The Mojave Desert in Bloom

If you like interesting drives, ask Google Maps to give you a route and select “avoid highways” on the route option. It won’t be the quickest or easiest way to any destination, but it may turn out to be the most enjoyable.

We took off for San Francisco to visit with our eldest son, Tom, who now works in the city by the bay. Our first stop was Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which lies east of San Diego and west of the Salton Sea. We passed by Glamis, CA and the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area. The dunes were covered with all kinds of sand vehicles, but the wind was also howling at about 30 mph so we didn’t stop.

We camped the night along the Fish Creek wash. The primitive campground there was full so we just found a spot along the bank to spend a quiet night alone in the desert.

The next day we wanted to hike at the park in Borrego Springs, but it was packed with folks out for the weekend to see the Mojave Super-bloom. We didn’t see many flowers around, but we were a few hundred feet below sea level. However, around Borrego Springs were gigantic metal sculptures of all kinds that were very interesting to see instead.

Rather than stick around until the crowds left we decided to make our way north around the east side of the Salton Sea, stopping at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge for a nice hike. You could still see the snow cap on the Mt San Jacinto above Palm Springs across the sea.

We ended up camping on the north shore of the Salton Sea for the night at Mecca Beach CG.

I always wondered where the Colorado River carried all the rock from the Grand Canyon. Thousands of years ago, the Gulf of California extended north all the way to where Palm Springs is today. The Colorado River dumped all that sediment south of there, creating the current north end of the Gulf. Over the last thousand years the northern section was then a huge lake, Lake Cahuilla, which rose and fell depending on the Colorado River flow. It eventually dried up in the 1300s, but in 1905 the Colorado River raged and blew through a few dams and levees, and for 18 months the river was effectively diverted to this area, creating the Salton Sea, until they fixed the dams. Most of this area is at least 100 feet below sea level and the Salton Sea is just a fraction of the size of the original Lake Cahuilla. There is some geology trivia for those that find it interesting.

We then headed north on a road that parallels I-10 and runs through Sky Valley and Desert Hot Springs, gaining altitude all the way out of the Coachella Valley. The drive was peaceful and beautiful, with snow visible on top of San Gorgonio Mountain and clouds attempting to roll over the rest of the San Bernardino mountains.

We camped the night at Sawtooth Canyon CG, a hidden BLM spot just south of Barstow, CA. Now at about 3500 feet, the Mojave desert was in bloom and greener than I ever remember.

We then drove across California through Bakersfield and Paso Robles. The area was lush with growth, both in the farms and along the grasslands, with flowers everywhere.

We hit the coast at Morro Bay , camped at Morro Strand State Beach CG, and headed into town for some good seafood.

Next stop – San Francisco.

Sedona with Friends and Blogging Again

Wow, it’s been awhile since the last blog update. Before we start our 2017 adventures, I need to update ultimate campsites from our 2016 trek for the campsites we would definitely return to, and add them to the list. In reviewing the 2016 trek, we camped in 77 different locations in the west over the summer from June to October and an additional 19 during out tour of New Mexico in May.

The new places we camped that we would definitely return to were:
Surgarloaf CG in the Medicine Bow mountains of southern Wyoming – a beautiful spot up at about 10,000 feet that provides some unique arctic beauty in the lower 48.
Wheeler CG in the Great Basin National Park – a real surprise of a National Park and campground that is within hiking distance to bristlecone pines and beautiful vistas.
Echo Park CG in Dinosaur National Monument – the confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers that is really beautiful.
Chaco Canyon CG in New Mexico – the ancient crossroads of the southwest.
Black Canyon CG along FR150 in New Mexico – a remote site that is enjoyable just getting there.
Navajo National Monument CG in Arizona (the dirt road side of the park) – a hidden treasure in northern Arizona that we passed by for years, but is now a great stop.
Middle Fork CG in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming – a small campground next to a stream tucked in beautiful hills.
Fossil Butte National Monument and the BLM spot above the park – a secret camping spot above the NM that has incredible views over the area.
Land’s End CG above the John Day National Monument in Oregon – a private campground with its own aircraft hangar and charm that is a must see.
Blue Spruce CG on the Hells Backbone Road in Utah – a nice campground along the beautiful drive, hidden in the hills where deer are very numerous around camp.
Fiddlers Lake CG in the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming – a remote campground with beaver lodges, and another great place to drive.
Beaver Creek dispersed camping in Montana near Yellowstone NP – a hidden spot for great free camping along the river near the bustle of Yellowstone complete with local moose.
Cave Falls CG in Yellowstone National Park – a nice campground along the river falls in a quite corner of Yellowstone.
FR611 dispersed camping just north of Gran Canyon NP – a great vista over the entrance to the Grand Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs on the north side of the rim.

Places we revisited in 2016 that are still great places to camp are:
Fire Point in Grand Canyon National Park on the North Rim – still an awesome spot on the north rim you can call your own.
Ruby Mountain CG in Colorado – the campground was improved and is even now better than before.
Hwy 150 dispersed camping in the Unitas Mountains in Utah – a beautiful stretch of road with many places to pull off and enjoy nature.

All of these places hold great memories of beautiful scenery, great hikes, awesome night time stars and wildlife in the great outdoors. If you get to any of these places, let us know what you think. However, it’s now 2017 so we need to see more of the US and North America.

Our first trip of the spring was to the area between Cottonwood and Sedona, AZ. There is a forest service road 525C that has many spots to pull off and enjoy the beauty of central Arizona. We met up with Lou and Nancy there for a great weekend of hiking and camping. The desert was in bloom all around us.

We hiked 7 miles from our campsite to Robbers Roost, a cave in the rock that once served as a hideout in the old western days. Now it’s just a cool place in the shade with a spectacular view.

The next day we hiked 8 miles to a stream nearby, admiring the beautiful rocks that make the Sedona area a sightseeing destination.

We cooked some awesome meals under the stars, where the Milky Way and planets were just jaw-dropping clear. We headed off in different directions after the weekend, but it was a great start to 2017.