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February 21, 2020

Mine Wash - the Kumyaay winter home and GOLD!

Yaqui Pass has a large flat boondocking area the overnight parking is fine for a self contained RV, but really it’s just a parking lot with no cell service.  But it does have one thing going for it ... It is also the trailhead for Kenyon Overlook, which is one of my favorite short hikes (1 mi R/T).


Although the hike can be done as a loop, I’ve always done an it as an out-n-back route to avoid walking on the narrow shoulder of S3.


It's a great hike for the morning sunrise or an evening sunset, which reflects off Sunset Peak. 

The trail passes through a pretty common desert landscape as it gradually climbs to the overlook.  Just prior to the ‘official’ overlook is a spur to the east that is worth a visit.  I’ve read there is evidence the native Kumeyaay enjoyed this view too, but have not found any.

The trail is in honor of William Kenyon who dedicated his efforts into preserving the 'magnificent desert lands'.



The overlook is of the Mescal Bajada (Agave Alluvial Fan)

Then K-POW, the view is truly worth it!  Spend some time to watch the shadows move across the washes.  I took the kids up here along with a Julian pie.  Hmm plates, knife, water, napkins ... no forks!  We enjoyed the view eating pie with our fingers.

Looking directly across CA78 is the entrance to Mine Wash in the Mescal Bajada, today’s destination.


The entrance is just short of 3 miles east from the junction of S3 and CA78.

Although there are no restrooms at the camping area at Yaqui Pass, there is a facility just inside the Mine Wash trail.

Although the wash is named for an abandoned and unnamed gold mine, it is also a good place to explore the native american winter home site.

It’s an easy 1.5 mile drive up Mine Wash to the Kumeyaay Winter Village Site, any vehicle can make it this far.  Like modern snowbirds, the native Americans would migrate to the Borrego Springs area from the snow and cold of the Laguna mountains to this desert oasis for the winter.

A fascinating site to explore, no hiking required  -  just park and explore.  This is probably the most accessible archaeological site in Anza Borrego.  The surrounding area provides water, food and more rabbits than we've seen elsewhere! 

The ocotillo here are green and full, not red as those near Borrego Springs.

The cholla are sporting a fair amount of new growth

The size of this winter community is amazing!  The moteros can be found most everywhere, there are rock shelters and roasting pits.  Pottery fragments can still be found near the big kitchen area.

A few pictures of the dozens I took of the moteros.
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And a rock shelter

The shelter beneath this rock (I think it looks like a pirate from this angle) is the remains of what might have been a communal kitchen.  It's scarred with smoke from fires and open to the sky.

We could spend all day here, but we continue up Mine Wash to the end to find the Gold Mine, for which the trail is named.

The wash gets a bit technical past the winter home site.  A 4x4 high clearance should be used.

Pizza oven? fry bread?

The wash ends after another 3 miles


Gold Mine is at the Northwest slope at the end of the wash.  Rather a disappointment!  The white rock has been cut by hand, the entrance to the mine tunnel is just beyond.  It's a rock scramble we chose not to do.  

We decided to hike the wash up to an overlook of the Pinion Wash.  However the first dry fall we encountered was being 'guarded' by a several dozen bees.

They were busy doing their thing and paid no attention to us.  I thought I could throw a handful of sand to scatter them, but we decided that might just make them angry.  Better to let them be docile.  

We'll relocate to Blair Valley to explore a couple lesser known canyons.  It was a great day for us, hope you enjoyed yours.

February 18, 2020

Borrego Springs - Some fun parts


We arrived Thursday and checked out the tangle of RVs at Pegleg and those across the street.  There was room for maybe a dozen more, but decided to use the American Legion Post campground.

We selected a ‘Dry Camping’ (aka boondocking) site in the NW corner of the property.  The options are $5 dry camping, $15 W/E with upto 50 amp service or $25 for FHU.  All options include use of the shower (donation) and free WIFi mostly usable, but cell service there is pretty good.

Friday morning we wandered the Farmer’s Market at Christmas Circle.  I doubt we’ve ever purchased anything there, but do take advantage to use their free Christmas Circle WiFi.  It’s often slow, but usually usable.

The Seley Red Grapefruit is available from the Kiwanas fruit stand at Christmas Circle for $5.  Or from the Seley farm stand for $3.50
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With the grapefruit stashed in the backseat we took an afternoon drive out Coyote Canyon to Desert Gardens.  The wash was recently graded it was the best condition ever!


Not much yet in bloom.  Borrego received too much rain at the wrong time and little rain at the right time.

