Saturday I visited Arroyo Tapiado at Anza Borrego Desert State Park again with a friend. It is perhaps the area with the strangest landscape in the Anza Borrego desert (hard to tell, because the desert is huge, and there’s a lot of places that I have yet to visit).
“Arroyo Tapiado” is Spanish and means something like “walled wash” (or maybe creek?), and the walls consist of porous mud. It is also called Pseudokarst, because just like Limestone washed out by rain and water results in rugged Karst areas with sinkholes and caves, the mud hills that are washed out by rain and flash floods have sinkholes, caves, and absolutely fascinating erosion patterns.
We brought flashlights and decided to have a look at Chasm Cave. The underground water that washed out the cave formed it into a long and winding tunnel. After two or three turns we were in complete darkness, and initially had the feeling that our flashlights were miserably underpowered, but after our eyes adjusted to the pitch black darkness, there was easily enough light. The only problem is the somewhat limited depth perception from a single flashlight. The floor is all fine grey-green dust of mud, so it was a bit hard in places to see where I was actually standing, and promptly missed a little step, placed my foot into the air when the actual ground was one feet below, and hurt my knee in a way that my cursing must’ve filled the cave from one end to the other… :-P
Tech: I brought one external flash unit (an SB-800) and tried some off-camera flash in complete darkness. I think it worked out rather well – I placed the flash behind some rock, manually focused the camera at infinity, and at ISO800 and f/5.6 to f/8 I was able to get some good looking results with the wide angle lens. It was great fun!
UPDATE, February 2014: after another visit, this time to Carey’s Big Mud Cave, I have created a gallery page for the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves.