In The Desert
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Mud Caves, California
Anza Borrego State Park
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This was a really fun day trip in the desert. The scenery is outstanding and it's very remote. Get gas in Ocotillo as this is a vast area to see. This is the main road (S2 - Sweeny Pass Rd.)
leading into Anza Borrego from Ocotillo just off of Interstate 8. You'll get some great views of the badlands on the way down to Carrizo Wash. We met up with Dave Taylor and his twins. They set up a dry camp out of the wash. It was nice having someone that knows the area to show you around.
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Dave and his twins showed us the sites in this part of the Anza Borrego Desert. The first part of the trip was to Arroyo Tapiado and the Mud Caves. Here's the first one we came to. It doesn't go into the cliff face very far, but Dave and the twins wanted to look it over so they climbed up there and did some exploring.
Linda is walking up to the second one we stopped at. Dave told us that this one is really long and takes a while to see the whole cave. We gathered up our flashlights and extra water and followed the path up to the cave. These are not marked with signs but it's obvious where they are by the trails that lead up to them. The weather started off really nice with clear skies and hardly any wind, this was going to change!
Dave is following the kids into this cave. You can only stand upright in some of these for short distances. Probably half the time is spent in a bent over position, climbing over ridges and leaning to one side or the other in the caves. You can see where the water has run through them at different times. It would not be a good idea to get caught in one when it was raining. Even just after a rain it becomes a muddy mess in there.
Here's Nick showing us the way with his flashlight. They really liked going into these caves and looking around. We were hoping to see some bats, but they eluded us. There are a lot of cracks and openings in the ceilings where they could hide. There was also a lot of white crystalline material on the floor where the water had run through the cave. Maybe salt or alkali.
Here's Kellian on the left and Nick on the right. Of course they were finding neat stuff every place we went. They both had a great time. They are nice kids and made great companions for the trip. Dave Taylor -- if you don't know, is our main author on the site and the stories he wrote and published are here in the Writer's Cafe. Dave is also an avid explorer and hiker who likes to camp out in these remote areas.
Looking up the wash we could see our next objective, the Grotto. But before we could get going we had a big shock, I guess you could call it that. The 4x4 we were in started to undulate like it was riding on the ripples in a pond. We were sitting still with the engine shut off! It happened at 10:50 AM. When we got home we checked and sure enough there was a 5.8 earthquake just Southwest of Mexicali, Mexico.
People just down the road felt the earthquake also, and in fact they saw some fairly big rocks fall off the cliff just next to them.
We decided not to go to far into any more of the caves, but Linda found this really narrow one. Dave and the kids checked this cave out the next day and said the big hollowed out room in the back of it had partially collapsed.
Looking out of the big (cave?) called the grotto and into the wash (photo to the right). This is called a cave but you'll see in the next photo, it's really just a few arches of mud over a large hole where water runs down out of the hills. Dave Taylor is very familiar with this area is southern Ca. and has wrtten severa daytrips articles into different places of interest here.
The caves are neat to see, but remember you're going into a mud cave with no supports or bracing and it's a risk, even if there are no earthquakes. A lot of people do this all the time, but I'm not so sure it's really all that safe. You probably couldn't get a miner to enter one of these caves.
Now here's Dave's kids standing on a collapsed part of the grotto. You used to walk into this on a fairly level area - now you have to climb over this big collapsed pile of dirt and mud to keep going. Next stop, drive to the Graves Ranch.
We didn't make it to the Graves Ranch, but later Dave did hike into it, HERE is that trip in the desert.
On to our next destination -- Sin Nombre Canyon. Dave told us to expect to see some really nice mineralized formations in there. On the way in we noticed it was getting windy and there were some ominous clouds building to the West in the Mountains. The mud is really weathered on the first part of the trip. Coming up from Carrizo Wash into the hills this is what it looked like in the Canyon.
This is not what you call a bad road, but you will need a 4 wheel drive to get through a short section of the canyon. It's really rocky and you'll need some high clearance to make it without any damage underneath your vehicle. Dave was right with his description of the canyon, it was very colorful with a lot of quartz veins running through the rock layers. See the photo to the right.
From an overlook just off of Sweeny Pass Road you can see the color in the hills surrounding Sin Nombre Canyon (center of the photo). In the background just before the shadowed area is the Carrizo Badlands. The Mud Caves are in the Badlands to the left in this photo. Really picturesque area. If you like the desert this would be a great area for you to explore.
Paleontologists say that the Carrizo Badlands has one of the richest deposits of fossils of it's kind in the world. Bones of mastodons, tapirs, llamas, and horses have been found here. This was also part of the old Overland Stage Route.
While leaving this neat place in the desert on South Carrizo Creek Road we took another look at the mountains to the West and could see a storm in the higher elevations. And the wind had really picked up. Really nice place to visit.
Some years the road to the Graves Ranch is in better shape or if you have other people with you, try it. Even without making it to the ranch it's a very interesting place to see. The Mud Caves are well worth the trip. Don't miss this. Be careful.