Friday February 2 we awoke to bright sun and warming temperatures as we bagan preparations to leave the LA region having said goodbye to the kids the night before. We took our time preparing for the road as we did not plan to travel more than 4 hours and hence did not need to commit to fighting rush hours traffic on the 405. Finally by 9:30 we had full freshwater and a full propane tank and the holding tanks were empty and clean(?) well flushed with clean water any how. With HAL reporting our route we set out for the Anza Borrego (I have been misspelling this until now) down the 405 to the 5 to 78 through Julian, CA and on to the desert.
As we rolled I remembered back to the last time we did this route and HAL had misguided us to the wrong exit for 78. I thought I had caused the problem by how I set the waypoint for the exit. This time I was extra careful about letting the software pick the exit. Aaaargh, same wrong exit, I knew it as soon as I got to the top of the ramp. HAL said go right so I went left. Still wrong. We wandered through some residential roads until I spotted a delivery vehicle and flagged him down for directions. He said “follow me” easier said than done I could not make the 180 in the intersection so had to go around the block to find him, there he was just before the overpass waiting for us. He lead us back on to the freeway and then off at the next, clearly marked, exit. Without even waiting for a thank you, he got back on going back north and we continued.
The misdirection was not over. We were headed into the desert expecting to dry camp so I wanted enough gasoline to be able to run the generator for several hours. We got off the 78 to get into a Shell station we had spotted from the road. Could not make a left turn into the station so we took the left just past the station only to find we still could not make a left into the station. We drove a mile or so up the street looking for a place to reverse course. Finally I saw a parking lot on the left and prepared to pull in to swing around. Darn, the entrance was chained, I changed the left turn into a U turn and with an inch to spare completed the turn and returned to the Shell station and then back on to 78 with a full tank (and empty bank account $2.67/gallon).
We drove on through Julian with out stopping as there was no place to park our 55 foot rig. After one wrong turn we started down the Banner Grade on 78. The last time we drove this 10 mile 8% descent, with more turns than a snake with a stomach ache, Carol was at the wheel, this was my turn. We made the turn on to County S2, one of the main highways through the Anza Borrego, and began looking for a place to spend the night. Agua Caliente County Park looked promising so we pulled into this desert paradise. I hesitate to publish this as I want to be able to find room here the next time we traverse the area. We are perched on a bluff overlooking mountains and desert. As we are at the edge of the campground, wild life is continually crossing next to us. We are in what is called the Hollwood Area and the row we are on is The Strip. We took a glorious 1.75 mile hike into Moonlight Canyon right from the campground. After returning from a four wheeling drive on the Overland and Butterfield Stage Road to the Canyon Sin Nombre dirt track we returned to Agua Caliente and went to the mineral water spa located there – true to the name the water is at 104 F – and soaked our bones and made some friends.
The next day we returned to the Canyon Sin Nombre and parked at the base of the slot canyon we had noted the previous day. We hiked up the slot
and following footprints and guidance from people we met we continued up onto the ridge and followed the trail to an overlook that gave us a vista of the S2, the Canyon Sin Nombre road and the Carrizo Creek area. The return to the car got a bit exciting as we did not want to retrace our steps and had been told about a wash we could descend to the road. After several false starts that led us down washes that ended in long drops into the unknown we found the trail that led into another slot canyon that did indeed bring us back to the road and our car. Along this descent we encountered a passage that we could only negotiate after removing our back packs and our hiking sticks. I left mine with Carol and descended first through a twisty slot with a vertical drop of 4 or 5 feet. There was footing and hand grips so it was not a fall, just a vertical descent with no idea where the next such descent would be. This turned out to be the last difficult passage. Carol handed me the bags and sticks, mine and hers, and made the descent easily. There are no pictures as we had other things on our minds. We returned to the campground after a stop at Palm Spring (an oasis, note the singular Palm), Further note keep all the way left on the road in and look for the left turn.
The hot mineral water and shower were even more welcome this day and after we cleaned up I turned on the TV to catch the last 9 minutes of the Super Bowl. At least our friends David and Bobbi in Indianapolis are happy!
I will catch up with our meeting with the Hoggs and Leora and Stuart in my next writing.