Tag Archives: 4-wheel drive

Off Road 2-Wheel Driving to Fish Creek’s Wind Caves

IMG_8973The weekend at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park was one of the best and most fun weekends ever. Ranger Don at the Arroyo Tapiado mud caves was one of the reasons it was so much fun but my visit to Fish Creek’s wind caves were also a major part of it. If you ever head to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park be sure to visit Fish Creek. You won’t be disappointed.

After much discussion with the Ranger Station, the Visitor Center, and Ranger Don the reviews were mixed. One ranger from the station had said we would be fine with our 2×4 high clearance truck, while the visitor center could only advise us that we needed a 4×4. Ranger Don seemed confident that we wouldn’t run into any trouble, but then a completely different ranger at the station would tell us she couldn’t advise us on Fish Creek conditions because it was not her section of the park. Finally Katie and I decided to head over to the dirt road that leads out to Fish Creek and make an educated decision as to whether we thought our truck could make it or not once we got there.

We drove east on Route 78 and then south down Split Mountain Road until we arrived at the dirt road. We immediately knew we would head out to the Fish Creek Campground. The road centered in a sandy wash was an easy 1.5 miles of packed sand due to the rain storm of a previous weekend. It was so easy we almost completely missed the campground, barely noticing the small sign to our left quickly continuing to the narrow passage between Fish Creek Mountain and Vallecito Mountain. As we rounded the corner and came to the iconic raise fossil reef we stopped the car to take a look at our first section of tricky large rocks. We chose our route, a slight bare to the right and a hard left and we were through. We stopped several times along that section of the route to make sure we were picking the best path to drive. We wanted to make sure no large rocks would sneak up on us and any loose sand was avoided.

30 minutes later we finally arrived at a large fork in the road. To our left was a tiny sign that read, “wind caves” the start of the trail. We were the only ones there so we parked near the entrance, packed our camel packs, put on our sunscreen, and started up the rugged path.

The trail is relatively short, about 1.2 miles total, with an incline to begin that gradually levels out. Eventually you reach a small rock where the path splits. Either way will bring you to the wind caves the question only is do you want to start at the bottom or the top of them. We chose the left path and were brought to the top.

I have to say the wind caves are amazing. They are so much fun to crawl around inside, through, and over. Many of them are large enough to stand up straight and tall inside. They reminded me of where the Flintstones would have lived. The caves are made as the wind whips through and around the sandstone wearing it away over time.

If you climb on top and look under your feet you can see lines and grooves where the sand is wearing away. If you look up and across the creek you have this unbelievable desert view of the Carrizo Badlands. You can see the road you drove in on and miles and miles of sand mounds. If you look closely you might even be able to see the imaginary eyes and nose of a person on the mountain side.

I have to say that out of all the places I’ve been the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has been one of my all time favorites. Once you reach the wind caves it is so quiet and peaceful. Maybe it’s different on a weekend, but our Monday in December was perfect. All we could hear was the wind and birds for miles. We could have stayed there all day, however, knowing our trek back to the main road wasn’t going to be easy we left with enough time to reach the paved road before the sun set.

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Slip Into The Slot

IMG_8613I started by driving to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in my little Honda Fit. Not the best choice for many of the dirt roads in the area, but workable for the one leading out to The Slot, a small hiking trail inside a canyon crevice.

The road leading out to The Slot is so small that I literally drove past it, had to turn around, and find it the second time. Luckily, not many people travel that way so a U-turn was completely safe on the 78. It was a dirt road and was a little unsure about taking the turn off the pavement. I had heard that driving on packed dirt was ok, but anything loose and soft could cause me to get stuck if I had to stop since I did not have 4-wheel drive. One car wide, I slowly made my way down the bumpy packed dirt. It got looser as I went and I hoped no one would come down the other way. Luckily for me any cars I came across were nice enough to pull off the road and allow me to pass on the firm dirt. My heart was in my throat by the end but I arrived at my destination safely.

The road opened up to a small undesignated parking area where I saw a few other vehicles. I pulled off and parked and I spoke with a man standing by his car. I asked if I was in the right spot, if there were other people he passed while inside The Slot and where the entrance was. Yes, yes, and as for the entrance it was straight ahead. Yes, down that big drop off.

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The entrance wasn’t at all what I had imagined after reading about it on so many different websites. It was a barren land that stretched out to some mountains miles away with one specific crack to be explored. There were no visual markers of any kind accept the road and other cars in the area. It was deserted, like a desert of course.

IMG_8623I slowly slid down into The Slot, the gravel was loose near the top and I struggled to find secure spots to place my feet. Once near the bottom the ground became more rigid and easier. Going down is always harder so I wasn’t too concerned about getting out. Once at the bottom I noted the stone marker for the exit. Yes, you could definitely lose track of where you are going in here and completely miss your exit point if you are not aware of your surroundings. I hoped there were no turn offs or if there were any they were clearly marked and started my journey.

The Slot was totally worth every effort to get there. I journeyed down the path and it slowly got more and more narrow, the rocky edges squeezing in on me. At times the were spaces only shoulder width wide and some were angled funny. I slithered through them and continued on my way. Rocks hung above in some sections and I hoped the wedging and gravity tricks of the world held strong as I passed underneath. The formations were amazing and I closely examined the sandy sides. The tops of the rocks were completely smooth, carved by the cool breeze that occasionally ran through The Slot. The undersides were often scattered with tiny ridges that might have been where water droplets washed away the looser sand. At least that is what I imagined.

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I reached the end and it opened to a wide jeep trail. I continued down the path, knowing that I could follow it to make a 3.5 mile loop. I heard a loud rumble coming from the path behind me. I hoped it was the wind or a passing plane. To be honest, I never found out what it really was. The jeep trail was hot with beautiful views, but once you saw one part it was the same all the way through.

I turned around, cutting my hike down to about a mile, and headed back to The Slot trail ready to explore it for a second time. It was just as amazing as the first time. I reached the end, saddened that there was not more to explore, and climbed out of the gap. Wow, what an adventure. This has to be my best experience yet!

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