego. The massive park offers mountains, desert, canyons, rock formations, mud caves, and hot springs. The first night we drove off the highway into a wash and up the backside of a hill to camp on the edge of a cliff that overlooked a Bryce Canyon-esque expanse. The place we chose, Fonts Point, is considered the best place in the park from which to view sunrises and sunsets. There were a few non-campers sitting near the edge in order to enjoy the vista. When the sun sank in the distance, they departed leaving us alone to enjoy the starry night and a decent number of meteors.
Canyon below our camp
Sunset the first night
After a short morning hike, we packed camp and headed about an hour away toward our home for the next two days, the campground at Aguas Calientes. On the way, we paused in the town of Borrego Springs to look at some art and to grab a fantastic meal at a restaurant called Red Ocotillo. We hadn't expected much when walking in. But we were both knocked out by the flavors that presented themselves in the food we ordered. We sat on a little patio under a tree surrounded by flat, beautiful desert. It was a great experience.
When we arrived at Aguas Calientes, the quiet calm of the trip changed. The campground, administered by the county of San Diego, was one of the most crowded places I had ever camped. We had a couple of spots reserved for us and friends who showed up a bit later. We had a large family on one side and a noisy troop of boy scouts on the other. The afternoon and evening of the first day, we mainly spent setting up camp and then enjoying the hot springs.
Day two found us in the desert about 6 miles away exploring mud caves and slot canyons. I rarely get bothered by places, but the fragile nature of the massive mud/dirt walls, overhangs, and caves got to me. I loved the view and the formations, but seeing huge chunks (some house-sized) of mud/dirt that had calved off of the cliffs (some very recently) gave me pause. We had wandered about a mile up one of the canyons passing through some very sketchy tunnels when I finally had to say that I had had enough. Interestingly, there was very quick agreement from another member of our party, and absolutely no objection from anyone else for turning around and calling it a hike.
Panorama of a more open mud canyon entrance
We returned to our camp after a long drive back along washboard paths. We took a hike on the Moonlight Trail - basically a 2 mile jaunt around a small mountain with a decent amount of elevation gain/loss. We saw a lot of rabbits and a number of ocotillos in bloom (always exciting to see).
Finally, One of the neatest things we saw during our stay in the desert was a trio of bighorn sheep. They hung out about 200 feet above our camp for three hours on day two of the trip. With boy scouts and campers noisily going about their lives below, the sheep grazed on the side of the slope paying little heed to their temporary human neighbors. It was pretty cool to witness.