Explorations along the Borrego-Salton-Seaway

December 12th, Joe, little Toni and I headed out to explore a couple of locations in and near Anza Borrego Desert State Park, along Highway S22 aka Borrego-Salton-Seaway. There were a couple of places that I had seen from the road while driving there, others that I saw on maps or had heard about, and yet others that I saw mentioned in late Jerry Schad’s “Afoot and Afield San Diego County” hiking book (seeing how much information he had gathered and put together into this book reminded me what a loss his untimely demise was, and is, for the hiking community).

Our first stop of the day was Vista Del Malpais, a lookout over the Borrego Badlands, somewhat similar to Fonts Point. We reached it via the Thimble Trail and Short Wash, then following the sign for Vista Del Malpais in a southerly direction (it would have been possible to use Arroyo Salado and Short Wash as well).

It was no problem to reach the vista point with 2WD only and high clearance (good job, CRV). The sweeping vistas over the badlands are, just like the ones from Fonts Point, absolutely jaw-dropping and gorgeous. We were very lucky and had some clouds – the badlands below us thus were in my favorite light: flat, soft and even. Perfect conditions, and we spent a lot of time photographing there (Joe’s set of fine black & white images are on his website in this blogpost).

Our next stop was Truckhaven Rocks. We drove back to Short Wash from Vista Del Malpais, and continued in an easterly direction now, towards Palo Verde Wash, which took us back to S22. Parked off pavement at the large wash that leads to Truckhaven Rocks we first had our lunch, and then began the short hike. I misread the directions a bit – when we should have simply followed the large wash, we took a smaller one on the side. We ended up at another outcropping of Truckhaven Rocks which was pretty cool, but a bit challenging to get to because of rather lose gravel. We returned almost the way we came, and noticed some out-of-season bloom on some smoke trees, I tried to get a close-up of the tiny blossoms. The photo is in the gallery below.

Next, I had noticed a sign Truckhaven Trail opposite of Calcite Road before and wanted to check that out. So we drove a little bit further east on S22 and tried our luck. We got some pretty fancy views of the Truckhaven Rocks area, but once Truckhaven Trail began to descend down into a wash in the badlands, it was clear that we wouldn’t be able to continue on it with 2WD, so we backed out, turned around and drove back to the highway.

We then had a look at Coachwhip Canyon. We drove in as far as possible, trying the eastern arm first. No problem here with 2WD and high clearance. Walking in a little bit further, we didn’t find the location too exciting though, and as the afternoon proceeded, we decided to skip exploring the western arm of the canyon, and continued our exploration at Arroyo Salado instead.

I wanted to find 17 Palms and maybe 5 Palms and Una Palma, deep in the eastern part of Borrego Badlands. Or rather, I wanted to see if we’d be able to get there with 2WD. We entered Arroyo Salado once more, drove past the camp and continued driving in the wash. It was a long, slow and bumpy ride, but we made it to 17 Palms without problems. Unimpressed with the location, we continued to find nearby 5 Palms. There, we wandered around the mud hills a little bit. The sun was about to disappear behind the mountains to the west, and just were the sun was setting I was able to spot Una Palma. Not the most impressive photo for the first attempt.

After the sun was gone we walked back to the car and began the slow drive back to S22, and then home. It was a great day and we both made lots of photos, and the places that we visited are all worth visiting again for further exploration – even further down Arroyo Salado is a spot called “Pumpkin Patch” with large, round concretions that definitely needs to be found next time. :)

And here’s the gallery with some impressions:

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