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October 25, 2017

The Blue Sun Cave - Anza Borrego

We left Borrego Springs heading to Ocotillo at the southern end of the park.   The antique cars were out for a Sunday drive as they returned home from Borrego Days.  Our destination for the night will be the Mortero Wash staging area.  This is the wash leading to the Impossible Railway and the trail head to our ultimate destination.
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In Jerry Shad’s Afoot and Afield in San Diego County he had this to say of Indian Hill (in my 1995 revision): “Several rocky hills consisting of desert-varnished granitic boulders punctuate the surface of this plain.  One of these is Indian Hill – which is incorrectly labeled on the Sweeney Pass topo map.  The true Indian Hill, a site of Indian occupation, has a fire-blackened cave and morteros on its northeast side.”  Google Maps has inherited the misinformation and also has Indian Hill at the same wrong location.  I have not seen any of the Anza Borrego State Park maps that show Indian Hill at all, correct or incorrect.  I think this may be intentional to preserve this delicate feature.

This was not much information to work with and I really have made no effort to locate the true Indian Hill.  I have hiked to the trestle, the lime stone mine and the railroad camp … all of these back-in-the-day when we could get away with hiking on the railroad tracks, but did not attempt to locate Indian Hill. 

But then perhaps unintentionally Diana Lindsay let slip the distance and direction of the true Indian Hill from the one marked on maps.  With the aid of Google Maps and a bit of research I fairly quickly had 3 candidates for a pile of rocks within an area with piles of rocks. 

Where Google thinks Indian Hill is.

What you’ll need:
Reliable 4x4 with high clearance, check out the new radiator in Fran’s Jeep.  Just showing it off since I forgot to include the picture in the Borrego Days blog.  It’s a 3-core beauty!
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Lots of water!  When the Railroad tracks were available for hiking we’d stash water in the tunnels to lighten our backpacks and have cool water on the return.  That’s not an option anymore.
A GPS is helpful, after awhile all the hills will look alike.  If you feel lost remember the railroad tracks are east, when you reach them turn right.
The usual hat, sunscreen and camera with extra batteries, and of course more water!
There is no cell service in this area, you’ll need to be self contained and prepared.
Note that it is currently illegal to drive across the railroad tracks!  Back-in-the-day that was not a restriction.  Any research that mentions crossing the tracks is out of date.

For most folks the trailhead will start at the Dos Cabezas Railroad Siding at the end of Mortero Wash.  High clearance is required (I’d recommend 4x4), this can be a moderate 4 miles, which is mostly hard packed with lots of rocks, some bigger and sharper than others.  From here the trail is ~6 miles out-n-back.  
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I also had a plan to shave 4 miles off this route – 4x4 lo range was required.  Wile E would have fun!  Fran's TJ made it through, oh we did backtrack to a bypass :)
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Again note that it is currently illegal to drive across the railroad tracks!  Ownership of the tracks and its resources changed again in 2016.  So foot traffic only!  Although it’s a bit of an effort to get to this crossing legit, it is definitely worth it to shave 4 miles off the customary route and on a hot day for the hike it's worth the effort ... and a good test of the new radiator!

Apparently not all 4x4 drivers are literate as these look like fresh tracks on an illegal offroad trail.  But the wash is easy to follow, and we ignore the tire tracks.
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The first pile of rocks does not fit my notes.  Although there appear to be some pictographs we did not explore.   The next pile of rocks was closer but not the ones we were looking for.
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Ah the next pile was spot on!  Tossing my backpack it was a bit of a rock scramble up to the entrance to the Cave of the Blue Sun.
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Indian Hill contains several caves (I entered 3) all with some pictographs, but none as extensive as the Cave of the Blue Sun.  The Blue Sun is in the upper left of these pictures, protected from the weather and in the shadows.  Perhaps this is the artist's rendition of a total eclipse ????
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There are many other articles on the Internet of this area. 
The Anza Borrego Net is a contribution blog. 
I like Kevin Price pictures as he uses DStretch to extract the hidden highlights of each pictograph.
Guy Starbuck also has some nice shots.

I have not included any of the numerous Yoni symbols that are seen on some of the other blogs, nor did I hike around to the refuge shelter on the other side of Indian Hill.  It was hot and getting hotter, toward record hot!  Maybe another time ...

If you like I’d be happy to critique your research over a glass of wine, I’ll not put anything more in writing that will disclose the location of this delicate treasure.   I’d request that you do the same, once you’ve found it.  After all, the research is part of the challenge!

