Off we went on the bumpy roads to the second largest state park in the US. I was glad that our oldest and I got some schooling done in the morning before we left because these roads were nauseating! Lucky for our little girl’s stuffed bunny, Bun Bun, she reaped the benefits of getting two new outfits out of the drive! One outfit made from yet another pair of pants and socks that have been destroyed and a bathing suit made from a piece of my old bathing suit.
On our way we passed what we assumed was a beef cow farm. There were thousands of cows packed like sardines in corals lined with at least a foot deep of manure and mud. The smell was awful! They had barely enough space to move around and were forced to rest and lay down in the filth. The farm went on for miles like this. It was so sad to see. Our littlest one was pleading for me to “get them out!” There was a whole coral just for babies. It was so very sad to see.
Day 1: Visitor Center & town of Borrego Springs
We finally arrived at the state park and popped into the visitor center to see what information they had for us to soak up. When I asked if they had a Jr, Ranger program the 3 workers looked a bit confused but then told me about a family hike they were offering next weekend. When I asked specifically if they had Jr. Ranger booklets she tentatively gave me one. I thanked her and asked if she could give me another one since I have two daughters. She looked at them, hesitated then told me they only have a few left so she couldn’t give me two. “They’ll need to each do one, so if you have another one I could have that would be great.” No, they could not spare another. What?! That’s the strangest response I’ve ever heard. Lady, these girls want to learn…about your park…and tell other people about what they learned…and help preserve and protect your park!! These kids and others are the future of our parks! I think you can spare a little photocopied booklet. I was shocked!
The girls were disappointed and wondered who would get the one coveted booklet we were given. We saw a library in the town just outside the park boundaries so we planned to drive back there so I could use their photocopy machine and staple together a second booklet. The ironic thing was, the visitor center had an industrial copy machine and 3 boxes labeled copy paper in their office sitting just next to their Discovery Lab where the girls explored for a bit. Not sure where the disconnect was.
Anyway, the girls enjoyed their Discovery Lab which was filled with furs and skulls they could touch as well as drawers filled with various things they could learn about such as insects (dead of course), nests, plants, tracks, rock tools, snakes and much more. They had a ball!
They also had a mini museum in the other half of the building with various stuffed once-live animals from the region and fun facts. Did you know that to cool themselves off on really hot days vultures pee on their legs? Haha, don’t try that at home. 😉
After thoroughly exploring the visitor center we ended up driving back into town to check out the playground we had passed and their library. The wind was fierce and we saw storm clouds in the sky. We figured we’d have the girls play on the playground until it started raining and then take cover in the library when the rain came. However, we only got the high winds and some light sprinkles from the passing storm.
The playground was great! It was only finished 3 months prior to our visit and crews were still busy finishing cement slabs for nearby shade structures and landscaping. Much to the joy of Justin and I, there was also an adult “gym” outside next to the playground. It looked similar to the one we used in Boise yet instead of using the user’s body weight, these machines used a tension dial. Justin said the machines didn’t give him enough resistance but I felt like I got in a good mini workout. I was definitely out of breath. After warming up to the playground, the girls had a blast.
Justin then went on a bit of a walk to the nearby grocery store while the girls and I went to check out the library. We learned from one of the cement workers that the whole area was just built up in the last year. There was a huge library, sheriff’s office, post office, basketball court, playground and exercise equipment. The strange thing was, we didn’t see any residential housing nearby. Maybe that will come next or we didn’t see it. Anyway, we got to the library all super excited to snuggle up with some good new books only to find that it is closed Sunday and Monday! Aw, it was such a disappointment. Our oldest, lover of books, sobbed in my arms saying, “all I wanted was to read some books.” I thought this was a sorry sight to see in their surveillance cameras. We talked about it and decided we should try to exit the park on the same route as to hit the library when it was open mid-week. The sad thing also was that I now had no way of copying the Jr. Ranger book for the girls to complete.
