The longer a traveler stays in one place, the more reasons he finds for not moving on.
Dec. 6 – 11
The dogs of Slab City won the war. To be honest, we didn’t put up much of a battle. Waving the white flag, we left for quieter surroundings leaving Slab City to the squatters, the near-to-do-wells, the Loners on Wheels (yes there is a group of singles travelers by this name) and the rich in their multi-thousand dollar rigs – why they choose Slab Slum City is a mystery. Don’t get me wrong, I like it there for its diversity if nothing else; if it just wasn’t for the damn constant dog barking.
We found what we were looking for back at Yaqui Wash in Anza Borrego, again having it all to ourselves. The evening brought on a few showers but the next day was pleasant giving me an opportunity to hike the hills in the distance. Here it seemed no one had been before and I walked through totally undisturbed cactus gardens filled with cholla, beavertail, ocotillo, barrel cactus and hundreds of little fishhook cacti nestled in among the rocks.
The next day I hiked the sandy wash down to Tamarisk Grove campground, which was vacant. Across the road was the equally vacant state park employee’s residence, a neglected state park green cinder-block building. The grounds were littered with palm fronds and other windblown debris. I walked around in back and imagined what it would take to clean things up and call this my home.
We continued on to the little community of Borrego Springs centered within Anza Borrego. I spent the day just hanging out, watching Borrego life come and go. I wandered in and out most of the stores, shops and even real estate offices. Yes, I could live here. This is a town I can find nothing to poke fun at so we moved on out to where we camped a month ago. Some have gone with more replacing them but amazingly, the Idaho woman with her Gestapo German Shepherd was still here but had relocated further from the highway. I see now she is younger than what I thought before; an attractive blonde. What is she doing here for so long out in the wilderness by herself? There must be a story there. Is she running away from something or someone, looking for a new place to start a new life? Or maybe it’s no more than what I am doing myself, just seeking a warmer environment for the winter. I wasn’t about to face Rin-Tin-Tin to find out.
It rained that night and the next morning I thought I would be spending the day cooped up, but by noon the sky cleared up somewhat, and I said “hike time”. I bundled up in layers, even with a knit cap on my head and started across the desert to a distant dry lake. By half way there was down to being shirtless, no hat and wished I had not had on my flannel-lined levis and spaceman socks. The shoreline of the lake had a cracked mud surface producing amazing geometrical shapes and patterns. Large folds of thin mud curled back upon itself like paint peeling from a wall. The dried mud was copper colored with flakes of glitter-like mica. And naturally, I left my camera back at camp.
For my last two days here, I thought I would through caution (and a $20 bill per night) to the wind and stay in the state park campground. It is just a few minutes out of town up the alluvial plain towards the base of the mountains. We backed in to the most remote spot the campground offered at the mouth a canyon wash. Most campers are down below in the developed area with hook-ups. There were only a fellow from Oregon and us in the undeveloped area. Being at the base of the mountains I noticed in not too many hours we would be in shade, so after a quick lunch I gathered my gear and started up the canyon to another palm oasis. For all of the times I have been to this park I’ve never taken the time to hike this short trail which is the mostly frequented due to it’s proximity to the campground and visitor center. Now here in December I have it all to myself, well almost. I met a little old lady coming down from the oasis who confirmed my thoughts when I shouted to her on the other side of the wash – I was on the wrong side and had missed the trail somewhere back a ways. The nearer I got to the oasis the more water there was running in the stream. The sound of rushing water intensified echoing within the canyon, although the quantity of water was not that great. It only took a few boulder hops to cross at any point.
The palm oasis was nothing like the one’s I had seen before. They were many more trees, densely packed, full and lush. I read where Hooded Orioles weave nests from the palm fibers hanging them high up in the trees. A species of bat, only two inches long, call these trees home sleeping in among the hanging palm fronds, coming out every evening to feed on insects. Many animals from all around rely upon this yearlong constant supply of water, including the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep for which this park is named. Most interesting though was the Palm Beetle, a two-inch long insect that lays its eggs in the bark of the palm. Its grub is orange in color and burrows holes into the palm that creates little homes for other small creatures. This explained why I had been seeing these perfect 5/8ths inch diameter holes in all the downed palms. “Why would someone bring out there Black & Decker drill and vandalize these trees?”
It was only 3pm but it was cool in the shadows of the mountains and I kept thinking a cup of tea would be nice but I didn’t want to leave this wonderful spot. I could not stop looking back again and again for just one more look as I began my hike out of the canyon, feeling some sort of sadness as if I would never see this wonderful oasis again.
The next morning I awoke to a thick canopy of clouds, which began to cast down sprinkles as the sun rose. By all appearances, this would last the day and may even turn into showers, thus putting a crimp into my plans for the day – more hiking and some bicycling too. However, days like this make for good traveling and we have some miles to lay down for the long trip home, thus we broke camp and sadly left Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
(to Ellie, “we” is just myself and my faithful little buddy Sinbad who at times is simply filthy as he loves to roll in the desert dirt. This last camp near the mouth of the canyon, the dirt was full of “fools gold”. Sinbad literally sparkled in the sun.)