Borrego State Park and Ocotillo Wells OHV Camping for 5 nights December 26-31, 2005

Although I had been trying to plan a boat trip to Catalina Island, the weather around Christmas was not conducive to being on the ocean, so instead i remembered that I had wanted to go out in the desert in the winter, so that's what I did!

I cleaned up and readied the Roadtrek, got the bikes in order, packed up and headed out by the familiar route on Hwy 78 thru Julian. The Van felt good after the time in the boat, different, with it's own cozy qualities and warm memories. I stopped in Borrego to top off the gasoline cans, and made my way to the smaller Hwy 22 where I got off at Arryoyo Salada, in the Anza Borrego State Park.

The neat thing about this location is that it's in the State Park, so OHV's are not allowed, yet it's only a mile or two down a wash to the OHV park. Thus I had relatively isolated camping in a beautiful spot, away from all the dune buggy's and ATV's, and then by riding the (street legal) motorcyles a short distance down a designated road, one could enter the park, where there were lots of trails in addition to the designated roads.

I spent two nights in Camp One, on Arroyo Salada. As I was pulling in, there was some question about the Van making it through a sand wash on a turn, so I stopped and got out and surveyed it. As I did, some folks from a nearby camp came over to ask if I needed help, and chat with me. The Van made the turn with no problem, and it turned out that I would enjoy the company of Chris and John on subsequent nights.

The first afternoon, I saddled up and rode the motorcycles about 3 miles out to a place I had previously hiked to, Seventeen Palms. I found my entry in the journal there, and added another one. It was good yet challenging to be on the bikes again, especially in some of the deep sandy washes. I returned to camp and went for some short hikes and made dinner, strumming the guitar as the sun was setting.

The next day I got up and went on a more substantial ride. Leaving about 9:30 am, I made the Pumpkin Patch, twelve miles away, by about noon. There were lots of washes, and for a way I had a companion 4wd pulling a trailer. I got onto a smaller ATV trail, and had some good riding around some hills and a small valley, finally, struggling with the deep sand wash near the patch. After having lunch at the Pumpkin Patch, I headed back to camp, which I made by early afternoon.

That night, John and Chris came by. John had just finished his Master's Degree and was definitely ready for the desert, it's solitude, and in this case, the partying! Chris and he had camped here a number of times, and we conviced John to hike back to his camp to get his guitar (and some more liquor!). As we started playing, a local from Borrego, Bill, out looking for his friends, stopped by too and had a beer, to return later that night with a bunch of firewood and a few songs of his own!

We drank all the beer, wine coolers, whiskey, and maybe some lighter fluid too, as we stayed up drinking and singing songs late that night. It was great fun, in particular when John sang some really pretty country western songs and some of his originals. We didn't get to bed till well after midnight.

Being out of beer is serious business, so sadly, the next morning it was time to break camp and get some groceries. Didn't have too much problem getting the Van out through the sand wash, but as I finally bumped slowly onto the paved highway, I felt something funny and looked to see something wrong with the bikes in the rear view mirror. I had to get the Van across the highway, so pulled it across to the other side and I got out and checked it out. The Yellow Hornet had bounced off of it's carrier, luckily still held in place by three straps, only the front tire was on the ground, but I'd dragged it 20-30 feet accross the pavement in an ackward position. In the end, everything was ok, so I strapped the bike back on the carrier, double checking everying, and continued on my way and got Groceries in Borrego Springs.

I then drove all the way around to the south side of the park, looking for the next campsite. At all the OHV entrances, there are these big staging areas, where there would be sometimes hundreds of RVs, clustered in two's and threes or dozens, with Dune Buggies, Dirt Bikes, and ATV's going every which way. I realized that this was the busiest week of the year out here. It was amazing. There must have been an 10,000 or more people in the OHV area!

After passing four or five of these small ad-hoc arise-in-the-desert towns, I pulled onto familiar Pole Line Road, which I know the Van (and bike carrier) can handle. I just kept going on it until I got past the encampments, about 2 miles in. Although I could not see another camper, and I had a wonderful view of a shallow valley spreading before us for several miles or more, I knew that right over the ridge behind camp, about 200 yards away, there were hundreds of people partying out. You could hear their stereos, the adolescent screams of young girls, and of course, their engines. It was neat at night as a lot of people were lighting off fireworks, and yet my campsite at Camp 2 remained isolated throughout, as if by some unwritten agreement, no one camped in my little valley for as far as the eye could see.

I went for a number of short rides that afternoon, and at sunset discovered a problem with the campsite. As I had parked on the downwind side of Pole Line Road, at sunset, a continuous stream of hundreds of vehicles on the dirt road raised a huge amount of dust, which came right at the camp.

The next day I went for a really nice, long, ride to the Flowing Well and Gas Domes, about 26 miles round trip (again!). The Flowing Well is a remnant from an old Industrial Well, and formed a small trickle for a hundred yards or so, the only standing water, for miles, even in the dead of winter here. There were lots of critter tracks around the water. From there I went to the Gas Domes which are these bubbling pools of clay-mud. There were quite a few riders there and I got quite a few compliements about the state of my "vintage motorcyle", lol. The mudpots were cool, but the best thing was on the way back, I saw a beautiful pair of Coyotes, male and female, probably on their way back from the well, a hundred or so yards away. I stopped the bike to give them space, and they ran away up into a small steeper canyon, checking me out a few times before disappearing.

After the rides, I moved to Camp 3on the other side of Pole Line Road, had beers and watched the procession of riders make their way back to camp. The next day I went for one more marathon ride, to Shell Reef and back, and made camp, but after 5 days of riding, I was getting tired. I had fallen a few times, and had some pretty nasty bruises, minor contusions, and scratches on my elbows and legs. After some short hikes, dinner, and another night in the van, I decided to head home on New Years Eve and beat the traffic.

It was a good thing. I went to the park station to empty the Van holding tanks, and there was no-one in line. The next day there would be hundreds of RV's trying to use these two stations. I drove home as it started to rain and the wind picked up. I heard that the wind picked up the next day to 20+ mph which can make the desert uncomfortable. When I got home I realized how well the trip had worked out, and enjoyed a cozy New Years Eve with a bottle of Champagne.