Photography . . . Travel . . .

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Great Day in The Desert - With a Surprise at The End

I gathered up a few friends for a day of photography and exploring off-road in Anza Borrego Desert State Park last Saturday, March 24. The weather was cool and damp when we left San Diego, but cleared up after we passed through the mountains. By the time got down to the desert floor it was warming up, with just enough high clouds to give a really nice look to the sky.

We decided to try several trails that none of us had ever been on, so I pulled out my map and off we went. We started out by heading south in Inspiration Wash from County Road S-22. The wash starts out wide and sandy, then narrows considerably as climbs up to an overlook point. From there the trail drops down a narrow channel for a few miles until it opens up again near a large area of sand dunes.

The penguin started out as a Christmas thing a few years back. Then he started going on more trips, but was always falling over every time we hit a bumpy patch in the trail - until one day a couple of years ago Heather said something like "well, you have all that duct tape in the tool bag, just duct tape his butt to the dashboard". Why didn't I think of that?

Our little group at the high point of the Inspiration Wash trail. My Xterra, Mark's Frontier and Rae's Jeep.

The trail heading south from the overlook as it winds its way down.

Every now and then portions of the mud hills in the Badlands collapse. This large chunk of rock is sitting right in the middle of the trail. Luckily a bypass has been developed around it.

From a photographer's point of view you could not have asked for better skies on Saturday. This is the view looking back north towards the direction we came in from.

Towards the south end of the Inspiration Wash trail we found an area of large sand dunes.

Of course, sand dunes meant that Robert had to bring out the droids.

But, since they were not the droids we were looking for . . . they were free to go on their way.

(Yes, I do realize (now that it's too late to do anything about it) that R2D2 is moving backwards. Let's just go with the idea that he was keeping an eye on us as he moved away.)

We stopped for lunch under a group of tamarisk trees near the Borrego Sink, and then headed east towards San Felipe Wash. Along the way we took a little detour up onto a series of unmapped trails that run along the ridge lines south of Borrego Sink Wash a little before it gets to San Felipe Wash.

I guess I should get into at least one picture along the way here.

We stopped to check out a little patch of dried mud in the bright mid-day sun, and I thought this would be good spot to break out the fisheye lens.

We continued east in San Felipe Wash for a bit, then it was time to turn north into Hills of the Moon Wash. Hills of the Moon starts out wide and sandy, then gets narrower as it winds its way north through the mud hills of the Borrego Badlands and eventually gets too narrow to drive in as it gets close to the base of Fonts Point.

The trail is fairly easy in spots, with occasional collapses and bypasses. In spots it's quite narrow. Although this is by no means the narrowest section, it would not be fun to try turning around in here.

Eventually it got to the point where it looked like if we went any further we might be able to turn around at all. Here's Robert spotting as I back up to spot wide enough (sort of) to turn in. (My friend LaRee Brownell was riding with me on Saturday, and took these next 3 shots with my camera.)

To get back to pavement we went back to San Felipe Wash and took that south to Borrego Springs Road. We found some great scenery in the late afternoon light.

Our original plan for the day was to look for desert wildflowers - it is that time of year after all. Unfortunately, this has been a very dry year, and we didn't really find much at all. Once we were done airing our tires back up we decided to drive to the far north end of Borrego Springs to see if there were any flowers out along Henderson Canyon Road. In past years this one spot has always had flowers. On our way north on DiGiorgio Road I looked over to our left and spotted this. It's a giant scorpion. Of course we had to stop.

And of course I had to see what it would like from the perspective of someone about to be eaten by the giant scorpion. (I have to say, that fisheye lens does come in handy at times.)

As we were driving back south from Henderson Canyon Road towards town we spotted a large group of people just off the road, all with either binoculars or spotting scopes pointed off towards the high mountains to the north. We had no idea what they were looking at, the mountains were a few miles away. Much too far, it seemed, for them to be seeing any wildlife. Of course we had to stop and investigate. It turned out to be the Borrego Hawkwatch. They said they were waiting for the migrating Swainson's Hawks to show up. Lots of them. And they did. I only took a few pictures, which were not very good. I spent more time with my binoculars, which got me a much closer look. The hawks came in over the mountains in large groups, flew right over our heads, and landed for the evening in a cluster of trees just a block or so from where we were standing. The bird people said they counted 295 Swainson's Hawks that evening. I've never seen anything like that - it was quite impressive.

The sun eventually set, and we finally decided to head for home. It was one of our longer days out there, but we saw a lot of new places and things. All in all it was a great day to hang out in the desert with a group of good friends.

Click here to see more images from our day in Anza Borrego Desert State Park on Saturday, March 24, 2012.


  1. That was a great trip! We had lots of fun and the Hawk Watch at the end was amazing! Perfect ending for a perfect day.

  2. I agree it was a fantastic trip. Once again I had more fun than I thought possible in the desert. You are the best guide Frank! It was a beautiful day with great friends. I enjoy going places I've never been before. Seeing the migrating Swainson's hawks was the icing on what was a perfect cake of a day!


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San Diego, California, United States
About me . . . When I'm not working I like to be out exploring and photographing. I do this blog just for fun, and to be able to share these images with friends. I hope you enjoy viewing these images as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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All of the content and images on this site (c) Frank B. Baiamonte. If you would like to use any of these images please contact me via email at to discuss terms of usage. Note that images from the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are not available for commercial usage. You can also see more on my Instagram page @frankbaiamonte.

Header image: Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, Cibola, Arizona. End image: Downtown San Diego, California skyline from Coronado Island. Profile picture: Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, by Heather Baiamonte.