Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wind Caves Trek

When you've visited the glorious Anza-Borrego desert enough, it calls to you even more, a dusty kindred spirit eager to show you dry wonders. It is with this backdrop that 4 intrepid familys left on a foggy San Diego morning recently heading Eastward through Julian, down Banner Grade to points beyond. Steve Koenig had suggested the trip just after our last 4x4 adventure, and I'd gladly taken the bait. Dave Foster and his family, as well as my motorcycling buddy Thuy joined in the fun.

The kids excitement rose considerably as we entered Ocotillo Wells, with off-road vehicles of all shapes and sizes hauled dusty butt along trails real or imagined. The desert was alive with critters! Our caravan took a right turn at Split Mountain road and, after about 5-6 miles, turned into Fish Creek Wash and stopped to stretch our legs and take a group shot.

The goal was to hike the Wind Caves, then if time and energy permitted head up the Wash and take a finger called Sandstone Canyon where the walls of the canyon stretch upwards blocking out the sun on the fringes of the day. We cruised up Fish Creek, stopping briefly to check out a spectacular formation that Steve dubbed "horseshoe" (for obvious reasons). Pretty amazing geologic scenery.

It had been well over a decade since I'd been to the Caves, carved out of the sandstone by a millenia of blasting wind, which was mercifully light as we climbed up the trail. The kids were troopers, leading the way and giddy about what lay ahead. Ethan was admittedly a little nervous about "crawling down into caves" but I assured him they were mostly above ground.

They are pretty spectacular and thankfully mostly graffitti-free. We hiked around a bit, the kids dodging and exploring the crevasses; the parents mostly took pictures! We ate lunch hunkered down inside of a particularly large "cave", sheltered from the sun which beat down about 70 degrees worth.

After lunch we all agreed that we were not at all done and decided to continue the drive. Dust and more dust and yet fantastic formations greeted us at almost every turn.

The striations of this canyon wall were very cool - for you photo buffs, I used a light blue-ish desaturating filter on the sand and warmed up the wall a little bit. I used the Nik Software Color Efex Pro 3.0 "Duplex" filter on the dusty roads image.

"Artsy" H3 entering Sandstone Canyon - Midnight filter

It wasn't long before we reached Sandstone Canyon. It starts out with a sharp right-hander, but then meanders back a mile or so, sometimes with the canyon walls squeezing the trucks within a few feet on either side. Eventually, as it narrowed too far, we turned back (Steve's H3 making it further than the others). A short respite for the kids to play and for the Dads to take more pictures, and we were off again.

The kids of course didn't want to leave - I recall my son Ethan saying this was "the best day ever, could we do it again tomorrow?" and that warmed my heart a lot. At the mature age of 10-ish, those tender moments seem to be fewer and fewer. We pretty much hot-footed it out of the wash back to Split Mountain road, but did decide to grab a bite to eat in Wynola. There was a pizza joint next to a red barn I wanted to try out and the kids were "starving" as always. Seemed like a dandy idea.

We rolled back into San Diego just after dark and, at least in our household, everyone headed for the showers to try and peel back the second skin of dust that we all sported!

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