Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Anza Borrego:: Blair Valley

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This last trip, took me (Justin) out to the beautifully diverse Blair valley, in Anza Borrego State Park, to spend the night under the stars. I highly recommend sleeping under the stars in Anza, the cold desert nights are clear and full of stars. I awoke around 4 am, laid there looking up at the gigantic desert sky and saw more shooting stars in 15 minutes than I have in a long while -  had I been in a tent I would have missed them all!

Amanda and I weren't sure about taking JW out to Anza again just yet. The last trip was tough on him, the dry heat and cold nights (he still isn't sleeping very well at home either) were hard on him. It dropped into the high 20s, so I didn't feel to bad about leaving the little guy with mom. The other reason I was a bit glad he wasn't there was the cactus, they are everywhere in the valley, making it a beautiful, but menacing place, for a 18 month old.

Blair Valley offers dispersed camping and is one of a handful of primitive campgrounds in the park where campsites are spread out along a network of dirt roads. The campsites toward Ghost Mountain (Marshal South Mountain) and around into little Blair valley offer the most seclusion. Our campsite was about a mile from Ghost Mountain and our nearest visible neighbor's fire was a speck in the distance.

The ONLY facility in the campground is a vaulted toilet near the entrance to the camping area, so bring all that you need, especially a metal container to have a fire in. Open fires are not allowed.

The day time in Anza Borrego is best enjoyed exploring, shade in the park is hard to find - the hot dry sun and desert honey bees buzzing all around almost force one to get moving.

Blair valley has a few easily accessible hikes to fascinating California history. The Great Southern overland stage route of 1849 (county road S-2) runs right though the valley. Two short hikes lead to Native American pictographs and morteros (grinding holes) and hike through amazing desert scenery of cholla, beaver tail, prickly pear cactus and ocotillo felids among others. A third short hike leads to the top of Ghost Mountain, where Marshal South raised his family from 1932 to 1946, an experiment in desert self-sufficiency. They lived simply and survived much like the Native Americans had for centuries before them. Standing atop Ghost mountain looking over the remains of the homestead thinking about life up there some 80 years ago is a delightful exercise in imagination.

On a short hike to the peak above our camp we were rewarded with a view of the whole valley, the great Salton Sea flat to the south east, the Cleveland National Forest to the west, the Santa Rosa Mountain range to the north and desert ranges and valleys that stretch through the park down to Mexico. This place is surrounded in seemingly endless desert beauty.  I want to get the family back out to the desert. Anza Borrego is a powerful place. As I get older and caught up in the trappings of modernity places like Blair Valley help give me perspective on life, connecting me some how to the ancient human consciousness and some how taking strength and peace from the connection.

Blair Valley

Trip date:: February 2012