Hills and Mountains

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…

Marshall strikes a pose

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.

Site #7

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).

The outdoor gathering area

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!

Never been to an RV park before where the ends of the toilet paper rolls are folded into neat tabs…

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.

And yes, there’s grass because it’s been so wet

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.

The 9% grade is short, you can see the road coming back up out of the wash on the other side. Was kinda fun!

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.

Those white dots in the distance are clusters of boondockers. These are the mountains to the west.

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.

Down Borrego Salton Seaway.  These are the mountains to the north-east.

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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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Jodee Gravel on February 23, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Glad to see you having so much fun in the desert. You have really embraced the boondocking life! Love those stormy skies :-))))))
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Sharing New Beauty With Old FriendsMy Profile

    • Becky on February 23, 2017 at 8:12 pm

      People who think the desert is boring haven’t looked hard enough. The beauty is there, it’s just more subtle. 🙂

  2. Judy Blinkenberg on February 23, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Thank you Becky for you wonderful report. Your writing descriptions make your blog my very favorite. It’s wonderful to follow you. Thank you and have fun. We will be on the road once California is out of this drought!

    • Becky on February 23, 2017 at 8:11 pm

      You’re welcome Judy!

  3. Sharvo on February 22, 2017 at 3:03 am

    I enjoy your eye for the micro and macro.

    • Becky on February 23, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      Thanks Sharvo.

  4. Biz Crate on February 21, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    I had every intention of finding the RTR group in Quartzsite. I got part way down the road, stopped, turned around and ended up boondocking 19 miles south on Palm Canyon Road in Kofa. TOO MANY people!
    The rain was pretty cool. Thankfully, none of rhe washes or arroyos around me got too flooded and the ground I was on was firm. Still, for a newbie, it was a pretty intense day or so.
    I’m now near Saddleback Mountain near Tonopah, AZ for the night – very pretty! Heading on to Tucson tomorrow. I hear there is a big rodeo going on this week and Thursday will be the biggest non-motorized parade in the country (?) world(?) I dunno but I’m going.
    Stay safe, Becky! Love your blog!
    Oh, and say Hi to the vandwellers for me… sorry we haven’t met …yet.

    • Becky on February 21, 2017 at 9:16 pm

      It was very (very) crowded at the RTR this year so I can’t say I blame you Biz. Glad you made it through the storm, we only got about a quarter-inch total in Borrego, much less than predicted.

      I camped at Saddleback Mountain for two weeks last winter, loved all the hiking out there. Enjoy Tucson! I’ll say hi for you.

  5. Pamelab on February 21, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Hi, Becky – More nice photos of your latest adventure. I just finished reading about your solar setup. Very helpful. I hope to do something similar soon. Hanging around Houston for some knee surgery. Happy trails.
    Pamelab in Houston for now.

    • Becky on February 21, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      Those little solar suitcases work so well with Casitas Pamela, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

      I hope your surgery goes well and recovery is quick so you can get back on the road. Take care!

  6. Gerri & Mike on February 21, 2017 at 9:14 am

    You left us hanging…here it comes!! Hope it wasn’t too bad and passed on its way.
    What beautiful mountains!! Your pics are super!!
    Stay safe!!
    Gerri & Mike recently posted..Making Our Oliver More HomeMy Profile

    • Becky on February 21, 2017 at 9:11 pm

      Yeah that was a cliff-hanger wasn’t it, kind of mean of me, haha. Thanks for thinking of me, I did make it through just fine. 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the pictures, more are coming!

  7. Lisa Case on February 21, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Wonder if your RV park folks were Asian. Folding the toilet paper like that is very popular here in Japan anyway.

    • Becky on February 21, 2017 at 9:09 pm

      I didn’t know that Lisa, how interesting. The couple who own the park (and all of their employees that I saw) were Caucasian, but maybe that’s where they got the idea?

  8. Jeff on February 21, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Are the wildflowers starting to make an appearance? Hope you get to enjoy them during your stay. Blair Valley offers some nice boondocking along with a few trails to enjoy.
    Jeff recently posted..Avenida Revolución – Urban Hiking TijuanaMy Profile

    • Becky on February 21, 2017 at 9:07 pm

      Didn’t see much at AG Mine Jeff, but a few things are starting to bloom here at Borrego Springs. With the recent rain hopefully more will be popping up soon!

  9. Marc on February 21, 2017 at 7:19 am

    Looks really barren. But OMG those cloud pictures are amazing. Especially the evening one.

    Great post!
    Marc recently posted..Jim Hammond – AlabamaMy Profile

    • Becky on February 21, 2017 at 9:05 pm

      Yes there was vegetation Marc, but it was mostly confined to the washes. A very different feel from the Sonoran desert farther east. Glad you enjoyed the pictures!

  10. Cheryl Kline on February 21, 2017 at 7:00 am

    Enjoy your blogs Beckey, thanks for sharing your travels.

    • Becky on February 21, 2017 at 9:03 pm

      You’re welcome Cheryl, thanks for reading.

  11. Pat on February 21, 2017 at 6:30 am

    Hi Becky,
    Would love to play on some of the spoil piles from those old mines, they can be fun to dig through looking for minerals. You can check on Mindat to see what might be there, and of course if uranium or arsenic pop up, limit your handling of the stuff!.
    Here is a blurb on the American Girl mines:

    • Becky on February 21, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      How interesting Pat, thanks for sharing!

  12. Marshall on February 21, 2017 at 5:11 am

    Thanks for the great shot of me striking a pose! 😳 You make an awesome neighbor.

    • Becky on February 21, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      It was a good picture!

      You made an awesome neighbor too, thanks for the use of your Netflix subscription 😀

  13. Phil Roll on February 21, 2017 at 3:49 am

    Hi! I really enjoy your travelogs. I’m somewhat of a newbie, so bear with me. I notice that your carefully cover your travel trailer’s wheels when camping, but not your truck’s. Why is that? It seems to me that “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.

    • Becky on February 21, 2017 at 8:57 pm

      Heya Phil! I usually park the trailer for weeks (months when I’m work-camping) at a time and those tires don’t get nearly the mileage that my truck tires do. The truck tires will wear out from use and require replacement every couple years, before UV damage can seriously impact them.

      The opposite is true for the trailer. Those tires won’t wear out from use, the UV damage will kill them first. So to prolong their life I use covers when I’m parked somewhere a week or longer. The last set of tires on the Casita lasted 8 years and still looked good when I decided it would be best to replace them before age claimed them, if I hadn’t used covers they probably would have shown dry-rot cracks before then.

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