Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Bug Bites: 0 (got to love bug-free winter time)
Injuries: 1 😦
We were starting to feel the itch and knew it was time to leave Yuma but still wanted nice weather. I had seen pictures of metal sculptures on Instagram that piqued my interest about Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and there seemed to be plenty of boondocking and good weather so off we went not knowing much else about the area.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is rare in that even though they have a developed campground they allow dispersed camping anywhere in the park with a few rules. We chose the Rockhouse Road area, a former BLM site that is now part of the park. There were lots of others there too, but plenty of space for everyone. With trash, recycling, and water available at the visitor’s center on the outskirts of town we were set.
After a month of full hook-ups we wondered if it would be hard to switch back to the boondocking lifestyle. We really don’t live much differently one way or the other, but when dry camping monitoring resources (power, water, wastewater) is key. We monitor the weather to gauge our solar power input and enact water saving measures to make our fresh water last longer and keep our grey water tank from filling up too fast. Yes, that means back to navy showers and putting a pitcher under the faucet while waiting for the water to get hot and, where possible, dumping dish water in the bushes. It was good to find that we had no trouble sliding into water saving mode and with all the sunshine we were making way more power that we were using. Lasting 9 days was pretty easy, especially since we got to enjoy a beautiful area free of charge.
We found plenty to do right at our site when we weren’t enjoying the views. A fellow camper told us about the rock art hidden in the hills above the campground. (If you look west to the hills, the rock art is behind the one with the big gash running down it.) Heading that way we saw trails going up either side so we made a loop out of it. From the top we enjoyed a nice view of the campground and saw even more trails to follow further but headed back down.
We rode our bikes down the road, struggling through the sandy spots to Clark Dry Lake. It was covered in cracked mud from the recent rains and although it looked like there was water in the distance, Chuck rode out to confirm it was just a mirage. Heading back was a bit harder as we had to come uphill through the soft spots and fight the wind, but it made for a good workout. During our stay we saw many jeep excursions heading out the road, but never explored further into the canyon ourselves. Something to save for next time.
We did visit all 100+ metal sculptures in the area (get a map at the park visitor’s center or Chamber of Commerce). They were the idea of Dennis Avery, who funded the project and placed the giant rusty artwork on his land, Galleta Meadows, north and south of town. The artist, Ricardo Breceda, sculpted the creatures, many of them prehistoric beings who would have roamed this area, over several years beginning in 2008. His artistry is amazing.
We even had a little fun posing with some of the sculptures.
The state park has a nice visitor’s center on the edge of town with displays about the history, geology, and wildlife in the area. We walked the nature trail that identifies some of the plants and a paved trail to the campground that has a scaled representation of the solar system with the visitor’s center as the sun.
Another day we came back to do the Palm Canyon hike, one of the most popular of the parks many trails. You can pay $10 to park at the trailhead in the campground or park for free at the visitor’s center and walk a little over a mile to start the hike. Thus our 3.5 mile hike turned into 6 miles. We weren’t too impressed with the palm canyon (the one at KOFA was hard to beat) but there were some good views, especially on the way down via the alternate route.
Our enjoyment was interrupted though when Chuck badly twisted his ankle climbing over a large boulder. He had to grit his teeth and limp the last 2 miles and spent the next 2 days implementing R.I.C.E. That ended our hiking in the area although I took a couple of hikes exploring the hills in the campground on my own.
Wildflowers were just starting to bloom here and there. We saw desert lily, lupine, jojoba, and others. In another week or two they said the bloom, and the crowds, would be phenomenal. In fact after we left someone sent us a post about the “superbloom” happening this year.
The state park completely surrounds the charming little town of Borrego Springs. Visiting the Friday morning farmer’s market we scored fresh strawberries, baby kale, oranges, lettuce and pea pods, even though some of the vendors were already packing up at noon (the market goes until 1pm). We also heard that the grapefruit at Seely’s Ranch are great, but didn’t head out that way. I wandered for nearly an hour in a great shop, Borrego Outfitters. In addition to a good selection of outdoor and casual clothing and shoes, they had gifts, wine, kitchen items, kids crafts, hats, hiking gear and so much more. On the advice of another camper we found a small grocery store, Desert Panty, that was much more reasonable than the bigger Central Market. Sadly, we never got a chance to check out the Red Ocotillo restaurant that was recommended by two different people.
With so much more to explore in California’s biggest state park and some favorites to return to, I’m sure we’ll be back again!