East of my camp on American Girl Mine Road in Winterhaven, CA is a range of hills, the perfect setting for an evening walk. Sometimes I have company for my evening walk from among the other Xscapers camped nearby…
But most often I go alone. Evidence of mining can be found all over, from plowed tracks to test holes. It’s not a pristine wilderness, but trying to figure out why the miners did what they did is a fun pastime during these walks. Why does this track dead-end up here?
Vegetation is scarce in the hills, and most of the day they look dull and brown. Sunset (and I suppose sunrise too) bring them to life with hues of gold and orange.
In the washes between hills, shrubby desert trees eke out a living where water flows only after heavy rains. Ironwood and Mesquite look enough alike that I have trouble distinguishing between them this time of year, but Palo Verde with their green bark are easy to identify.
The best sunset of my stay here comes on the 8th, the evening after my first round of fillings in Algodones are complete. I posted a few of those pictures already with an Ocotillo in the foreground, here’s one with nothing to distract from the vivid colors. The color settings on this photo have not been touched.
One evening, my wanderings take me to the mouth of a mine. There are several here in the hills, this one is quite close to camp.
They’re all blocked off for safety reasons. I don’t think I could even stand upright in there without bumping my head on the ceiling. No glimmer of precious metals twinkle in the darkness behind the bars (darn), and the back is visible in the dim evening light.
My last dental appointment is on the 14th, and I say goodbye to the group I’ve been camping with the next day. It’s time to be moving on to the next adventure!
February 16, Thursday
Morning finds me hitching up Cas with a wary eye on the weather forecast. A big storm front is due to roll into the region tomorrow, bringing strong winds followed by a lot of rain, possibly an inch or more. Friday night and Saturday look pretty bad everywhere within a day’s drive of Winterhaven, I’d better get a move-on.
The drive west on I8 to El Centro and then north on 111 to Brawley goes quickly. By lunchtime I’m parked in the Walmart I visited on the way down from Slab City. It’s got a few trees for shade and a Starbucks across the way for free WiFi. I stock up on groceries and eat lunch before getting on the road again.
West of Brawley I get on 78 and keep going until I reach my destination for the night, Leapin’ Lizard RV Ranch in Ocotillo Wells.
When I’m boondocking, I like to spend one night in an RV park every-other dump to really flush out my black tank by filling it with water and dumping it a couple times (and do laundry, shower, charge all my electronics, etc).
This means I pay for one night of camping every 5-6 weeks when boondocking. The rate at this place is $35, the last time I paid for camping was the night of January 9th, 37 days ago. This means I’ve spent less than a dollar a night on camping fees, not bad!
Leapin’ Lizard is a cute park. The sites are all back-ins and the Verizon signal is horrible, but there’s a lot of shade, the grounds are well kept, the shower house is immaculate, and the pool looks inviting.
February 17, Friday
Back on 78, it’s easy to see why this town is called Ocotillo Wells, there are a lot of Ocotillo around here! I don’t realize it until later, but some of this land is a part of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
It’s a pretty area. Crumbling badlands appear off to the north, and mountains rise up out of the desert on both sides of the road as well as ahead. 78 routes through a pass in the western range, but I’m not going that far.
I turn Bertha onto Borrego Springs Road, which ends at a traffic circle in the middle of Borrego Springs. The circle (called Christmas Circle) is a park, green with grass and trees (and it has free WiFi!), but I need to get to my destination before the weather turns. For now the clouds dance over the mountains in fun shapes and patterns, but sooner or later they’ll stop playing around.
I exit the traffic circle to the east on Palm Canyon Drive, which curves north and becomes Pegleg Road, then curves east again and becomes Borrego Salton Seaway. This is where the free boondocking starts, it’s impossible to miss because it’s a pretty heavily used area and rigs are visible from the road.
I’m meeting up with more friends, this time folks I know from the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. A dirt road labeled Rockhouse Trail veers to the north. I haven’t camped near mountains like this since Colorado last fall. They tower above the surrounding land without foothills to soften the effect, very close to the boondocking area. It makes me realize how much I’ve missed mountains. Verizon cell service is bad out here, speeds are slow even in town, but it’s worth it for a view like this.
I get settled into camp, parking where I don’t have to unhitch just in case the rain is bad enough to force a move. Late in the afternoon the mountains become indistinct and menacing shadows under thick clouds that spill across the valley. Here it comes!
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