Allow time to visit the Dos Cabezas Lime Stone Mine and a the remains of the railroad workers encampment.  A nimble hiker may want consider an outing to the Goat Canyon Trestle

We'll be off-the-grid in Mexico for the next week or so... it's time for Dia de los Muertos and the annual Shrimp Festival in San Felipe.  Blogs to come ....

October 24, 2017

Nightfall - Borrego Springs Star Party

Borrego Springs has been awarded the Dark Sky Community Designation, the only city in California to receive the award.  Their cherished award can be viewed HERE.  The community is completely surrounded by the large Anza Borrego Desert State Park in all directions.  They continue to believe a dark night is a resource worth protecting.

We splurged and paid for a couple nights at the Palm Canyon RV Resort.  And lucked into the perfect spot to attend.  The view through the windshield is Riverside Astronomical Society setting up telescopes that will be open for public viewing.  Lots of the big Dobsonian telescopes, they travel well.
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A walk around the RV park gives an idea of how seriously these folks take their hobby.  There are literally hundreds of telescopes spread around the campground.
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This is a over/under solar telescope.  The upper spotting scope looks a lot like a standard spoting scope with a solar lens.  If the sun derides to do something interesting, the lower scope can be used to zoom in on that area of the corona.
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The theme this year was imaging with separate all day dedicated to a classroom associated with the various aspects.  The imaging scopes are easy to distinguish as they have a bunch of wires and no eye-piece.
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New this year is a swap meet in addition to the usual vendors.  Is $4,200 a good price for a CCD camera?  Or should I just pick up the beginner package for about half that?
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Here’s my little contribution to the party.  it is a Celestron 4SE, like most of the Celestron telescopes it is a Maksutov–Cassegrain, I found on Craig’s List.  With attached USB camera I can see the display on the computer (left window) of my PC.  I use Stellarium (right window) to see what is objects are available to enjoy.  Stellarium is free under the GNU license.  This makes a nice little grab-n-go package with tracking abilities.
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After a brief introduction by Borrego’s professional astronomer, Dennis Mammana we were turned loose to enjoy what was available in the night sky.

Interested in attending Nightfall?  It will be Nov 1-4 2018 the info can be found HERE.  I checked Stellarium and Saturn will be visible in front of the Milky Way...

We’ll look for the Blue Sun Cave on the way home.

October 23, 2017

Borrego Springs - 52nd Annual Borrego Days

The Borrego Days Festival is an annual event in late October as an official kick-off to the tourist/snowbird season.  We’ve been to quite a few and I’ve put a couple on the blog.  The formula is the same – a fly-over, a parade and food/fun/entertainment in Christmas Circle.  So why do we come back?  Although the formula is pretty much the same, each parade is different and this year it coincides with Nightfall and the Orionid Meteor Shower.  I curled up with a fleece about 2:30 in the morning to watch for meteors.  More on the Nightfall Star Party in a coming post.
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This is a silly picture, but it was taken during the National Anthem, notice that none is sitting or protesting – we are all standing with our hearts covered as a high school gal knocks it out of the park – acapella!  A nice change from pro-football.
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The local American Legion always leads the parade as the official color guard and riders.
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Followed by a fly over.  There were 12 aircraft this year, this bi-plane has been here before to lead the others.  But new this year is the final plane – low, fast, loud, blowing smoke and setting off all the car alarms!  Awesome touch!  He is so welcome back!
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The local arts are doing OZ, nice float anyway. 
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Seems Holtville is here every year, they’re not just known for the Carrot Festival – they have a decent high school band.  The local high school has a restored fire truck.
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The X-Games Gold Medalist in Street Luge, Stuart Edmondson, comes down the hill showing his speed.
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This young girl is a new equestrian rider joining the growing number of horses.
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Last year’s Miss Borrego has passed her crown to the new queen seen along with her court on the following float.
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On the west end of The Mall is a new-to-me ceramic mural.  A lot of work went into this and it is indeed worth a look.
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The events at Christmas Circle provide food and entertainment through the day.
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And the car show and shine.  I have no use for a Cadillac La Salle, but it is a beauty – now an Alpha …. I'd drive that home.
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Another silly picture but I spent a few hours last weekend putting this radiator into the Jeep.  Just look at all that shine!  It's a thing of beauty!
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The official ground breaking on the new Borrego Springs County Library was held in the early afternoon.
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The new library will be directly across the street from the post office.  The existing library is on east end of the Mall in the left of this picture.  It will look like the model below.  Wish we could get a new library Sad smile!
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During the public input period I suggested that citrus trees would provide shade and fruit.  I received a brief that essentially said “NO!” … “ the water and maintenance requirements are cost prohibitive."

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With the toss of the dirt construction has begun!  …. sans citrus trees.