There may not be a much of a wildflower season this year.
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There was a single proud lupine standing tall.


And more red ocotillo then I have previous seen. 
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The ocotillo are drought deciduous, shedding their leaves to conserve moisture.  The 'Red Ocotillo' are those going into conservation mod.

I nearly always stop a Font’s Point, where I released my father’s ashes.  
He has a great sunset view from the badlands

This view was also enjoyed by fellow bloggers Pam and John, and Suzi and Dave.  As seen HERE.

We did see one Desert Lily on the return growing in Short Wash.  One of my favorites, it has a wonderful subtle fragrance.

We were only in BS for a replenishment stop on our way further south.  Fortunately on our last night there Dave and Suzi of Beluga's Excellent Adventure were able to join us for a Happy Hour.
Thanks for the photo Suzi!

Next we’ll do some hiking as we stretch our legs, see how the Kumeyaay spent the winter and search for a gold mine then explore some lesser know canyons.


February 14, 2020

Borrego Sandman - and other Borrego misc.

I do not have enough to make a single subject post this week.  So this post will be a potpourri of a few topics that might be of interest around Borrego Springs.

Borrego Sandman

Since the first arrivals of Europeans in the Borrego Valley, reports of “Hairy Beasts” have been recorded.

Reliable reports continued well into the 20th century when US Marine Victor Stonayow discovered 14” tracks in the Borrego Sink.  Photos and plaster casts were recorded and sent for evaluation, but have since been lost.

I’ve talked to the Ranchita Store owner who displays the “Ranchita Yeti” and asked if that was the “Sandman”.  I was told originally yes, but they decided to call him Yeti to distinguish themselves. 
The last report of the Borrego Sandman was in Badlands in the 1970s as reported by Mysterious Universe.

But the Travel Channel is not convinced, and was filming an update to their 2019 Borrego Sandman segment for their Mysteries in the Museum series.  Filming was taking place in the badlands and Ranchita.

 Check the Travel Channel in your area for a segment on the Borrego Sandman.

Gypsum Mine Expansion

The BLM has approved the request of US Gypsum to expand its mining operation.  Plaster City in Ocotillo, is the processing plant for the drywall, while the quarry for US Gypsum Mine is off Split Mountain Road in Ocotillo Wells.  Altho the processing plant will be granted more water, the mine quarry will be granted more area.

I'm seldom in favor of public lands being given to for-profit private entities.  Arg!  And I'm even less in favor of strip mining!

Borrego Springs Resort

To be clear this is Borrego Springs Resort off Tilting-T road south of town, NOT the Springs at Borrego. 

Borrego Springs Resort and their adjacent Club Circle has closed their golf courses … permanently! 

Fran has played tennis at Borrego Springs Resort, and those courts will remain open. 
We’ve played golf at Club Circle several times.  It had an honor system 9-hole where we’d place the green fees ($5 ea) in their iron ranger, borrow their clubs, balls and a pull cart.  It was inexpensive, fun and informal ... Alas no more ...
 The crappy pull carts are still here but the Iron Ranger has been taped up.  Does that mean play free???


There are other golf courses, however this closure also includes the loss of the only Disc Golf Course in Borrego Springs.

I’ve written the mayor and Chamber of Commerce to see if they would consider the creation of a public Disc Golf Course, but have received no reply.

Rockhouse Road/Clark Lake

As I have previously mentioned boondocking at Clark Lake is no longer permitted.
But is Rockhouse Road still passable?  At the time of my last post it was.  But now I’ve heard the road is closed, no longer travel to the ‘Rock House’, the Kumeyaay home site nor the petroglyphs is allowed.
Today the road was passable, but the cones would indicate it can again be blocked,

Day Use Fees

California State Parks have had ‘Day Use Fees’ for some time.  The Anza Borrego Desert State Park is a California State Park.  The developed campgrounds, Borrego Palm Canyon and Tamarisk Grove, have employed fees for some time.  Nearby Cuyamaca State Park has iron rangers and charges the $10 day use fee at trailheads. 

 However, the Visitor Center now also requires a $10 Day Use Fee.  A Borrego Sun article says the fee will be required Friday-Sunday and Holidays. 

Apparently no weekday fee is required at the VC and access to Palm Canyon trailhead from there ... yet!

I chatted with the rangerette today and was told the fee would be applied by season and demand, but always on weekends and holidays.  With wildflower season approaching the fee is charged every day,



The water faucet at the VC has also been turned off. ARG! 
It’s a nice center, but not worth 10 bucks IMHO, if you need water also dump the tanks at the campground and enjoy the 
VC after.

