All Around Anza-Borrego State Park

Desert View. Anza Borrego State Park, CA

We’ve just finished up about five days in Anza-Borrego State Park. We dry-camped for the first couple of days and motored around looking for some short hikes. Anza-Borrego is great because you can camp free most anywhere in the park. We found a primitive campground called Yaqui Well Primitive Campground. It was centrally located to some of the hikes we were interested in and was deserted. We parked the motorhome and found the hikes we were looking for. The first was short loop, about 2 miles, that brought us to the rarely seen Elephant Tree.

Elephant Tree.

The next day, we took several more short hikes near our camp. We found really unusual pictographs in an area called Smugglers Canyon. The pigments used were a little different than we’ve seen in the past – orange and yellow. There were interesting abstract patterns, a sun with beams – something we’ve never seen quite like this. They were all located on one boulder and were in wonderful condition.


Sun Pictograph.

Day two it was on to the Morteros Trail. It was very short also, but led to an area with numerous grinding holes in the rock. The native woman would use stone pestles to grind collected grains in these. In other areas, they would roll manos (hand-sized cylindrical rocks) over the grain which left smoothed surfaces on the stone. This is all still visible today.

Ruins of the Marshal South home.


Our third hike for the day was up a steep trail to Ghost Mountain, the location of the Marshal South family. This husband and wife (Marshal and Tanya) and three children built and adobe home and lived on this mountain top for 20 years during the 1930s and 40s. They had to haul all materials up the grueling trail (including most of the water) in all manner of severe weather. The local indians thought they were crazy for building where they did, but more so for living there all through the pounding heat of summer. 115˙ was not unusual. Marshal wrote for Desert Magazine about their life and they became well known and often visited. They were evicted during WW2 but returned for a short time after the war. Tanya eventually tired of the isolation and the fact that Marshal had taken up with the librarian and filed for divorce and moved away with the children.

Ray and Peggy and their rig.

Ray at the table

Peggy's watercolors.

We moved up to the Borrego-Springs campground after two days in the primitive campground. The weather had gotten very cold and we decided the comforts of full hook-ups was too good to pass on. There I met Ray and Pat. They spent most of their day on the picnic bench in their site creating watercolor paintings of scenes they’d photographed on an earlier trip into Mexico. I liked the little motorhome they traveled in and even though they are not full timers, I asked if I could photograph them with their rig. They agreed and I quite like the results. Later Ray gave Mary a quick lesson in pencil drawing.

Mary, Jan and Mike in the Slot.

We were fortunate enough to have met up with some friends who volunteer at the visitor center and they agreed to 4-wheel us around for a couple of days. Mike and Jan have lived in Borrego Springs for quite some time now. They also have a place in Temecula and have been exploring the area for several years. Hiking is tops on their list of things to do and they really enjoy showing people the park. Their jeep was able to get to some of the places we wanted to see but were a little leery about using the RAV4. Their experience in the area was also a great help in finding some of the trails that were not exactly clearly marked.

With their guidance, we visited The Slot, a narrow slot canyon that gets so narrow at the end that squeezing through sideways was the only way to proceed. They showed us great views from Font’s Point and on another day, took us on a wildflower walk up Henderson Canyon. Yes, the wildflowers are out. Kind of sparse at this point, but in the next several weeks, they should be showing up much more. Another rain would probably create a huge bloom, but it was surprising how many were out already.

Mike with the dreaded Sonorian Mustard plant.

Entrance to The Slot.

View from Font Point.

At Font Point.

We will be finishing up with a tour of giant scrap metal sculptures over the next couple of days. Stay tuned for images from that foray.

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