Anza-Borrego Hiking

February 18, Saturday

It rains overnight, but not the heavy downpour that was expected. This morning the road into camp has a few puddles in the low spots, but if there was any flash flooding it’s past. The sky is a uniform gray, and low clouds shroud the tops of the mountains.

It’s a stay inside kind of day. I write, read, and peek outside on occasion. It drizzles on and off. In the evening I drive into Borrego Springs to get online since the Verizon signal is unusable where I’m camping (I don’t have a booster). Even in town with full bars it’s slow going, perhaps the tower is overloaded. The sunset makes the wait worth it though.

February 19, Sunday

What a pretty morning. It starts with fog.

As the sun rises the fog burns off, but then fluffy clouds roll in, painting the mountainside with abstract patterns of light. I love partly-cloudy days and could sit for hours watching clouds roll across mountains. Something about it just speaks to my soul.

I also love hiking days.

Two members of our camp moved on after the rain. The three of us remaining pile into Bertha. I retrace the route I took from Ocotillo Wells to get here, turning south at the traffic circle in Borrego Springs and getting on 78 and back into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We’re only on 78 for a mile or so before the turnoff to Buttes Pass Road, a dirt track popular with off-roaders that leads to several washes and points of interest in the park. It’s only one lane, but there are frequent pull-overs.

We’re not going that far in. At the first fork we take a left and stop at the parking area for The Slot, a short trail at 1.5 miles round trip through a slot canyon. Any type of vehicle can make it this far, but I think after this point it gets rougher. The parking lot is loosely defined and not very large, but I find a spot to squeeze Bertha in.

From the parking lot you can climb down into the slot canyon immediately, or you can go the other direction and follow along the top of the badlands first and leave the slot canyon for the end. We opt for the second route. My first summer on the road I worked at Badlands National Park, and this crumbly clay terrain still fascinates me.

Before long, the trail descends. The weather continues to be really nice, cool with clouds casting shadows on the landscape.

Ooo, my first wildflowers of the season. Desert Lillies down here at the bottom of the wash are just starting to bloom, the ones up top are still closed. If one of your camping goals is to follow nice weather, finding flowers in February means you’re doing something right.

We take a detour to what I later learn are called wind caves. From a distance it looks a bit like a honeycomb. These hollows in the rock are relatively small, only the largest are big enough for a person to crawl into. It’s hard to imagine the amount of time it must have taken for the wind to carve them out.

There’s even a tiny arch arch here, hidden unless looked at from the correct angle.

From there the trail enters a canyon between crumbly rock walls, too soft to climb. The way narrows gradually, and it takes me a while to realize we’ve entered the slot canyon.

Brian passing through a narrow spot

In places the walls are so close that I need to turn sideways or duck to pass. The temperature down here out of the sun is cooler and it feels quite pleasant. It probably would not have been so pleasant a couple days ago when the rain was coming down.

Vanessa admires the view

The canyon ends more abruptly on the other side, and the trail climbs back up to the parking lot. It was a bit of a drive to get out here, but I’d say the trek was worth it for how pretty it was.

February 21, Tuesday

It’s great to be camping near a State Park with so many nice trails. Vanessa and I head west of Borrego Springs today to hike Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail, which is 3 miles round trip. The trail starts at the campground, or you can also park at the visitor center and walk from there which adds an additional 1.4 miles round trip. This is the route we opt for.

The trail from the visitor center to campground is paved with informational displays

The northeastern side of the loop follows a wide wash past large boulders and litter from downed palms carried by rare but powerful floods. It’s an upward climb, but a gentle one.

After a while the trail meets up with a stream and parallels it. Water pours over boulders in waterfalls and stands in pools where the terrain is more level. The first palms show up not long after, smaller and scattered along the edges of the stream. The California Fan Palm is the only native palm in the western United States. An informational placard explains that they’re a remnant leftover from a cooler and wetter era when this area was a grassland dotted with clumps of trees. Today they’re mostly found near fault zones where springs provide a source of water year-round.

I’m guessing that the water level is higher than usual from the recent rain, as parts of the trail are muddy or under water. Other visitors out hiking try a variety of ways to avoid getting wet, and a group of us end up on the wrong side of the stream from the palm grove up on a rocky ledge. Well, we may have gone the wrong way, but this is a pretty good view!

