Anza Borrego Desert - Agua Caliente Campground and mud caves
By Mariah Hedrick
The desert … its unforgiving harshness, the cracking dirt ground begs for water, the wind and the baron trees leaves some people wondering if it is worth the trip. But, if you can sit quietly for a moment, the desert will come to you, it will lift your spirits… comforting and accepting. Wildlife speaks into the night as the stars multiply by the second…taking a deep breath I am once again filled with peace. The warm night wind travels through my hair as I watch the moon shyly make its appearance low on the horizon before settling high in the desert sky for the night. Coyotes cry, wind howls and the moon shines upon the rocks making them appear as tiny pools of water. These are the reasons I make the long trip into the desert…. It’s more than a destination; it’s an adventure, a spiritual connection with the earth.
Anza Borrego is located about 110 miles East of San Diego, Ca. Besides being a fascinating desert location, Anza Borrego also has some interesting history, exciting off road trails, ghost towns, mud caves, hot springs and ghostly appearances that are said to roam the Vallecito campground. We ended up camping at Agua Caliente because Vallecito was full due to the 150th anniversary of the Stage Coach crossing. Agua Caliente campground has a natural hot spring that campers can enjoy, there is a children’s spring and a separate indoor adult spring, and the campground also has hot mineral water showers as well. The kids were plenty occupied right at our campsite, they dug for treasures and climbed the rocky mountains for hours, not once did I hear “mom I’m bored” in fact they were close to tears when it was time to leave.
Take the time and follow the dirt roads and you will once again be greeted by more mysteries of the desert ….cool caves and long slot canyons. It takes a keen eye to spot the mud caves, they appear like small holes in the dirt, but once you reach the entrance you will be pleasantly pleased by the gifts that are there for you to explore. The caves are made from mud and they have a creepy feeling to them, they seem like they could collapse at any minute. Each mud cave is unique, but they all share some similarities, they are formed by erosion of the ceiling breaking through to the top. Some of the caves can be 80 feet or more underground, most caves follow a serpentine course back and forth. They are all cooler than the sometimes oppressive heat of the desert.
These caves are pitch dark, (except for the surprising skylights) so be sure to bring more than one light source and as always bring plenty of water, a spare tire, a shovel (to dig yourself out of the dirt) and snacks….the dirt roads can be slow going. There are approximately 22 mud caves and 9 slot canyons for all ages to explore…if you dare!
The main road that travels through Anza Borrego is creatively called S2, leaving the Agua Caliente campground and traveling further south on S2 will lead you to dirt road on the left called Vallecito Creek follow the dirt road for about 2 miles and look to the left and you will see a sign called Arroyo Tapiado follow this dirt road for a few miles and you will find the caves.
Traveling to Anza Borrego may be slow, but if you can find the time it is a great trip for all ages
if you cannot get into one of the San Diego run campgrounds, you can also find state run campgrounds by going to www.reserveamerica.com
and search for Anza Borrego State Park