Thursday, November 06, 2008

Anza-Borrega 4x4 Trip

It's been a long time coming, but well worth the wait.  A couple of weekends ago, Steve Koenig who is one of the dad's in Pack 621 organized a bit of an offroad trip to the desert.  His co-pilot was Brett Alexander - another Scout dad.  I didn't have a wingman, but two energetic boys in Etho and his friend Josef.  Good crew.

We first highway'ed it out the Interstate eastward ho until the little town of Ocotillo.  A sharp left on to S-2, and we were off!  Steve's got a sweet Hummer H3 which looked as though it could climb like a Billy goat - we found out later it could. 

The plan was to ease in at Dos Cabezos, do some rock bouldering (trucks and kids) at Mortrero Palms, eat lunch near the old Dos Cabezos rail station and water tank, then mosey over through Canyon sin Nombre.  We did all of this, with a tricky little bonus:  the Volcanic Hills, which included a one-way arroyo through Piepkorn Slot that turned out to be a little dicey, but manageable.  Here's the story:

After ending lunch, somehow I ended up in the front of the Hummer as we came through the Volcanic Hills, but soon came to a narrowing of the arroyo.  I knew I was in trouble when I saw a plaque riveted to a rock.

Piepkorn Slot
Anza-Borrego State Park, CA
N32 47.003, W116 08.567

Elevation: 1469 feet

The plaque was a memorial to Mark Piepkorn who died there on Nov. 1, 1996.  We got out and scouted a bit, finally coming to the conclusion that we could in fact make it through 3 different ever-narrowing drops.

We had to be careful not to scrape doors, and there was a little jockeying, but mostly a straightforward drive (easy to say now that I've done it once!).  Here's a video of some other folks going through the same place:  Piepkorn Slot:
Once through though, we only had about 150 yards of joy until an uphill scree field followed by a wicked descent into Mortrero Wash.  I'm not ashamed to admit we spent a good 20 minutes moving rocks into the wheel ruts to enable our trucks to NOT high-center.  It was very steep and made for some exciting "wheels-in-the-air" action on the downhill side.  Yes, the children walked down the hill! 

Here's a video of some trucks going down the hill - I have to say that it's a bit more gnarly now than in the video:  Wicked descent:

As we cruised through Canyon sin Nombre, I finally took Etho's bluff.  He's been begging me to drive the truck.  I figured I was in for a "pop-the-clutch-and-stall" debacle, but the boy made me proud.  He was able to let out the clutch, ease on the gas, shift into 2nd, and steer all at the same time (with a little coaching from Dad).

Onward to Julian and home.  We did have a quick dinner stop at a BBQ joint in Julian just on the other side of the 4-way stop (really creamy Butternut Squash soup!), then headed down the hill. 

All in all, a very successful trip for all involved: the trucks performed admirably, we hiked and got dusty.  Just what the Desert ordered!

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