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Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Pumpkin Patch, 5 Palms, and More

This was our last day in Anza Borrego State Park, so we undertook three small adventures that have been on our list.


We took our coffee for a longer walk early this morning, up to the overlook above our campground at Borrego Palm Canyon.  Before long, we were at the top, looking out over the valley:

The view down to our campground was pretty awesome:

This was what we saw the other direction, up Palm Canyon, beyond the primitive campsites:

We had heard about Pumpkin Patch, so we did some research and found sketchy directions out across the desert from Highway S-22.  Our off-road adventure started at Arroyo Salado.  We dressed Dusty up in an off-road whip so that other off-roaders could see us above the desert scrub.


Driving out Arroyo Salado, we headed for our first destination:  5 Palms, a small group of palm trees that just exist by themselves out in the middle of nowhere.  We headed out Arroyo Salado --

-- and David climbed out at a critical point to build a cairn to mark the turn we made into the bigger wash:

We could not find reliable directions.  The roads and junctions are not always well signed.  And, most importantly, there are lots of junctions where you must simply use your instinct as to the proper choice.  As Yogi Berra was quoted to say:  "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."  We did.

Somehow we made it to 5 Palms without backtracking.  Kathy celebrated with the four remaining palm trees.  One poor palm was lying nearby on a sand dune, probably done in by climate change (you can see the base of its poor trunk just in the foreground).

We couldn't stop to mourn because we still had further to go.


Our ultimate destination was Pumpkin Patch.  We had the GPS coordinates and just followed our hunches along washes and over ridges toward our destination.  Ultimately, we found it!

The Pumpkin Patch is a unique geologic feature consisting of thousands of rocks called "concretions."  Not all concretions are formed the same way.  The concretions at Pumpkin Patch were formed much like a pearl is formed in an oyster.  Sand that is wet can stick to any small object such as a pebble, an insect body or a piece of shell.  When the sand dries, it hardens in place, like concrete.  More surrounding wet sand sticks to it after a rain, and then dries.  Over time, this concretion hardens into rock because of pressure from rock and sand above it.

The Anza Borrego pumpkins are round because they were eventually exposed and then sculpted by desert winds that smooth and round them.

Kathy found one "pumpkin" that had split open, showing the layers of concretions that formed it:

We strolled around and through the Pumpkin Patch and then, having satisfied our curiosity, climbed back into the Jeep and made our way back through the washes and over the ridges, following the GPS track we had made on our way in.

Some of the tracks were serpenstine slides through deep sand:

As we neared our entry point from the highway, the terrain opened up and we had beautiful views of the mountains around the area of Borrego Springs.

By 2:00 pm, we arrived home, just in time to do a number of chores to get ready for our move from here back to Phoenix -- where we will store the motorhome and Jeep in preparation for our flight home to Philly and then on to Myanmar for Christmas and New Year.

You might not hear from us again until 2019, so this is to wish everyone an early "Happy New Year"!  Keep on following the uncharted tracks and looking for those diamonds in the rough.

Exploring Palm Canyon with Ginny and Eric

November 20, 2018
Hi Blog!

As we travel about, we do our best to keep in touch with our friends just in case we get close enough to pay them a visit. Our friends from Schenectady, Ginny and Eric, were camped just over the mountain from us near Julian, California. On Thursday, we drove over the pass to their campground. The first part of the drive was spectacular; however, we soon found ourselves in rain and fog. Because of the rainy weather, we ended up spending the day eating, drinking and talking. By Friday, the weather had cleared and Ginny and Eric came over the pass to our campground. We decided to take a hike!

The Palm Canyon Trail leaves right from our campground. No need to drive to a trailhead. Eric stops to admire the ancient palm trunks that were washed down the canyon.

Borrego Palm Canyon is a watery haven in an otherwise dry landscape. Yesterday's rain made the wash even washier! Ginny and Eric practiced using their trekking poles to cross the raging river!

Dave took a little time off the trail to examine the rocks. Most of the granitic rocks in Anza-Borrego formed beneath a continental volcanic arc along the western edge of North America.

As we continued our hike, we had to cross back across the stream. We took a minute to look back down from whence we came.

Eric decided to take a minute to look at the surrounding hills to see if he could spot the bighorn sheep. Ginny decided she would just take a minute and be good looking!

Before long we got our first glimpse of the palm oasis.

Fed by an underground spring, these California fan palms have survived for generations.

Kathy tried to take a closer look, but the stream was running high after all the recent rain. Some intrepid hikers waded across the stream in order to get up close and personal with the palms. We decided it was best to keep our boots dry.

We decided to take an alternate route on the way back down. This route s higher up the side of the mountain and afforded us great views of the valley below.

We made frequent stops so we could admire they clouds and cloud shadows as they passed over us.

We followed a trail originally created by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). As we happened upon one of their stone benches, we decided a rest stop was in order.  No room for you, Dave!

We finished our hike and returned to a crockpot full of turkey gumbo! 

Great hike with great friends followed by great beer and great food. It doesn't get any greater! Looking forward to meeting up with Ginny and Eric in Quartzsite. Until then, stay thirsty my friends!

