Julian to Borrego Springs

Total mileage: 82 miles

Estimated Total climb: 6-7,000 feet.

Value: priceless. 🙂

Saturday March 19th, 2011 was the annual Tour of Borrego Springs. Some of the San Diego Recyclers bicycle club members were camping at Palm Canyon campgrounds and I decided to go too. However, I decided to ride from Julian to Borrego Springs and back.

My friend Carl has a place in Julian, so I contacted him to get permission to park at his place. He asked if he could join me, and so my first overnight camping trip began to take shape.

Carl picked me up at my house at 9:00 AM Friday. By the time we got to Julian, unpacked our bikes and got ready to leave, it was noon. We arrived at the campground about 3:30 PM.

We chose to travel to the town of Borrego Springs by way of Yaqui Pass. I personally haven’t ever gone to Borrego Springs before. But, my goal was to find a route that was about 30 miles and ended at the campground. This shows the route we took.

Julian to Borrego Springs Map

Julian to Borrego Springs Map

And here’s the elevation profile for the ride.

Elevation Profile Julian to Palm Canyon Campground

Elevation Profile Julian to Palm Canyon Campground

If you only looked at the elevation profile, you would think this was all an easy downhill ride, with a few small climbs on the way down. On some days you might be right, but not this weekend. It’s spring time, and there was a major storm coming in. The wind was 20+ mph sometimes, when we were riding. When we turned left onto Borrego Springs Road from Yaqui Pass Road, it hit us right on the face. We were both in our lowest gears, just barely making headway at times, into the wind. We started seeing some of the many steel sculptures that are all over Borrego Springs.

Mastadons in the desert

Mastadons in the desert

Carl suggested he take my picture with the sculptures in the background. This is what I looked like with my trusty Bike Friday folding bike and the suitcase/trailer with my camping gear.

The velorambler and sculptures

The velorambler and sculptures

Some of the sculptures were easily identifiable. This one, I could only get a general idea of what the sculptor meant. It’s art, not necessarily a true to life representation. Birds have to be one of the most challenging things to sculpt with a torch and steel, this artists chosen medium.

Update: I was informed by Carole Ziegler:

The art piece is called the Incredible Wind
God Bird   *Ailornis incredibilis* was the largest flight-capable bird in
North America  with a wingspan of 16 to 17 feet.   The sculpture is life
size.   Only six specimens of this four-foot tall bird have been found and
three of them have been found in Anza-Borrego.   More can be found in my
latest guidebook of the area.
Eagle?

Eagle?

Of course we came to the desert in part, for the spring flower display. One of the most prevalent plants in the deserts of the southwest is the Ocotillo. In Arizona where I grew up, they only bloom every few years.

Ocotillo, Fouqueria splendens, in bloom

Ocotillo, Fouqueria splendens, in bloom

Sleeping outdoors seems always to lend itself to going to bed with the sun and waking up with it. There was a very full moon this weekend, but I haven’t figured out how to do time lapse with my digital camera. Gotta learn how to do that. The sunrise Saturday was gorgeous.

What is it they say?

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
Red sky at night sailors delight.

Sunrise March 19, 2011

Sunrise March 19, 2011

Carl and I decided not to pay the fee and ride the organized ride. Instead we went riding around the area on our own. We rode out to the airport, turned around and rode back to Borrego Valley Road and headed north. These sculptures are near Henderson Canyon Road north of town.

Carol Ziegler says:

The "people" that Neil refers to are the DiGiorgio grape farm workers.  When
the farm workers decided to strike in 1965, key leaders were arrested.
Cesar Chavez was one of them.   The strike lasted 4 years and ended the
DiGiorgio grape business.   Borrego was the first place to be able to
harvest grapes of the new season.   Lots of history here.   Again, more in
the guidebook.

Carole’s guidebook is available from Sunbelt Publications.

Grape Pickers

Grape Pickers

I think you’ll see a trend here. This is the only sculpture we saw that involved people.

Tending the vines

Tending the vines

Carl wanted to have his picture taken. Since he reads this blog, he probably figured he would get his picture here. You were right Carl! 🙂

Carl wants in on the action

Carl wants in on the action

The arrangement of these sculptures creates a little vignette, of a vineyard.

