Day One of Operation Desert Solitude
Altitude: 2905 ft. Stoke level: 10 Temperature: 71-56 degrees Conditions: partly cloudy, light wind
It was such a huge relief to finally hit the road at long last! I managed to get out ahead of a run of bad weather hitting the Monterey Bay, which was nice. For at least the next 3 weeks or so I’ll try my best to outrun Autumn weather by heading south. I left town on a good note, actually. I had a great conversation with a captain Bethan referred me to up in Anchorage, a fellow named Thor. Captain Thor told me he’d be glad to take me on as deckhand for the next summer season. The season would run April to August, so at least I’ve got employment locked down for that point in the future. I’m looking forward to getting in some good commercial fishing experience. It’s going to be a long cold winter in the meantime. Oh well, best think about that later.
It was so good to hop on Highway 25 and make the run down into San Benito county. When I hit Tres Pinos I know I’m home, it’s always such a welcome feeling. The trip was uneventful, and it was a nice day weather-wise. I got really lucky on my arrival to the campground, my favorite spot was available! There’s only 6 camping spots up at Laguna Mountain, and my favorite spot has the best views in my opinion. It kind of has its own secluded driveway as well, so it’s the most private. When I’ve got my spot locked down I know I’m gonna have a real good time! I got my camp set up, which took quite a bit of time since I had a lot of new gear to integrate into my camp plan.
Out of all my new kit, my 12 volt cooler has been of particular interest to me. I love the thing, it’s got enough room to fit a couple gallon jugs of water with room to spare. It’s a miracle how something can just sip current, yet still be able to keep ice cold temperatures at the same time. Even though it sips power, it still is a steady drain on my power systems. I can power it by the main truck battery when I’m on the road, so no problem there. The issue is whether or not I can keep it going all day with just the solar battery. With the sun so low in the sky this time of year, it’s hard to get a good charge. Together with partly cloudy skies, it’s gonna be difficult to keep it going. I wanted to make this upgrade in tandem with upgrading my electrical system, being able to charge my house battery via the alternator would be a huge help right now. I had to choose one or the other so I chose to have the 12 volt cooler. We’ll definitely see if this was a wise decision on my part. So far so good though.
Another upgrade I’m really appreciating is basing all my propane needs off of a 20 lb tank. No more having to deal with those little 1 lb propane canisters! Now I can power my in-camper catalytic heater, my new stove, and this neat little gadget called a ‘Mister Heater’ by merely swapping out hoses. It’s a much better way to do things than the way I was doing it before. The Mister Heater is a infrared heating element that threads on top of my propane tank. Once it is installed, you just light it up and it makes a great heater! I got this for occasions when I want heat at night but can’t make a fire due to restrictions.
I had a really good first night out here at Laguna Mountain. I stayed up till probably 4 AM drinking wine and enjoying the nice clear evening. At one point I turned on my new survival radio to run through all the available bands. About the only thing on was really maniac strange Mexican music and Christian rock. Radio around here really sucks, ha ha! It’s fun to play around on my new Kaito radio. I’ve got a 25 foot wire antenna to put on the thing, so maybe after I do that I’ll pull in some interesting stations, who knows.
Altitude: 2905 ft. Stoke level: 7 Temperature: 72-59 degrees Conditions: partly cloudy, moderate breeze
My stoke meter slid 3 points due to a massive hangover. I’m still in really good spirits though. The cooler ran like clockwork all night and into the day. I don’t know what kind of charge I’m going to have left come sundown. I might have to pull the plug tonight, only time will tell. I’ve got only some ham, cheese and mayo that can spoil. I kind of saw this thing coming so I intentionally left out a lot of fresh food until I can see how this cooler situation pans out.
Not really doing too much today at all. Before I left, I downloaded ‘Squid Game’ off of Netflix and have been watching that all day. It’s a pretty messed up series, but wildly entertaining! I’ve got to get up early for the journey down south tomorrow, so no partying tonight. It’s going to be a 8 hour run down my least favorite stretch of road in all of California…I-5. Plus I’ll have to skirt nasty LA traffic, I’m not really looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to being at my destination however!
Altitude: 3292 ft. Stoke meter: 6 Temperature: 73-61 degrees Conditions: mostly sunny, clear, windy
Well, the cooler barely used any power at all last night, and it held barely above freezing the whole time. I don’t think I’m going to have any problems keeping it on 24/7, especially now that I have arrived down at Anza-Borrego. The forecast is for clear sunny skies the next few days. I should be able to get a pretty decent charge for my battery on a daily basis while I’m down here. Gotta love that desert sun!