Bobby, Boomer and the Bears Wake Up in Anza Borrego State Park!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Anza Borrego State Park - Hikes Near Ocotillo Wells

When we last visited Anza Borrego State Park in February 2017, we only had time to hike up into Palm Canyon.  We had no time to explore the other intriguing parts of the park.

Today, we started making up for that.  We arrived in Anza Borrego State Park yesterday, and this morning we decided to take some hikes in the area of Ocotillo Wells, in the southeast corner of the park.  We had three objectives:  The Slot, Elephant Trees Trail, and Wind Caves.  Here's what we found.


The trailhead for The Slot was a couple of miles off Highway 78.  After navigating a relatively easy dirt road, we arrived at the parking area.  To get the lay of the land, we climbed up to a high point for a 360 degree view of anza borrego state park from above The Slot.

We found the trailhead and started down, pausing only for a view of our Jeep back at the parking area:

As we descended deeper into The Slot, Kathy gave an idea how far down we would be hiking:

Once we reached the bottom, we entered a half-mile-long slot canyon that was so narrow, we could barely fit through:

As we turned one corner of the canyon, we looked up to see a natural arch:

The canyon boasted many interesting sandstone formations:

Near the end of the canyon, the trail opened up and we found a garden of inuksuks and other rock art!

Kathy tried her hand at her own little stone guy:

We hiked back to our Jeep through the slot canyon and then headed further south, across 7 miles of sandy, rocky Jeep roads, to the trailhead for...


This trail, only about a mile round-trip, is said to exhibit typical geology and vegetation for an alluvial fan.  Below, Kathy stands in the middle of the trail as it climbs the alluvial fan:

At the far end of the trail, we finally found the mythical elephant tree, which boasts very thick trunks surrounded by amazingly green foliage: 

The elephant tree is likely the most unique plant in the entire Anza-Borrego Desert, and only one such tree stands along this one-mile nature trail.  Elephant trees typically grow to a height of about ten feet.  The name comes from the peeling parchment paper-like bark on its wrinkled limbs.  Their leaves are small and similar to a mesquite bush or ocotillo, which can handle the rays of the harsh desert sun.  The trees are common in Baja California but their range barely reaches north over the border into California.  Thus, seeing these trees in California are rare but their existence is certainly not endangered.

Having fulfilled our second mission, we moved on to our third goal.


This feature was much less clearly signed than the other features.  We headed in 4 miles on Fish Spring Wash, admiring the desert canyon views:

Our Jeep Dusty handled the sand and rocks with aplomb.

The surface of the wash was almost like a moonscape:

We found our likely trailhead, although there were no signs to mark it.  With faith, we climbed until we were far above the valley floor:

Eventually, we reached the mythical wind caves - hollowed-out formations in the sandstone cliffs far above the canyon floor:

The shapes are intriguing and are reminiscent of rounded cave dwellings:

Some of the sandstone walls are very thin:

The cave holes riddle the rocks on the cliff faces:

David modeled one of the caves:

From his vantage point, David could see Kathy with the valley floor and our Jeep in the deep background:

By the time we reached our Jeep and drove back into Borrego Springs, it was almost sundown,  This was a full day's hiking and off-roading, giving us a great introduction to the far corners of Anza Borrego Desert State Park.  After an exchange of visits with our friends Eric and Ginny, we'll have a chance to explore one more region of the park before we have to leave.

Monday, November 26, 2018


November 25, 2018
Hi Blog!

While it seems like we've been celebrating Kathy's birthday for the past week, her actual birthday was Sunday, November 25th. To cap off our week of celebrating, Dave and Darla took her to Disneyland! Upon arrival, Kathy received her birthday button.

We've been to Disney World in Florida several times, but this is Kathy's first visit to Disneyland. Main Street here has a similar feel to that of Disney World -- just a bit smaller.

First stop, the Christmas Tree.

Getting spacey on Space Mountain.

Time to chill out at the Matterhorn.

A visit to any Disney location wouldn't be complete without a churro!

Just like in the movie "Nightmare Before Christmas," Jack Skellington takes over the haunted house and decorates it with the help of the folks from Halloween Town.

We saved the best for last.

On our way to see the famous mouse, we took a selfie in the fun house.

Chance for Mickey Mouse to wish you Happy Birthday - priceless!

While most of the attractions in Toontown are geared to the little kids, we still found something for us big kids!  We didn't want to leave Darla "Home Alone" or she would have missed out on this joyride:

Just as we finished our souvenir shopping, it was time for the Christmas Parade! The musical toy soldiers entertained the crowd with their high stepping.

Minnie and Mickey were busy decorating their tree.

Woody prepared to lasso some toys.

Everyone eagerly awaited the tap dancing reindeer.

Of course, the highlight of the parade was the jolly old elf!

By the time we left the park, Kathy had received 29 Happy Birthdays from various crew members -- and THREE of them knew her name (Kathy points out that this might be because her name was on her birthday badge). 

This will be a birthday Kathy won't forget!