Stringing wire

Stringing wire

All of these sculptures are on a large privately owned desert property called Galleta Meadows Estates. Just the part where we saw the statues is quite large. I have no idea how big the whole property is.

Galleta Meadows Estates

Galleta Meadows Estates

I know where the sculptor can find some models near Ramona. 🙂 More information from Carole Ziegler:

Camels, along with llamas and horses, actually evolved right
here in Borrego and migrated to other parts of the world with the colonists
bringing back the horses.   Quite a round about way for us to have horses
here today.
Camel in the desert

Camel in the desert

It seemed that for most of the ride, this was my view of Carl. Near the end of the ride we swapped bikes, and I found out why. His bike was significantly easier to peddle. I’m going to do some experimenting to see how I can improve this.

My view of Carl

My view of Carl

The clouds dappled the hills as they whistled overhead.  The wind made riding hard, but made for delightful light in the desert.

Mountains and wildflowers

Mountains and wildflowers

In the macro view, there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on here. But if you stop and look, there are amazing flowers growing in the desert. And the scene changes day by day. Some flowers were obviously already spent, and some were just starting to swell with buds, promising new shows in the coming days.

Some blooming some yet to bloom

Some blooming some yet to bloom

Carl seems to be quite the accomplished camper. I know he is much more experience than I have. I think his whole sleeping quarters, including tent, mattress and sleeping bag, probably weighed no more than just my tent. I’m not sure who was more comfortable though. I heard some log sawing  across the campground. 😉

Carl in camp

Carl in camp

The ants were something I had forgotten about. In the desert the ants seem to be nearly everywhere. They are the cultivators and farmers of the desert. This is one entrance to an anthill. Who knows how many more there were. Some I saw had detritus like this and some were clean. Some looked like little caves in the side of a creek bed. They were everywhere you looked around the campsite.

Industrious Ants

Industrious Ants

I took a great many pictures of plants. I don’t want to bore the world with my photographic minutia. But, I like the way this one came out. To give you some perspective the plants in the foreground are no more than 4 inches tall.

Liliputian's view

Liliputian's view

There is also plenty of wildlife in the desert, too. If you walk slowly and don’t make too much noise you might get a shot like this. If you enlarge the image by clicking on it, right in the middle is a quail. Later I heard the lookout calling, though I never saw him.

Quail

Quail

This next picture is pretty indicative of the view around Palm Canyon Campground.

View to the southwest

View to the southwest

The jackrabbits were everywhere. Taking a picture of a jackrabbit with a point and shoot camera is a challenge. Several times I walked up on jackrabbits that didn’t move until I was withing a few feet. However, I didn’t see them until they startled me and ran away. This one only ran a few yards away. I kept walking toward him and shooting, in hopes I would actually get a picture that would display. What do you think?

Flowers and Jackrabbits

Flowers and Jackrabbits

This was our campsite. Looks like Carl already broke camp and packed while I was off taking pictures of wildlife and flowers.

Our campsite

Our campsite

We left Palm Canyon Campgrounds about three Saturday afternoon. With the afternoon winds and unpredictable weather we decided we would start up the mountain with the plan to camp at Yaqui Wells. It turned out to be a good plan.

Here’s our route from Palm Canyon Campground to Yaqui Well Road, right across the road from the close Tamarisk Grove Campground.

Route from Palm Canyon to Yaqui Wells Road

Route from Palm Canyon to Yaqui Wells Road

The elevation profile doesn’t even begin to tell the story for this days ride. Just as we were about halfway up that long steep grade you see the wind started to really blow. I had to get off and walk several times because I couldn’t generate enough power to overcome the gravity and the wind. One gust stopped me in my tracks as I was walking up the hill.

Elevation Profile from Palm Canyon to Yaqui Wells Road

Elevation Profile from Palm Canyon to Yaqui Wells Road

Here’s what it looked like as we were nearing the crest of the hill. We still had a few more miles uphill before the last downhill to the place we planned to camp. The picture below is looking back toward the town of Borrego Springs. Palm Canyon Campgrounds is on the left where you can see the ridge coming down to the desert floor.

Looking back at Borrego Springs

Looking back at Borrego Springs

There is an amazing view of another part of the desert from the crest of the hill on Yaqui Pass Road – S3. It’s hard to capture the vastness of this view, with a point and shoot camera.