It was a taxing trip down from San Benito county. I left a couple hours later than I would have liked, for starters. It was a pretty good trip until I got to LA county. From Pasadena to Temecula it was nasty. I spent 4 hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it was pretty rotten. I took the most direct route, but next time I think I will drive out of my way to completely bypass the outskirts of LA. Other than the insane traffic, it was a good drive. It’s been a while since I’ve driven such a distance. It feels good to get some miles under my tires!
Since I left so late, my arrival time here in Anza-Borrego was due to be right around sundown. My cardinal rule about desert camping is to set up camp no later than two hours before the sun sets, so I was nervous about my late arrival. As I made my way into the home stretch of the park, I remarked on how similar it is here to Joshua Tree. The rocks are smaller (but still have that Joshua Tree look to them) and there’s no Joshua Trees, but other than that the scenery and vibe is the same.
The sun fell behind the mountains a good 30 minutes before I arrived, so there was barely any light when I got to the campground. I chose to camp at one of the free dispersed campgrounds since I wouldn’t have time to scout out a place in the desert. Anza-Borrego has miles of off-road you can camp off of, the only limitations are that you can’t park more than a car’s length off the road and can’t set up camp 100 feet from a water source. After this first night I plan to camp well away from the public, but for now I’ll have to deal with being around people.
This being a Friday night, I was well aware that the weekend warriors would probably be infesting my chosen campground. Indeed they were doing so, I found out upon my arrival. All the spots were taken, but I managed to find a little nook that had been overlooked. I had enough room to back up my truck to a private space, and that’s all I needed. I set up my stove and heated up some canned menudo for dinner. The wind was gusting and made setting up camp difficult, but I’ve been through worse out in the desert. I’m surrounded by people, this seems to be a pretty popular campground. I want to be far away from people as possible, for tonight I’ll just have to deal with it though.
Tomorrow I plan to hit up the visitor center and see what they have there. I’ll probably focus on finding a good remote camping spot way off of the beaten path. I can wait until Sunday or Monday to actually start seeing the sights. With so many people around, I imagine a lot of the good spots to go check out will be totally inundated this weekend. I don’t mind staying out of the way until the crowds have passed. I’ve liked what I have seen so far, can’t wait to fully explore this place!
Altitude: 1013 ft. Stoke level: 7.5 Temperature: 82-64 degrees Conditions: clear, sunny, strong winds
After a good night of sleep, I got up around 9 AM and broke camp. My mission today was to check out the town of Borrego Springs and get myself acquainted with the place. I also wanted to see what the park vistor center had to offer. I had to descend from the top of the mountain down to the valley floor where the town and the rest of the park was located. The winds continued to blow unabated. I got to a vista point and took a couple of pictures, the winds were so strong I had to hold my phone with both hands to keep it from blowing out of my grasp!
When I got down into town, I saw that they were having a small festival going on called ‘Borrego Days’. It was set up inside a small park in the middle of the town’s only roundabout. It looked pretty fun, they had all kinds of festival food stands and live music. I had a lot to do so I didn’t stop to check it out. The first thing I went and did was get gas. Gas is extremely expensive here, I put in 50 bucks worth and it gave me a little more than a quarter tank. Now I remember why it costs so much money to explore the desert! I checked out a few shops for various items and they were just as expensive as the gas. Things are even more expensive here than they are in Alaska! Cellular internet was pretty crummy so I got a 10 dollar margarita at a local Mexican restaurant to use their wi-fi. It wasn’t much better than cellular, but I was able to take care of internet stuff.
After I got fueled up, I made my way over to the Anza-Borrego Visitor Center. I was pretty impressed with it, they had some nice exhibits. Probably the highlight was the mammoth skulls and fossils they had on display, as well as a replica of a tortoise shell that was the size of a 4-wheeler. I guess back in the day the desert was more like a savanna. There were many species that lived here, including sloths, saber-toothed tigers, mammoths, camels, and zebras. Before all the megafauna existed there was an inland sea here so there were a lot of ocean fossils on display as well.
