March 9th ~ Borrego Springs, CA
We had two goals today, explore Coyote Canyon and hike down into The Slot.
Another off-road adventure, but this one most of the year could be managed in a two-wheel drive up as far as Desert Gardens. We ventured a bit further up the road where a higher clearance was needed.
This morning it was all about the cactus. I really wanted to see if any of them were in bloom, and we were fortunate to find several. But fair warning the Cholla cactus are wicked. I swear they leap out several feet to impale you with their sharp spines. I must have come too close and a mass about the size of a large fist adhered to my thigh. I let out a hoot and a holler and Tim came running to see if I was OK. He tried to be gentle, using a stick to pry the barbs out of my leg, but I’m betting my voice was heard from some distance.
And in case I needed a reminder of who was king of the desert, later in the day I again got impaled on the other leg, near my ankle. Thankfully the thickness of my jeans and heavy socks helped that event be not as painful. And once again, I looked down and found two more small bundles – one on either side of my boots.
I must be a cactus magnet 😦
But enough moaning and groaning…
The normal progression is that the desert ground flowers bloom first and then a bit later the cactus show their colors. There were several different cactus that were starting to show blooms. With the number of buds we saw, I’m betting that they will be spectacular in a couple more weeks.
Beaver Tail Cactus
We ventured further on up into the canyon and found Coyote River which runs year round.
It is really more like a small creek, but we amused ourselves by taking off our shoes and wading upstream a ways on the sandy bottom. The water was cool initially, but soon felt warm as we adjusted to it.
The Slot was not an easy place to find, as it is not well-marked, but thanks to the helpful ranger at the Visitor’s Center, we managed. The tip we got was to take Borrego Springs Road out-of-town (SE) until it comes to Highway 78. Set your trip odometer at this intersection before you turn left onto 78. Go exactly 1.4 miles and you will find a small dirt road (Buttes Pass) where you turn left. Stay on that road for two miles until you find the sign for The Slot. There is one fork in that road, stay to the left.
From the parking area, The Slot is directly down below. Your instincts would be to hike straight down.
Instead look to your right and you will see a trail that heads UPHILL. Trust me, this only goes up for a dozen or so steps, and then takes you to a decent trail that is much easier to navigate and will have you down below in no time.
The canyon quickly narrows and you find yourself inside a deep ravine with steep, rugged walls that tower overhead.
And then it narrows further, with tight twists and bends that often required me to turn sideways. It is not colorful. I was reminded of mud covered concrete.
At one point we spotted a large rock, delicately balanced between the two sides, waiting for nature to eventually complete its journey.
The hike itself is about .8 miles from where you enter the canyon, until you come to a sandy road. I have read that you can continue on and this will eventually loop you back up to the parking spot, or turn around and walk back the way you came which is what we did.
To get even more of an idea of what it was like down in The Slot, please watch this short 40 second video that Tim recorded as we walked through one small section.
I thought this hike was one of the highlights and would recommend it to anyone in average condition.
Just a word of caution, you might want to make a small pile of rocks at the bottom of the trail where you enter the canyon that points to the trail back to the top where you parked. We somehow missed the uphill path near the end and over shot the correct way. After reading a few other posts, I found out we were not the only ones who had the same experience.
We went mid afternoon while there was still plenty of light. Make sure to bring some water and enjoy!
Carlee’s Place – If you are looking for a great burger or a decent meal while in Borrego Springs, please don’t overlook Carlee’s Place. Not overly impressive from the outside, but conveniently located right in the heart of town, on the round-a-bout (Christmas Circle). The atmosphere is cordial with a down-home western feel. We enjoyed our first meal so much we returned a second time over two days. They do take reservations and recommended during prime time.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for once again learning new things from and about nature and how she adapts. The cactuses were prickly, yet magnificent as their delicate blooms started to show. That they can not only survive, but thrive in this hostile environment is noteworthy. The Slot was a joy to experience!