Santa Ysabel Nature Center

The Nature Center opened Dec 2019, making it the newest addition to the San Diego County Parks system.  It is also unique within the system, being the only 'Nature Center'. 
Somewhat like a local Natural History Museum it provides connection to local history, wildlife and preservation efforts … and it’s FREE!

The center also offer FREE WiFi


It's a small local display but with some good info and fun modern exhibits

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Stop by for a visit when you're in the area

While we were parked there enjoying lunch, out our window was a California Department of Corrections crew working on trail improvement.

SoCal is not just a biodiverse hot spot, but also geological and cultural.  Reasons I like to live here!

January 30, 2020

Yuha Desert - Intaglios and a well

Of the blogs I read, only a search on the Armchair Hiker San Diego finds Yuha in the Search Bar.  Not a very popular destination!  The Yuha Desert is located on BLM land south of I-8.

The map shows 7 sites worth a visit:

1.  Overlook
2.  Yuha Well
3.  Yuha Desert
4.  Yuha Geoglyph
5.  Fossil Shell Beds
6.  Crucifixion Thorn
7.  Historic de Anza Campsite

My weekly BLM NewsBytes (Issue 886) contained this article:

<quote>
New Audio Tour for the Juan Bautista de Anza Historic Trail
Want to learn more about the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail? A new audio tour and map for the trail through Imperial County are available on our website! The 1,200-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail commemorates, protects, marks, and interprets the route traveled by Anza and the colonists during the years 1775 and 1776 from Sonora, Mexico (New Spain), to settle Alta California and establish a mission and presidio at today's San Francisco, California. (BLM Facebook)
<end quote>

Follow the BLM Facebook link to listen/download the audio and/or download the map.

I have been to the intaglios and the Anza viewpoint in the past, but not the other points of interest.  With the release of the commentary, now I have a perfect excuse for a day trip!


I entered the Yuha Desert on CA 98.

and started the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail on BLM Trail 274.
This is also the main east/west trail through the desert.

The kiosk has good information to review, although its map is slightly different then the previous two.
The 7 points of interest are the same numbers as above, which I will use in the remainder of this blog.

This kiosk is also the starting point of the Audio Tour.  The audio describes the Yuha Desert (#3) including excerpts from both the journals of Padre Font and Juan Bautista de Anza.
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The Yuha Desert is second to Death Valley as the most brutal in the US.
The first of the three stops on the audio tour is the Anza Overlook (#1), via BLM Trail 308 off BLM Trail 274.
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Returning to Trail 274 the Yuha Geoglyphs (#4) are the next stop.  The narration here is performed by a native Kumeyaay elder.  It’s really hard to see the glyphs from ground level.  A drone would help.  (The intaglios in Blyth are much better preserved.)
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This picture is from DesertUSA.com, showing the complete glyph from above
from Desert USA . com
The road past the intaglios does get a bit more technical as it enters the badlands.  The 20 minute audio tour ends with a stop at the Yuha Well (#2) on Trail 346.  The local Kumeyaay led the de Anza expedition to reliable water at this well.  By the early 1900s there were 5 wells here, which remained in use until mid-century.  It’s unknown how many earlier centuries the native population relied on this water.  Alas now, there is no  water.
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At this point I could continue on Trail 346 to the Fossil Shell Beds (#5), but as the wind was becoming a factor I returned to Trail 274.  Thus the option of reaching the fossils later or exiting to the east, or returning the way I came.

The radio said the wind was 25 mph with gusts to 35 and would increase to 50+.  Yikes – I exited to the east while the trails were still mostly visible.  Although Signal Mountain is now barely visible in the dust cloud.



Camancho’s Place between El Centro and Seely has been a favorite for a ‘dive’ Mexican joint.  Lunch with a Cerveza Mexicali, a new beer from Tecate.
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The wind did indeed get stronger and I totally forgot about the Crucifixion Thorn (#6) as I headed home on I-8 instead of my plan of using CA 98.

Along with the Shell Beds something for next time!


Some notes:
Good cell signal, except in the remote canyons

Trails altho mostly hard pack are often off-kilter, rutted and at time technical.  High clearance 4x4 is required
Download the audio and map from the BLM Facebook page
It’s BLM land – dog friendly and dispersed camping
The only known glyph of a man on horseback is found in the Piedras Grandes, perhaps of this expedition

Certainly a fun and educational off-road adventure.