I asked a ranger where a good place to get away from crowds would be, and he told me to head up to the north end of the park to a place called Coyote Canyon. As it was getting rather late in the day I finished my business in town and proceeded to head that way. I only made it about 45 minutes up the road when I saw an inviting turn-out that looked to be a good place to camp for the night. I didn’t want to be fumbling around in the dark for a campsite so I decided to stop for the day. I’m right off the road (which is the only legal place to camp) so it’s not as private as I would like. Still, it’s a far better spot than I was at last night. Other than the occasional Jeep roaring by it’s pretty isolated. I even have a bit of 4g Internet here which is a bonus. The wind keeps on blowing steadily however. All night long my truck keeps rocking back and forth. It’s warm though, and inside my camper shell it’s pretty cozy.
Tomorrow I plan on driving further up the canyon and check out what’s further up the road. There’s a 55% chance of rain on Monday so I need to keep an eye on these washes to make sure I don’t get stuck in a bad spot anywhere around here. Flash floods can get pretty crazy out here in the desert. After Monday the weather’s going to be nice so I’ll start checking out some of the more popular spots then. As for now I’m going to continue my exploration of this canyon and hope a lot of the weekend warriors start filtering out tomorrow.
Altitude: 1013 ft. Stoke level: 8 Temperature: 84-60 degrees Conditions: sunny, light clouds, light wind
All morning, traffic streamed out of the canyon. I didn’t leave my spot until around 11 as I wanted to give the weekend warriors time to filter out. I set a course on my new OnX off-road app and headed up the canyon. I made it up a couple of miles, and in that time I had to pull over to let traffic by several times. The road narrowed quite a bit once I got past my camping spot so it was really aggravating having to let people pass. Not only was the road narrowing an annoyance, but the road became really rocky and sandy. Even with deflated tires and 4 wheel drive engaged it started to get challenging to drive. If I didn’t constantly have to dodge traffic it would have been fine but with so many other vehicles coming the opposite way it got really annoying really fast. Driving a big truck like The Beast off-road is hard enough without having other people to dodge! After a couple of miles, I got fed up with the situation and returned to my camp of the previous evening.
Since I wouldn’t be going anywhere, I decided to get uproariously drunk. I decided to assemble this grill I got so I could build a fire in it, but never got around to making the fire due to wind. I felt like talking to somebody so I gave my nephew a call and had a really nice conversation with him. During the call I fell out of my chair and dumped a full Solo cup of wine all over me. I got pretty scraped up from this, all in good fun though. The last thing I remember is flopping into my bed sometime around midnight and I passed clean out.
Altitude: 1013 ft. Stoke meter: 7 Temperature: 77-59 degrees Conditions: sunny early/rain late, strong wind
Another morning, another hangover. This one was pretty rotten. I woke up and couldn’t find my glasses anywhere. I looked for like 3 hours and couldn’t find them for the life of me. After searching all over my camper and cab, I decided to check my campsite. I found them buried in the sand a few feet from my camper door. I must have been wrecked to not have noticed that they fell off of my face last night! I washed them off and they were fine, no scratches on them or anything. No harm, no foul! I was pretty banged up from falling over last night though, my elbow and knee were scraped up pretty badly. All par for the course when I’m out on expedition!
I had a decision to make. Should I stay and rest up from my debauch the previous evening, or should I hit the road and start seeing more of the park? I was torn, as I wanted to do both things equally. After much debate, I decided to take it easy and not deal with the aggravation of packing up camp and rolling back through town. I would need to stop at the market in Borrego Springs and I just couldn’t handle the thought of grappling with civilization today. I’m not in a huge hurry, but weekday time is precious to me. The time outside the weekends are prime exploratory time. I don’t like to contend with the weekend warrior crowd so I prefer to roam around during the week.
The weather was another factor to take into consideration. The remnants of the storms that pummeled Northern California were making their way down to the desert in the evening and I wanted to be in a good spot in case it got bad. So the rest of the day I just recovered and waited for the rain to arrive.
The winds kept picking up as the evening wore on. Soon my truck was rocking and rolling from the gusts. The temperature dropped and I started up my heater. Rain started to fall eventually, but it never got too heavy. Eventually the storm blew through but the wind never died. It’s been steady the whole time I’ve been here actually. It makes building a fire or even using my stove almost impossible. Hopefully I can find a spot with more protection, this wind keeps things cool but is a huge annoyance.
I’m going into town tomorrow to resupply and then go to this place called ‘Font’s Point’ that has been called “California’s Grand Canyon.” It’s the most popular view in the park. Hopefully there will be some good spots over there for camping. The road over there has been rated a 3 out of 10 on the difficulty scale, so The Beast should be able to handle it without issue. It’s been nice hanging out in Coyote Canyon but the show must go on!