Vanessa and I backtrack and find a way across the stream to the grove. The palm trees tower overhead, shading us from the hot sun. We enjoy a snack on a boulder while listening to birds call overhead and the wind rustling through palm fronds and cattails growing near the water.

The hike back on the southwestern half of the loop follows the curve of the mountains above the wash. Wildflowers grow rampant among the rocks, it’s great to see all the color. Spring has come to the Colorado Desert, or at least this part of it.

This half also offers a good panoramic view of the valley below. Ocotillo spread their green fingers over brush and rock. Borrego Wells lies in the distance beyond the campground.

Coming back to the theme of clouds and mountains, lenticular clouds are piling up over a peak to the north as we get back to camp. This type of cloud is unique to mountainous areas and isn’t real common. Sometimes they look like flying saucers, this stack isn’t that well defined, but still pretty cool. And I got to experience all of this natural beauty on a Tuesday, when in my old life I would have been stuck at work. Nope, I still have no regrets about becoming a full-timer!

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  1. Archer on March 27, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    The pictures are so stunning. The hike must have been great

  2. Tom on February 26, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Hi Becky,
    Your fourth photo down with the clouds hovering just above your Casita and campsite is strikingly beautiful. It just pulled me into the moment. I’ve also greatly enjoyed camping the Rockhouse Trails area and hiking the Borrego desert.

    Would you mind telling me what kind of camera you use? I am enjoying reading about your outdoor experiences, travels and full time RV/camping life style.
    Regards, Tom

  3. Sarah Shillinger on February 25, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    absolutely gorgeous pictures

    • Becky on February 27, 2017 at 3:29 pm


  4. Jodee Gravel on February 25, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    I’m trying to figure out how you accessed the Wind Caves without going down the canyon and then climbing up – I’ll have to look at the map. The lilies are going to be amazing this year.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..It’s Not Personal, Prescott!My Profile

    • Becky on February 27, 2017 at 3:29 pm

      It’s not a regular stop on the trail Jodee, you have to go off a ways but no they weren’t hard to get to. Note these are not the wind caves labeled on a trail farther south in the park.

  5. Fred on February 25, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Nice Pictures. By the way, the California Fan Palm is the only palm native to the western US, but there are at least a dozen native to the eastern US. You probably saw the native Sabal Palm at Hunting Island. The Sabal Palm is the state tree for both Florida, where I grew up, and South Carolina.

    • Becky on February 27, 2017 at 3:24 pm

      I had to look this up Fred because the Sabal Palm is actually called the Sabal Palmetto and I wasn’t sure if palms and palmettos were the same thing or different.

      It sounds like palmettos are considered a separate group, but it looks like there are a couple other palms native to the US including the Everglades Palm so it looks like you’re correct anyway! I got that bit of info about this one being the only native palm to the US from an informational sign at the State Park (and I took a picture of it so I know I didn’t just read it wrong), looks like they need to update their signage!

  6. Bill Davies on February 25, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Very interesting area you were at. Pictures are very nice. Love the “no regrets”. If I had life to do over again my first big purchase would have been a Casita or Scamp.

    • Becky on February 25, 2017 at 1:59 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Bill.

  7. Becky and Mike on February 24, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Hi Becky. .we are going to be camping out west in the next few months. ..planning on trying boondocking for a good while. We also have a Casita which we absolutely LOVE! Our question is. do you leave to go into town and not worry about someone stealing your rig?? What precautions do you take to insure security for your rig?? Thanks for your advice!

    • Becky on February 25, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      The sad truth is that there is no way to absolutely deter theft, I knew a couple that had both a hitch lock and wheel locks on their expensive, high-end teardrop trailer and had it stolen when they were gone only an hour. Theft isn’t very common though, so you just have to accept that it’s a remote (but real) possibility and decide if the risk is worth it to you.

      I do have a hitch lock but my Casita’s biggest defense is that it’s older and looks it. The fiberglass is dull, the plastic parts are yellowed, the wheel covers are brittle and dirty. There isn’t much money to be made in stealing and selling an 18 year-old trailer. Plus I figure thieves are less likely to think that someone traveling in an older trailer will be carrying expensive stuff in it (truth in my case).

      I wrote more about this in my Boondocking Anwers post.

