December 4, 2015

Anza Borrego Desert

"Really, to appreciate the desert you must live close to its heart, 
walk upon it's unbroken soil, and camp upon it's clean sands."
Edmund C. Jaeger

Picture this plan…toodle out to a desolate spot in the desert with my best girl, my dog and my bird and celebrate the holiday under clear skies, warm weather and in total solitude. A first!

But as we drove past Ocotillo Wells, we were quite surprised to see the many large group gatherings of off-road enthusiasts. We knew the desert would be busy this Thanksgiving week, but had no idea it would attract such huge throngs of campers. As we drove past, we were hoping Rockhouse Canyon would be far tamer. 

When we arrived we were happy to note Rockhouse Canyon was indeed quieter, but no less busy. New State regulations now keep all campers from experiencing true dispersed camping. The bulk of the area beyond Rockhouse Canyon Road is now off limits, eliminating miles of open range. Signs are posted preventing everyone from straying 100 yards from the road and it is enforced. We saw park rangers and the Highway Patrol drive up and down the road checking for any violators. 

With these new rules in effect, the boondocking areas available are dramatically less than a year ago, going from miles of open land to but a few acres. There are over 500 miles of dirt roads in the Anza Borrego Desert. We walked miles of these roads near our site and found old campsites over three miles away up near the base of the mountains. Many had elaborate rock driveways, planters and art designs…the personal signature of a previous camper. Rockhouse Canyon Road in Anza Borrego can no longer offer prime boondocking, especially during any popular travel times. I would redefine this area as a primitive state campground, without the individual sites. And based on what we saw out there during our walks, in days of past, we could have had a mile of privacy in any direction.

We were somewhat fortunate as we had no rig parked closer than 100 yards from us and had a wonderful view of the Santa Rosa Mountains. However, because we chose to follow the new regulations, we were close to the road making us aware of any vehicle driving down Rockhouse Canyon, with a few who drove like they were on the interstate.  

Most groups, consisting of 7 to 15 rigs aligned in a circle, took some of the prime spots away from the road. There was room there for other rigs, but you would be 100 feet from your neighbor versus at least 100 yards. So we chose a little road noise instead and with the light showers we had, dust was minimal. 

When we arrived, there must have been 50 or so rigs already set up, mostly in groups, and it was only Tuesday. We gathered that most of these campers were the regular “Thanksgiving Tribe” that celebrate the holiday here every year. And celebrate they did. Turkey fryers, multiple grills, cords of firewood, atv's and those nasty shooting fireworks. If you are a pet owner, you know the effect the sound of fireworks has on your dog…let alone the wildlife. Plus, in this drought season, you have to be a real reckless yahoo to risk the fire danger along with choosing to be a rude neighbor. A small consequence of tight dispersed camping. 

But the beauty of this desert truly does soften any distasteful distractions. You can still walk for miles and be totally alone the entire way. The desolation of the desert is enchanting, the never ending earth tone colors can be hypnotic and the solitude so soothing. The serenading of the coyotes before dawn let you know they still celebrate each new day and as the sun sets, spectacular sunsets bid your day farewell only to be blanketed by the stars of Cassiopeia...all bringing awareness of our tiny presence in this universe. 

A light shower one day brought the unforgettable smell of the desert after a rain, a testament that there is far more to life here than can be seen. The unrelenting sun during the day, the ever present gusting wind and freezing temps at night that preserve the light snow on the peaks, illustrate just how harsh and unforgiving this land can be. And with an average rainfall of just 2” to 5" per year…the tough need to be tougher to exist here.

But what a perfect setting to have our wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner, which Imke prepared in our rig. With the beautiful scenery surrounding us, fresh memories of our travel experiences and thoughts of our healthy and loving family and friends, we were filled with gratitude for this moment in time.

Once the weekend arrived, almost all of the Rockhouse gang began leaving for home, making our evening campfire one of the last to burn bright in this desert paradise. 

And even though each day we looked wistfully at this huge expanse of land and wishing we could have been further away from the road, we do understand how human presence can impact natural habitats...we saw it in our miles of walks. 

So today we balance the dance of enjoyment and wonderment with preservation. Life is still good!

At Waypoint 33.300200 -116.282710
Post a Comment