The drive through the park was beautiful! The hills here were covered with short undergrowth of grasses giving the rocky mountain’s surrounding the road a tropical feel. There were canyons and valley’s. Justin even spotted a few big horn sheep near the road! That’s the first wild ones we have seen on this trip. Unfortunately the girls didn’t see it. I would have had to get them out of their car seats while we were driving on a twisty road along a cliff which I didn’t feel comfortable doing. We hoped we would see others while we were there– the park does have the name “Borrego”, meaning sheep, after all.
We decided to camp in one of the nearby campgrounds so we could walk to some hikes AND be semi-close to the north exit of the park so we could revisit the library. The free ‘campground’ ended up being a parking lot off of the main road but, lucky for us there was only one other tenting couple there with us and it was quiet except for the immensely strong winds!
That night the wind kept Justin and I up almost the entire night. It was so strong it was rocking our camper back and forth so much so that it was rattling around our dishes!! The girls woke up periodically as well. It was so scary! I contemplated getting us packed up and moving to a new location in the night but then thought it would be more dangerous to drive on a skinny winding road on the side of a cliff during a ferocious wind storm. It made me feel a little better that we had stayed hooked up to Dimes for stability.
The next morning we were treated to an amazingly vivid rainbow up and over Dimes and Wobbles!
Day 2: Geocaching & Library
When we woke the next morning I did some searching to see just how strong the winds were overnight and the answer was “off the charts”! Quite literally! I found a chart that measured winds up to 40 mph and the wind overnight rated far off the chart. It just confirmed my fear! We decided against camping in this spot another night as the wind was still in the forecast and we wanted sleep!
The wind had died down a bit but was still quite strong on our second day. I had just finished sewing on a new rear on our little one’s overalls. It was just in time because they needed some extra warmth in the chilly wind.
We decided to camp at the campground just off the visitor center which is also close to town. On our way, we decided to look for some geocaches out of park boundaries. Geocaching is something Justin introduced me to when we were dating and we did it intermittently having fun with it. But, we had never done it with the girls before this time. They were excited about following a “treasure map” and trading treasures. The first geocache we tried seemed to not exist. We looked and looked everywhere with no luck. However, the second we tried was great! The girls found a large metal box hidden in an old tire by the side of a back road. We quickly learned that this tire was also home to a colony of pinacate beetles (stink beetles). We carefully took the box out without getting squirted!
Our third geocache was in an open field hidden under a creosote bush. It was exciting for the girls to find it. We also found a huge group of beautiful metal sculptures in the field and the fields surrounding it.
The late Dennis Avery, landowner of Galleta Meadows Estates in Borrego Springs envisioned adding this artwork inspired by creatures that roamed that same desert millions of years ago.
We only saw a handful out of the whopping 130 standing sculptures. The artist Ricardo Breceda did a phenomenal job at creating these intricate massive sculptures out of metal. The girls had topped out but I wish we could have visited more! Next time, right?
Onto the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground we went. We ended up choosing a spot away from the crowd and near the base of the mountains in hope for a little wind blockage.
We were setting up camp when it occurred to us that we could still fit in a trip to town to catch the library when it was open.
We contemplated driving verses riding bikes. Although it was a shortish bike ride we thought since we were all so tired it might be best to drive. But how could we drive when we could bike?! I thought it was silly to pass up this biking opportunity so I talked Justin into it and off we rode. In hind sight, I see now that this was probably a bad choice.
The wind was CRAZY!! While biking the wind was practically knocking us over as it was coming at us from the side. Another sad fact that we took in as we rode was, that it was all down hill on the way there. You know what that means. That’s right, the way back was going to be a little less of a joy. We were hopeful that the wind would be at our backs at least.
We got into town and found the library to be open! Hurray!! The girls were overjoyed! The girls and I spent hours sitting and reading together while Justin listened to his podcasts in a cozy spot. The library was so lovely, it being only two months old! It offered young readers lots of choices which was much appreciated. The librarian was so sweet also. When I asked how much it would be to buy a guest pass to take out books she told us about all kinds of neat things. For starters, a guest pass was only $5 which is great! Most other libraries that I have asked at they have ranged from $15 – $30 and some not offering them at all. Not only this but after we told her we were traveling into San Diego she told us we could actually keep the books with us and return them in San Diego because they were part of the same library system! Isn’t that amazing!! The girls were so excited they picked out a whole stack! The librarian also gave us a coupon that’s good for 50% off ALL San Diego Museums in the month of February, 2019! What luck!! We all felt like we just won the jackpot!!