  8. Elaine on February 24, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Gorgeous photos. We met briefly at Quartzite. Sorry we didn’t get much of a chance to talk. I’m on my way back to Canada, presently in central Oregon on the amazing coast. I love partly cloudy days too and Oregon seems to specialize in them.

    • Becky on February 25, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Hope you’re enjoying your trek back to Canada Elaine. I haven’t been to Oregon or Washington yet but I can’t wait to. I’m saving it for when I can spend several months there. Safe travels and happy trails.

      • Elaine on February 27, 2017 at 7:09 pm

        The trek back was wonderful. The beaches in Oregon! wow. Didn’t spend much time in Washington as the weather was getting pretty bad that far north. I love winter travel (few people, no bugs, no problem finding spots to camp, clean rain washed air, amazing skyscapes) but best a bit south of Washington, I think. If you ever get to Vancouver let me know, I can give you some places to boondock.

        • Becky on February 28, 2017 at 3:55 pm

          Sounds like fun. I actually will be in the Vancouver area this summer but I’ll be flying in for a retreat, it won’t be an RVing adventure. Thanks for the offer though!

          • Elaine from BC on March 5, 2017 at 12:32 pm

            I hope you enjoy your time here. Maybe another time if you get back to my neck of the woods when I’m at home.

  9. Gerri & Mike on February 24, 2017 at 11:24 am

    What an amazing area and fantastic hike!! Can’t wait to travel that area one day soon.
    Gerri & Mike recently posted..The Rains Stopped, the Sun Came Out and So Did WeMy Profile

    • Becky on February 25, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      You won’t regret it Gerri and Mike. 🙂

  10. Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets on February 24, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Hi Becky! Can’t believe we’re still here in “Q” after 6 weeks. We camped in Borrego Springs a year ago. Unfortunately, due to the time of year, the beautiful colors had not presented themselves. It can be spectacular there. Love the area and the metal sculptures. Wasn’t “The Slot ” a fun detour? Did you trek to the Pumpkin Patch? We got lost and never found it. Next time.
    Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets recently posted..2016 Financial RecapMy Profile

    • Becky on February 25, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      The color is just starting here Ed, I think in a week or two it’ll be even better. I probably won’t be around by then but even seeing what I have is nice.

      We didn’t try the Pumpkin Patch, maybe another visit!

  11. jerryc on February 24, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Your post brought back some great memories. Love the Borrego Springs area. Looking forward to more…jc

    • Becky on February 25, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      You’re welcome JerryC, it sure is a fun area.

  12. Diana Graham on February 24, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Hi Becky! Great post. Lon and I boondocked near Anzo Borrego Desert SP in January and did the same two hikes! (although we continued past the Slot for a few miles just to increase the distance) We will definitely be back. If you’re up for a fun day trip, check out Julian. It’s a small town that caters to tourist, but the drive to/from Borrego Springs is beautiful.

    • Becky on February 25, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      I’ll keep Julian in mind Diana, thanks!

  13. Jeff Harris on February 24, 2017 at 6:28 am

    Yes!! I was about to ask if you can write about your hiking experiences. I LOVE hiking but have only been on the east coast. Usually Shenandoah National Park and George Washington and Jefferson National Park. Great trails and back-country camping at both. Was hoping maybe you could give a Top 5 hikes?? Soon I’ll be following in your footsteps and trek out west. Full-timing starts in October!! (unless Amazon will let me start in Murfreesboro in September??) Loving all your blogs…so much info for newbies!!

    • Becky on February 25, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      I’ve written a lot about the hikes I’ve done since I hit the road Jeff, you can find more if you search for “hikes” and/or “hiking” in the Search IO bar at the bottom of this page. There’s no way I could limit it to just five, I’ve had some pretty great ones!

      Congrats on your impending departure, you must be very excited. Sometimes CamperForce starts in September, depends on the needs of the company. Give the earliest start date you can get there by and they’ll get back to you about a month before you start with your exact date. Good luck and have fun!

  14. Ron on February 23, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    No regrets
    Not many can honestly say that.
    Lucky gal
    Thanks again for sharing.

    • Becky on February 25, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      You’re welcome Ron.

  15. John on February 23, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Nice variety of photos. I love how the trail took you between those narrow gaps. The desert is really greening up. We had 70’s in Wisconsin yesterday, but snow tonight. Enjoy!

    • Becky on February 25, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this John. I heard about the snow from friends in WI, yikes.

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