In The Desert
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Anza Borrego State Park
To get to the Vallecito Stage Coach Station County Park you have to get to S-2, which is for the most part the old Butterfield Overland Mail and Stage Route. You can catch the eastern end of S-2 at the Ocotillo off-ramp off I-8, or the western end at Scissors Crossing off 78, or at the true end near Warner Springs off 79. The station operated for a scant three years between 1858 to 1861, but pioneers have lived in or around this structure for a hundred and fifty years.
Author - Dave Taylor
Normally, we don't camp at campgrounds. In the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, you've got thousands of acres that you can camp for free, no neighbors, and with the sense of true wilderness adventure. Vallecito Stagecoach Station is a San Diego County Park, and it ain't cheap, $24 a day. What it has is fresh running water, fire rings, picnic tables, shade under honey mesquite trees, the old stage coach station, a playground, a cemetery right inside the camping area, the Lady in White, The phantom stage coach, the Legend of the White Horse, The Ghostly Orbs of Oriflamme Mountain, and Buck and Randal. Not to mention, another County Park down the way, Agua Caliente, with warm and hot springs.
We arrived Friday, right in the middle of a Red Flag Warning, no campfires, so we went to bed shortly after dark. We were in our sleeping bags, when the kids had me tell them ghost stories, so naturally, I told the story of the Lady in White of Vallecito. They wanted to get up and go look for her. Here is Kellian and Nicholas, looking.
The lady in white is supposed to pace impatiently here in front of the Station, waiting for the next coach to take her to her One True Love.
And so the twins wait as well.
The Lady in White and the story of Buck and Randal -- both ghosts residing at the Stage coach station -- can be found in the Writer's Cafe -- HERE
Next morning. The Vallecito Stage Coach Station, looking south-southwest. As early as 1949 Lassiter is said to have operated a campground for gold seekers and pioneers pushing through this lower route to California, so the term 'campground' isn't just a designation at Vallecito, but a historic perspective. What makes the actual building unique is that its not adobe, but sod cut from the cienaga that marks the area. The original building was operated in one form or another into the twentieth century. It fell into disrepair, but then restored in 1934 with every intent of it being a campground, as it is today.
At Agua Caliente, Day Use starts at 10:00 am, and we were the first car to pull up. Marshal South wrote an article back in 1947, Healing Waters at Agua Caliente, and he talked about how the waters possess recuperative powers, and that the odd little community that had formed there seemed also to possess a spirit that defied simple explanation.
Remember, this is a County Park, and for five dollars per car, you can use the pool, the children's wading pool, and this gorgeous spa until 5pm. The water in the spa is heated from its natural 90 degrees to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, 48.88 degrees Celsius. Children under 56 inches, 1.42 meters, are not allowed in this spa, so I couldn't slow-cook the twins. Bummer.
The Children's Wading Pool. The wading pool is a naturally occurring 90 degrees Fahrenheit, 32.22 Celcius
Outside of the spa building is a veranda overlooking the campground and Carrizo Valley.
And waited -----
In the background is the outdoor pool that is not hot, although its certainly as warm as any heated pool you might find. You can tent camp at Agua Caliente for a mere $24 a day, $29 for your RV. This campsite is a little closer to the populated areas than I'd want, but you can get much further out. Be warned, though, the tent sites 106 through 109 appear to be flooded, and this just before they close the facility down for the Summer, when you'd expect everything to be at its driest. (Agua Caliente closes between June 1st through September 1st. Check with the San Diego County Parks and Recreation
Department, www.sdparks.org , for more details and reservations) I spoke to Bonnie the volunteer at the entrance and Mark Stockdale, a park ranger, and they've been getting hit with a swarm of earthquakes. Bonnie implied it seemed like a whole lot more water is seeping out since these quakes started, so be forewarned, 106 through 109
Kellian and Nick find some volcanic-looking mounds at Agua Caliente.
From up here you can see the Park, looking north and east. The visitors today, I'm sure, are not so odd or Bohemian as Marshall South's time, but still, the guests at this immaculately maintained county park did seem to lack any pretensions. There are permanent residences at the park, RVs and mobile homes with porches and landscaping. I'd like to know the story behind those.
Continued --- Page 2
Desert Wanderer -- Amateur Historian
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The water source has been important since pre-history, when the Indians camped here. In 1861 roughly twenty of the local Indians lived at what they called Hawi, and in 1874 Father Ubach counted a hundred Dieguenos as he called them, living in traditional style along the edges of this swamp. Captain Fages camped at Vallecito in 1761, General Kearney and Kit Carson in 1846. In 1851 James Lassiter built what we know at the Station, and ran it while the coaches rolled. Indeed, well into the 1980's I remember seeing crops, onions, I think, being grown behind the park. That would be the Vallecito/Hawi Ranch, which recently became apart of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.