When we exited the library we were all on cloud 9 and were all getting pretty sleepy at this point since the wind had kept us up the night before. We also realized that time was running out and dinner was upon us. We really try hard to eat dinner in a timely manner so that our 3 year old can get out her evening liquid before she goes to bed. If she doesn’t she wakes up to go which disrupts all our sleep. So, we decided to check out the “Mexican” restaurant across the street. I have that in quotes because we learned that it was really an American place who were trying to sell themselves as a Mexican eatery (they offered BLTs in addition to burritos, etc).
We all ordered our food and were glad we would eat dinner on time when it occurred to me; we didn’t bring any sort of lights for our bikes and sundown was almost upon us! Oh man! There was an outdoor store that we had checked out the other day which shared the same plaza as the restaurant we were eating at. We made a quick decision to have Justin run over there to get some kind of a light for at least Justin who was towing the girls. However, sadly, just as he was approaching at 5:00pm on the dot the store lights went off. They didn’t take pity and wouldn’t let him in! Plan B was to scarf our food and hit the road ASAP.
It was a long ride home uphill with heavy wind and poor Justin not only towing the girls in the bike trailer but also lugging the extra giant stack of books home that the girls had picked out from the library. We were so tired and the wind was so fierce by the time we got back to the long campground road we felt like we were in a cartoon. We were peddling so hard and barely moving! We were happy to lay in our beds that night.
Day 3: Palm Canyon Hike
After schooling the girls played around the campsite with their pet rock camel “Lego” (the same name as the camel we had just recently ridden at the Palm Springs Zoo) and their restaurant they created with a pulley delivery system. This gave Justin and I some time to gather things for our hike.
The Palm Canyon trail conveniently started at the campground. I love when they do that! It was so beautiful and very obviously big horn sheep territory. I imagined the rocky landscape to be irresistible to a big horn sheep. In between the rocks there were bits of grassy patches as well as tender looking low shrubs mixed in with the thorny chollas. From a distance it looked like some of the rocky cliffs were covered in a thin moss as there was a fair amount of green ground cover compared to the other desert landscapes we have visited.
The girls were excited to find lots of big horn sheep scat along the trail confirming that they frequent this area. We also discovered downed palm trees which were very interesting to look at. Under the palm base exterior, the trunk is a mass of stringy fibers resembling dried up thick brown spaghetti. Strange and so neat to look at!
This trail leading us through the foothills of the greater rocky hills passed over a muddy stream a handful of times. Mind over matter! If there wasn’t water running below the rocks we were using as step stones it would have been a cinch. But the thought of possibly stepping directly in the water and having to complete the hike in soaking shoes and socks puts a little fear in a person, or at least me. Our lovely fearless daddy long legs did a great job carrying both our girls back and forth as the hike required us to cross. After we had all safely crossed the first river crossing our oldest said, “Mama, you did great! Daddy didn’t even have to carry you over this time!” Ha! Truth be told, I was surprised by this too. We were later told by a passing hiker that there are usually bridges on most of these passes but had apparently been washed out during a recent storm.
As we got deeper into the canyon we started seeing palm trees speckling the edges of the river. It made it feel like a paradise. Those big horn sheep certainly had a beautiful home! These native California palms are home to bats, insects and birds. The Cahuilla peoples once made palm fibers into sandals as well as thatched roofs and baskets. Palm fruit was eaten raw, cooked or ground into a flour.
The end of the hike was at a large tall growth of palms in the nook of the canyon. So incredibly beautiful! On this hike the girls didn’t need much encouragement to keep moving. There was beauty behind every corner.
Day 4: Travel Day!
Our little one’s body decided it wanted her to stay up most of the night and my oldest got up before dawn on the morning of our travel day. Good news, my oldest and I got to watch the sunrise together which was a first for her! It was beautiful and sweet to see together.
On our way our of the park we even saw a group of big horn sheep! Justin is great at spotting them! Bye park.