12-16 Feb 2023

random trip report

[Click images for large version and again for full resolution]

My friend M has a friend who's renting a place in Anza Borrego and invited us for a visit. I link this with a visit to Rich, who I haven't seen in a while.

Sunday 12 Feb

We fly OAK to Palm Springs, arriving 10:30 AM. The Palm Springs airport, which is partly outdoors, has a relaxed feel to it, kinda like Kona. Alamo has run out of economy cars, so we get an Audi SUV - sweet, although the nav is disabled. We show up at Rich and James' new house (next to the old house), have lunch on their patio, and go for a dip in the nearby community pool/jacuzzi.

We watch some of the Super Bowl, but it's preempted by an excellent dinner that Rich has prepared (roast chicken with potatoes and Meyer oranges, and asparagus). After dinner we play some 6-hands piano, and Rich does a short improv.

Later, Rich regales me with his latest scientific readings and speculations (e.g. the 64-million year extinction cycle and the possible link between conformal functions and quantum entanglement). My brain nearly explodes.

Monday 13 Feb

We head with Rich to the Mecca Hills area, where there are some trails in a badlands-type area: Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon. Unfortunately we choose the wrong initial trail (there are no signs) and end up in a different canyon system, which is great in its own right. I try to navigate us over to Ladder Canyon but fail.

We chat with a guy who's camping there that night, and hunkering down for expected high winds.

We continue south along the Salton Sea (which seems to be an economic disaster area) then west into Anza Borrego. This is an immense state park - 1000 square miles - but big chunks of it are privately owned, which of course means they're being "developed" (i.e., infected with humans).

We meet Sally; the rental house in Borrego Springs is luxurious and tasteful. She serves us a wonderful dinner of soup, bread, and salad. After it gets dark we go up on the roof and stargaze. Borrego Springs is a 'dark sky community' (though are lots of violators) and it's dark enough to see the Milky Way (barely).

Tuesday 14 Feb

We get a sandwich at the Central Market and drive a couple of miles to Hellhole Canyon. The trail (~3 miles each way) goes up a wash that becomes a canyon, leading to a stretch of palm trees, irrigated by a spring that bubbles up from the rock. The canyon becomes filled with large boulders, and the trail becomes harder to follow as it winds around them. Eventually there's sort of a grotto with a tiny waterfall hidden among rocks. To continue beyond that you have to scale a non-trivial cliff, so we decide to turn around.

The weather is interesting. The mountains above us are cloaked by clouds, and although the sky above us is blue, and the sun is shining, a very light rain falls on us. The wind - which is projected to gust up to 50 - picks up on the way down. It's a tailwind, so I stick out my jacket and pretend I'm a sailboat.

We return to the car and drive ~15 miles to The Slot. This involves climbing down into a shallow, narrow canyon carved out of mudstone. As you walk down the canyon, the walls become steeper and more ornately eroded. At points the passage is so narrow that slenderness is required. We come across a 2x2' piece of styrofoam, which I pick up. The trail supposedly loops back along the ridge on the left, but this look kind of far off so we turn around and head back up the canyon.

The wind picks up, even in the canyon. When we reach the top and climb out, the wind is gusting to about 50 MPH and blowing the desert grit, which stings and gets in one's eyes. I struggle across the parking lot, throw away the styrofoam in the bathroom, and am relieved to make it to the car. M is actually knocked over by the wind.

We go to dinner at Callee's, which is a bar & grill with remarkably good food - in my case, a bacon/avocado burger and onion rings. A very old dude strums a guitar and sings a monotonous medley of pop hits of the 70s and 80s, all in the same key and tempo.

A group of very boisterous people with an accent - Aussie? Scotch? - occupies a nearby booth. The waiter has a pot belly, which is accentuated by a tight T-shirt. A guy in the booth points at the belly and asks "Are you with child"? The waiter takes this with good humor. I pinch my own belly-fat uneasily.

We watch Sally's new favorite show, 'Cunk on Earth', a British parody of historical documentaries.

Wednesday 15 Feb

We rent e-bikes. A guy with several missing teeth delivers them to the house and instructs us. The bikes are easy to ride and lots of fun. We ride North on paved roads, run into a golf course, then turn East. We pass lots of rusted steel sculptures of various animals - horses, dinosaurs, a giant sinuous dragon.

We head S on DiGiorgio. We're not sure where to head next. M calls Sally, who suggests going to Font's Point. I enter this in to Google Maps, which confidently suggests a route going out Palm Canyon Rd, turning onto Dump Rd, past The Tree, and so on. This turns out to be complete and utter nonsense. Dump Rd (which is now called Old Springs Rd) ends at the landfill. After that there's a web of faint tire-tracks in the sand. We explore this in various directions but nothing clicks. We give up, not wanting to get lost and die in the desert.

We head back towards the highway, and make one last attempt on what looks like a road through the sand, heading E to the bluffs that are clearly where Font's Point is. This quickly peters out too, but it does so in an incredible patch of flowers - an area maybe 200' across - of fine white sound, with a profusion of 4 different kinds of flowers. Outside this patch it's just scrub.

Panorama - click twice to view

My phone doesn't focus right

We stop for a bite, then return to the highway and continue for another mile or so on Pegleg Rd, to a place where there's a monument to Pegleg Smith (a miner with a talent for spinning yarns) and a lot of RVs. By now we're getting tired and ride back (about 10 miles), stopping at the Bighorn Fudge Company for strawberry ice cream.

We have dinner at Kesling's Kitchen, an order-at-the-counter place with a fancy-sounding menu but which is disappointing. I ask for a to-go box for out pizza and the Anglo manager refuses, saying they're for takeout orders only; the hispanic busboy gives us one and apologizes for the manager.

Thursday 16 Feb

We bid adieu to Sally, stop at the Fudge place for a danish, and drive to Joshua Tree via Box Canyon Rd and Cottonwood Springs Rd. We pass Skull Rock, then arrive at the Ryan Mountain trailhead and climb it (3 mile roundtrip, 1,000' vertical). After about .5 mile I start to worry about whether I locked the car (I did). The trail has lots of sharp stone steps, which are tedious. I feel tired and weak initially but perk up near the summit.

On the way down I talk with a guy who lives on a sailboat in Michigan and is touring around in a van and a 3-wheel motorcycle.

We stop at a typical J-Tree boulder pile, and I do a minor boulder scramble to experience the unique feel of the granite, and to enjoy the slow dance-like movement of scrambling up it.

We reach the town of Joshua Tree, another ugly human-infection site. We drive back into Palm Springs with some time to spare, so we head for the touristy downtown area, stroll around, and enjoy a Crepe Suzette and cappuccino.

The flight back, and even the van to Expresso Parking, are Astroglide-smooth, as we say.

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