Thursday, December 27, 2012

Agua Caliente Park - Dec. 25th 2012

Located within the Anza-Borrego Desert, about 100 miles east of San Diego, lies Agua Caliente Regional Park, one of the county's most popular destinations. Best known for its geothermal heated springs, it attracts visitors eager to soak in the soothing mineral pools. People have been enjoying the healing effects of these springs for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It is located along the original Butterfield Stage Coach Route and served as a popular rest stop for early settlers making the long journey across the country. Today, the desert hot springs are a part of San Diego County’s Agua Caliente Regional Park. The county park offers 142 campsites, including full hookups for RVs and campers, a kids play area, picnic area, horseshoe pits, and shuffle board courts. It was a great way to spend the day with my family.

There is a general store near the entrance.  However, it is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Definitely bring water for your trip and consider bringing some snacks as well.

Day-use parking area. It only cost $3 a person for the day from 9am to 5pm.

Picnic and horse shoe area.

Nearby campsites.

Watch for snakes!

There's even an outdoor theater area.

This outdoor pool wasn't too warm.

The upper pool is used primarily by families with young children under 14 years old while the other is primarily used by adults.

I don't even want to know what prompted the use of this sign!

The indoor therapeutic spa heats the natural springs up to 102 degrees and includes Jacuzzi jets. The indoor pool is for adults only until 10:30AM. Afterwards, children who are at least 56 inches tall are allowed to enter the indoor pool.

What? Nudity is not an option? Dang!

With my daughter strapped to my back, it was time to hike the overlook trail.

There are several short trails that head out from the park, including one that takes you several hundred feet above the campground and provides great views of the surrounding rugged desert terrain.

Left to the overlook or straight ahead to Squaw Pond- not so much a pond as a soggy, squishy area with several large willow trees and some small palm trees. At least one diamondback rattlesnake makes a living on the small furry creatures who come here to drink. Coyotes and bobcats also frequent this little oasis. On the nearby hillsides you can admire thickets of glistening teddy-bear-cholla cactus and the stout, erect columns of barrel cacti.

Audrey: "Are we there yet?"

The trail begins to level out as you approach the summit.

Come on guys, you can do it!

View at the top, overlooking the campground.

My BIL, Nick taking in the views.

Audrey was eager to get back down to mommy!

I think they're ready for a dip in the spas.

My beautiful wife.

Walking with grandpa.

While we soaked in the big kids spa, they went for a stroll.

After lunch and soaking in the spas it was time for a game of horse shoes.

Aunt Summer teaching her how to play.

"I got this!"

A perfect way to end the long weekend.

All too soon it was time to hit the road and head home. We'll have to spend a whole weekend there sometime and explore more of the hiking trails.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Carrizo Mountain & Yuha Basin

(Campsite below the summit of Carrizo Mountain.)

Since the upper reaches of Painted Gorge and Carrizo Mountain are closed from January 1st to May 31st due to a seasonal bighorn sheep closure, I planned on camping near the summit over the weekend of the 15th and 16th of December, 2012 with my wife and daughter. Along with exploring old mining roads around the mountain, I also searched for fossilized wood near the Plaster City area and explored the fossilized oyster beds of the historic Yuha Desert. This area is located just outside the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on BLM land. It was great spending some time in one of my favorite areas of the Southern California desert and relaxing around the campfire with my family. 

The beginning of the route to Carrizo Mountain starts on Painted Gorge Road along Highway S80 and passes through Plaster City OHV Area. The graded road soon becomes a trail as it nears the sandy wash of Painted Gorge and quickly enters the canyon. Embedded rocks litter the wash, which eventually turns into a very narrow, rocky, loose shelf road as it nears the summit of Carrizo Mountain. There are great views of the Yuha Desert and Salton Sea along this trail.

Painted Gorge / Carrizo Mtn Trail

Desert USA has the following to say about Painted Gorge, "The Painted Gorge, located on the eastern side of the Coyote Mountains, consists of sedimentary, metamorphic and ingenious rocks. Heat and movement over time has created fantastic shapes and colors. Oranges, reds, purples, and mauves mixed with browns and blacks create a palette of color as the sun illuminates and plays shadows upon this geologic wonder called the Painted Gorge."

Hoping the weather clears up by the time we get out there.

Things are looking good!

Carrizo Mountain is the highest point of the rocky Coyote Mountains, located in the transition zone between the Salton depression of Imperial County, and the mountains and desert valleys of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to the west. The range is located not far north of Interstate-8 near the small community of Ocotillo.

Helping me set up the tent.

Driving through Pained Gorge.

Our mountain top campsite can be seen in the distance.

Bits of fossilized reef and shells just west of Plaster City.

Our hunting grounds.

A few pieces I managed to find.

My girls relaxing in the shade.

This is what happens when you get lost...

The things we find in the desert. This would make a good camp chair, right?

"No daddy, that's just silly!"

Heading back up the mountain.

Looking back towards Painted Gorge.

Home away from home.

More photos of the surrounding area.

Watch out for all the weirdos up here!

It turned out to be a cold night, so we all enjoyed the fire.

Sunday morning.

I think she's ready to go!

Heading down the mountain.

Stopping to check out another potential campsite.

Heading south on Painted Gorge Road.

After crossing under Highway S80 we part part ways with Steve and continue on towards the Yuha Basin with Patrick.

We make our way along the old State Highway, being careful to avoid the collapsed sections. I love exploring old abandoned roads.

The original paved road dates to 1915 and was only 15 feet wide, but paved with Portland Cement. This is unusual for a desert highway since asphalt is better suited to accommodate the temperature extremes associated with the desert climate. This road was surpassed in turn in 1932 by a wider road, U.S. 80, this time paved with asphalt. Both alignments remain today and can be easily seen.

Crossing under Interstate 8.

Making our way into the remote, seldom traveled Yuha Basin.

Yuha Basin Map

The Yuha Desert of extreme Southern California is rich in both human and natural history. The area contains several unique attractions; the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, geoglyphs created by Native Americans, an area of rare crucifixion thorns, oyster shell beds, and the Yuha Well. The Yuha Desert is an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and is a limited use area. Please observe all posted signs. Routes traverse a variety of terrain, from flat desert pavement to sandy washes, to mud hills and other badlands type features.

The Yuha Buttes.

We soon find ourselves surrounded by low lying hills covered with fossilized oysters and ancient reef beds.

My little helper.

The larger oysters were found in the lower areas of the wash.

All too soon it was time to make our way back to civilization. 

Following the route that would take us back to the freeway.

These were a prominent sight from pretty much where ever we were.

One last look back towards an area that'll need to be explored much more.