This past week I was fortunate enough to spend three wonderful days exploring Southern California’s Anza-Borrego desert with my aunt and uncle who live on nearby Coronado Island. Together, the three of us drove to the Anza-Borrego state park in my uncle’s 1986 Volkswagon Vanagon and from there we explored the area in both the van and by bike.
Here, for your reading and viewing pleasure, is a short account of my trip to the Anza-Borrego desert.
We began our adventure in Coronado where my aunt and uncle live. We loaded up the van with my bicycle, food and all the supplies we would need for our short three-day road trip into the desert and then we drove for approximately two hours before reaching the Anza-Borrego state park entrance.
Upon entering the small city of Borrego Springs, we stopped for a while to check out the visitor center where my aunt and uncle purchased a few souvineers and I picked up three Anza-Borrego themed postcards to mail to some friends.
Then we drove just a short distance up the road and picked out a campsite at the Borrego Palm Canyon campground. It was starting to get dark by the time we had picked out a campsite, so we quickly set up camp and then we went for a hike up to a nearby Palm oasis.
My aunt and uncle only hiked the first part of the trail up to the oasis with me, but I continued hiking all the way up to the top by myself.
By the time I reached the palm oasis, it was nearly dark and I knew that I’d be hiking the 1.5 miles back to he campground in the dark. But I wasn’t too worried about that. The trail back to the campground was located in narrow, downhill canyon. As long as I stayed inside the canyon walls, there was no way I could get lost.
My aunt and uncle were glad to see me when I finally walked into camp – well after dark. By this time, they had their van all set up and they were beginning to cook dinner.
After eating dinner inside the van, we called it a night and soon thereafter went to bed. I was afraid that I might feeze to death in the cold desert night, but it was actually really warm while we were there and I had to take some of my clothes off while I was sleeping because I was getting too hot.
The next morning I was forced out of my tent when the heat of the sun made it unbearable for me to stay in bed any longer. Below is the view of our campsite from inside my small 1-man tent (the MSR Hubba).
After eating breakfast and packing up my tent, I loaded up my bicycle and took off from the campsite. It was at this point that I separated from my aunt and uncle. I would spend the day alone on my bicycle… and my aunt and uncle would go off and do their own thing. I had the entire day to myself to cycle around Borrego Springs and take photos… so that’s exactly what I did.
The weather in Borrego Springs at this time of year (March) was perfect for bicycle touring. It was warm, but not too hot. A small wind was blowing, which helped to keep me cool at times, and the lighting was perfect for taking desert cycling photos.
One of the things that makes Borrego Springs special is that scattered throughout the city’s outskirts are dozens of massive metal sculptures created by a man named Ricardo A Breceda.
Born in Durango, Mexico, Ricardo has lived in California for the last 25 years and he has been creating his life-size metal animals since the release of the movie Jurassic Park III. His daugherter’s enthusiam over dinosaurs sparked his interest in the creation of these prehistoric beasts.
Many of Richardo’s most well-know sculptures are scattered throughout the Anza-Borrego desert and you can walk, cycle or drive right up to the giant structures, touch them, and interact with them.
Here are some photos of my favorite Ricardo A Breceda sculptures:
After seeing pretty much every single one of the giant metal sculptures, I then cycled east and away from the city. It was out on these lonely roads that there were far fewer people. While cyclists had been plentiful in the center of Borrego Springs and scattered throughout the metal sculputure areas, there was almost no one on bike out on the roads outside of Borrego Springs. But it was out here that I began to really enjoy myself. Traffic was light and the scenery was vast.
Later that afternoon I met up with my aunt and uncle in the center of Borrego Springs. We loaded my bicycle back inside the van, bought some gas and ice cream, and then drove south to an area of the desert that my aunt and uncle had been to before and wanted to share with me – Egg Mountain.
It took about an hour to get to Egg Mountain from Borrego Springs, but it was worth the drive. After navigating our way down a short dirt road and up a small, but steep hill, we made camp at the top of tiny Egg Mountain. From our campsite we had near 360 degree views of the desert around us.
Before it got dark, we quickly went about setting up our remote desert camp. With no bathrooms in the area, my aunt and uncle set up their portable toilet that they had brought with them. I never used the thing, and never intended to use it, so I had a good time making fun of my aunt and uncle for owning such a thing.
Before it got dark, we enjoyed the incredible views from our hillside campsite.
We ate dinner inside the VW Vanagon and then called it a night. Once again, it was a warm and incredibly comfortable evening camping in the desert under a massive sky of stars.
We took our time leaving Egg Mountain the following morning. We lumbered around camp for a while and then slowly began packing up our things. After the van was loaded, my uncle backed the vehicle up and immediately became stuck in some deep sand. The more he spun the wheels, the deeper the van got in the sand. So I loaded a bunch of sticks and rocks under the tires and we were able to drive ourselves out of the hole we had created.
Getting stuck in the sand was a fun way to end our adventure in the Anza-Borrego desert. I had a wonderful time exploring this beautiful and seldom talked about region of Southern California… and given the opportunity, I would definitely go back.