Saturday, September 14, 2013

Scorpion Hunt! - Off Roading in Anza Borrego

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is an amazing place with miles of off road exploring to be done. Josh and I took Hwy S2 to the turn off for Sin Nombre Canyon and headed for the Mud Caves.

Right off the bat the landscape is amazing. Large open washes with cracking clay mud from the floods earlier in the month. When we drive over the cracking mud the sound it makes is soothing, and we liken it to popping bubble wrap. Ahhh...

After a long winding drive through a series of canyons, we arrive at the Mud Caves. We jump out to investigate and climb into a shallow canyon with walls like cathedrals. 

We decide to continue driving and return to further explore the caves when it is cooler. At 11am it is already 110 degrees. Yikes!

Continuing on, we marvel at the canyons and eventually pop out onto a flat mesa. Heading toward The Diablo Drop Off we are unsure what to expect, but with a name like that we know it is going to be interesting.

The hard clay turns to sand and we spot an Iguana, the first of many. In the middle of the road are clusters of mushrooms! Who would have thought mushrooms could grow in such an arid environment. I grew up not far from here and I've never seen a desert mushroom! Further investigation shows they are called Podaxis Pistillaris.

We reach the end of the line; The Diablo Drop Off, and it is everything it's name implies. The "lanes" are 3 feet higher between tires and full of rocks, which would tip the truck to the side dramatically. The path is heavily eroded and unstable due to recent flash flooding and crumbles under the weight of our feet. In general, it looks like we will die if we drive it. We decide to skip rolling the truck today and retreat. 

We take a different route, planning to come out north of Sin Nombre Canyon. While driving we pick up a hitchhiker, a desert Mayfly and she stays with us for the entire trip to the S2. This canyon is much tighter and we have an opportunity to inspect the sandstone walls. Granite rocks line the walls waiting for erosion to give them a chance to be freed from their tomb.

We spot a slot canyon and take a detour into it. It narrows out considerably, resulting in us abandoning the truck for some exploration.

Animal tracks are preserved in the clay soil. This one looks to be a K-9, perhaps small coyote or a kit fox. K-9 tracks are taller than they are wide, forming a diamond shape. Cat tracks are wider than they are tall, with a three lobed pad.

The granite rocks have been coated in a layer of clay that has been baked on by the sun forming unusual shapes. Some looked like fruit, others like sculpture.

Back into the main wash, we spot a boulder that is still wet from the previous weeks flash floods. The canyon walls block the sun, keeping the area moist.

At 4:00pm it is still hotter than hell. We decide to head toward Borrego Springs and get some dinner at Carlee's Place. We find the last wash we need to travel to meet with the main road and spot a large, healthy Coyote trotting around. Continuing on we notice there is a city street sign on top of a bluff. The corner it marks? Hollywood and Vine, why not!?

Back on the paved road at 5pm...115 degrees. I wonder how I ever grew up in this weather. I used to walk around town wearing jeans in heat like this when I was a kid and didn't think twice! I am definitely spoiled by coastal San Diego weather.

Driving toward Borrego Springs, we try to spot Garnet Peak in Mount Laguna. We've seen the desert from the top of the peak so many times, it is interesting to see what it looks like from below. We admire how green everything is! The rains have revived the landscape which has put not only the plants on overdrive, but the bugs as well. The gnats buzz in our ears when we stop and we come upon a mass exodus of caterpillars crossing the road! 

The amount of caterpillars on the road is just too amazing to pass by. We stop and investigate, while batting the gnats from our ears. Josh picks one up and he spits green goo at him! A defense mechanism to keep predators away. These are the larvae of the Sphinx Moths and they are each about three inches long.

After a delicious dinner at Carlee's Place we head north out of Borrego Springs toward Coyote Canyon. We spot several black tailed jack rabbits on the way. Jack rabbits regulate their temperature with their big ears. As their blood is circulated through their ears it is cooled by the air passing by.

We take the road as far as we can until we encounter a locked gate. The sign on the gate says the creek is closed until the end of September to observe the watering rights of the desert Big Horn in the area. 
It is dark when we turn back, perfect time for scorpion hunting!!

Josh has never seen a scorpion and has always wanted to. He purchased small black light flashlights to help us find the scorpions in the night. I have seen many scorpions in the daylight and knew that they glow in black light, but I had my doubts these tiny flash lights would work. 
Boy, was I wrong!

Within the first 5 minutes Josh spotted the first scorpion. A small one laying flat in the sand. We continued to look and more and more appeared in varying size. We watched as they caught and ate the abundant flies on the ground. The little scorpions would catch the flies and sting them repeatedly while the larger ones would simply catch them and eat them. One large scorpion sat very still and when a fly would hit his right claw he would catch it and transfer it to his left claw. He caught and held on to the flies until he had a sufficient meal. Very cool!

After a long time observing the scorpions we jumped in the truck and headed back home. Anza Borrego camping will have to wait for cooler temps. It was a great day of off road adventures!

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