Desert Overlook

Desert Overlook

Shortly after this picture we found a place to wild camp in the desert. By the time we set up camp and prepared dinner it was getting dark. I didn’t think to take any pictures of the camp.

In the morning we broke camp and were on the road by 8. This is the route back to the car in Julian.

Yaqui Wells Road To Julian

Yaqui Wells Road To Julian

As you can see by this profile it is a challenging ride.

Elevation Profile, Yaqui Wells to Julian

Elevation Profile, Yaqui Wells to Julian

Near Scissors Crossing on Highway 78 is this monument telling about the Vallecito – Butterfield Stage Stop.

Vallecito Butterfiield Stage Station

Vallecito Butterfiield Stage Station

This is the view looking back toward that monument at the next summit.

Long Hill Climb

Long Hill Climb

And this is the view looking back down the hill, just before we climbed up into the pine forest, on banner grade.

Close to Julian

Close to Julian

On the way up Banner Grade shortly after I took this picture, a team of women cyclists passed us. I believe they were from the Team Colavita. I estimate they were going up this grade at about 12 mph. Of course my bike with trailer, and packs weighs over 50 pounds and their bikes probably weighed under 20, not to mention they probably ride in a week what I ride in a month. So they were quite a bit faster than Carl and I. They did make friendly comments as the sped past.

It was a great adventure and I look forward to doing something similar maybe as soon as next month. And thanks to Carl for accompanying me on the adventure and teaching me some things about camping.

As Carl would say, keep the rubber side down and the shiny side up!

Until next time,
Velorambler

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9 comments to Julian to Borrego Springs

  • Dan

    We left Borrego Springs about a week before your trip, so it was great to see this post. And I had ridden from the town over Yaqui Pass and back on one of the days, on my blue Bike Friday; I’ve got a picture of it next to the summit sign. I admire you for going from and back to Julian. You did some heavy-duty climbing.
    Safe travels.
    Dan

  • Carl in San Diego

    Neil,
    What a great blog entry, I like the maps with profiles and the photos. Once again thanks for a great time and sharing your good friends the Recyclers. I feel very good about all of you and look foward to riding with you and them again. You taught me a good lesson in strength and endurance.
    The reason I say “Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down” is that I’ve tried the other way round way too often and need to focus on the right way up. :o)
    Ride well, ride safe , ride long,
    Carl

  • Ken Preston

    Neil, I notice your buddy Carl did not use a trailer but panniers. That is likely the difference between you two. I’ve done a few long trip with my Crusoe with and without the trailer and inevitably if I have the trailer I am a fair bit slower than the rest of the group and I seem to be expending more energy than they do as well.
    When I run panniers I don’t seem to be any different than the other guys.
    So now my wife and I only use the trailers when we are cycling with friends that are equipped the same as us. Otherwise we use panniers and stow the cases.
    Great pictures and ride commentary.
    I’m up in central Canada and its still to cold and icy for me to ride outside, but we have a European trip coming up in May, can’t wait.
    Ken

  • Looks like you had a fun time. Nice pictures!

  • Carl has black Ortlieb panniers that match his black Bike Friday, he travels incognito. 🙂 I carried my food and clothes in the front panniers. My tent, sleeping bag and other camping gear was in the trailer. The red beverage is my homemade sports drink. Here are more pictures of my Bike Friday

  • Rick

    Hi again Neil
    Never mind about the bike picture request. I enlarged the Desert Overlook shot. Neat setup. What do you carry in the panniers as opposed to your trailer? And what red beverage were you drinking?
    Thanks, Rick

  • Rick

    Neil, thanks for the great trip report and beautiful pictures. Where does Carl carry his camping gear, I saw no bags.
    A closeup picture of the trusty Bike Friday please. What are its advantages over a larger frame bike? And what make of trailer do you use? It looks very compact but stable. Sorry for all the questions.
    Thanks again for the wonderful pictures, I hope to ride that part of the country some day.
    Rick

  • James Oliver

    Sounds like a fun trip. Enjoyed your descriptions and pictures.
    Jim

  • Martin Bernstein

    Great description. I’ve been to B.S. several times, but never had the nerve to ride in from Julian. A couple of years ago we saw someone laboring up the mtn. on a Bike Friday, and I marveled at the guy’s stamina.

    Nice picts also.

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