This weekend, we took a mini-backpacking trip to Anza Borrego State Park. Why mini? All told, we were away from home for less than 24 hours, and only hiked about 5 miles in the park.
After driving the long and windy road from Highway 8, through Julian and to Borrego Springs, we stopped for lunch at Carlee’s Bar and Grill, where the sandwiches were good and the homemade potato chips were brilliant. We then headed to the Park Visitors’ Center – it was big and well-appointed, with information exhibits on par with those at Grand Canyon – maybe not surprising considering that the park is California’s largest state park, covering 600,000 acres!
We started our backpacking adventure on the Palm Canyon Nature Trail, one of the most popular hikes in the park. It was mid-afternoon when we started out, and it felt like summer instead of the first day of November – it was about 92 degrees and very sunny when we started out along the desert trail.
There are trail markers at strategic spots along the trail, but we hadn’t picked up an interpretive brochure and so tried to guess at what we were supposed to be learning (rocks? plants? dust mites?) as we made our way to the first palm grove.
There are a number of trails branching off along the valley floor, and so we only saw about two-thirds of hte markers as we made our way into the canyon. After about a mile of very slow hiking (those backpacks are heavier than we remembered!), we got to the shadier part of the trail, protected from the sun by the canon walls.
The official trail ends on the other side of the palm grove,
but we continued on deeper into the canyon, scrambling over boulders and through thorny acacia shrubs.
As we got further up-canyon, the streams were running at slightly more than a trickle and the pools were more numerous, and most importantly, we saw a lot of frogs! They were fairly tiny and hard to get pictures of, but it seemed like there were at least two different species hopping around.
It was fun to come accross the pools of water, but everytime we saw one, it meant there were more boulders to climb over as we made our way upstream – four days later, and my legs still have bruises and scratches!
After a while (making sure we went further than the other backpackers we knew about, since Chuck is all about competitive hiking…), we came across our chosen campsite. We could see another grove of palms another third of a mile ahead and around the bend, we had a nice little pool of water to relax near and soak our feet in, and there was a sandy stretch for us to set up the tent:
Our wading pool had some frogs and water bugs, but as we were getting out we noticed an ultra-scary mean looking bug on the rocks right below where we were sitting – it looked kind of like a rhinoceros beetle, except it was under water – ick! Normal water beetles and little black grubs were ok, but this guy was creepy!
Since it was still pretty warm in the evening, we left the rain fly off our tent and huddled in our sleeping bags and enjoyed the breeze coming through the tent…until one in the morning, when we were suddenly awoken by…raindrops! in the middle of the desert. The rain only lasted a minute or two, but Chuck threw the rain fly over the tent just in case there was more. We didn’t get swept away by a flash flood, but in the morning it was interesting to see how the stream had surged overnight, with the rocks and sand around our wading pool showing new high-water marks. After a night of tossing and turning (I still haven’t figured out how to sleep comfortably in the tent, even with my new packable feather pillow), we woke up early in the morning and headed out in the morning light.
We didn’t spot any bighorn sheep on our hike, although they were rumored to be in the area, so that’s another reason we have to go back to Anza Borrego. We did come across the skeleton of a baby sheep, presumably killed by a mountain lion – it looked like it had been laying in the stream bed for quite a while. We also heard a scary growling noize once on our way out of the valley, and quickly movedaway from that spot to the other side of the stream bed in case we were being stalked by a mountain lion ourselves!
We got back to the car shortly after eight am, and stopped at Los Jilbertos in Borrego Springs for breakfast burritos before driving back to San Diego – it was the perfect post-backpacking breakfast!
Our trip to Anza Borrgo allows me to cross #59 off of my 101 Things list. Now that we’ve made the trip and know how much fun it is, we’ll definitely be going back!