Campground: Culp Valley Campground in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Date: 20 June 2015
Temperature: 95 (daytime) ~58 (nighttime)
Distance walked: ~5.5 miles
Water consumed: 4.5 liters
# of times peed: 8
Recommendations: It makes more sense to put up your tent where it’ll be shaded from the sunrise in the East and then get up to the ridge where you can feel a breeze. Even in this unseasonably warm weather it got plenty cool at night.
After reading this excellent post from hikespeak.com, I decided to head to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for a night of star-gazing and maybe even some light hiking. According to everyone, it’s free to camp there, but no fires are allowed unless you have a “metal container”.
I called ahead to the ranger station, where they told me it was unseasonably warm, and there was an “extreme heart warning” in the region. She said “if you can camp anywhere else, do it.”
Never one to shy away from a challenge, or think carefully through the consequences of my choices, I decided to go anyway. Culp Valley Campground is actually 3,000 feet higher than the town of Borrego Springs, so I thought it might be a little cooler up there. (I was right).
Here’s the approximate route I took:
It was a very easy drive. Only one part of the 67 has some treacherous curves (and signs reminding drivers to keep their headlights on at all times, and stay under 55 mph) but for the most part it is very relaxing. It goes through some lovely country as well.
The campground is very primitive. I’m used to marked spots for tents, but at Culp Valley you just throw down wherever you find a flat enough patch of ground. That’s not hard: there’s plenty of clear, flat ground. The area is scrub brush scattered through bare sand. I chose to put my tent behind a bush, because when I arrived in the evening that’s where the shade was. Turns out the shade made almost no difference at that point: it was WAY too hot to be down in the valley. I put up my tent and almost immediately climbed up to the ridge where a breeze was blowing.
The views of the desert are amazing.
You can see the town of Borrego Springs down there. This view came from following Trip #8 from the San Ysidro Mountain section of Afoot & Afield in San Diego and following the signs for the Vista Point. If you, like me, can’t see any signs on the trail, just keep walking up and out towards the edge of the mountains. Follow your heart. You’ll get there.
Finally the sun began to set, and I ate dinner on the ridge in the cooling breeze.
I actually woke up twice in the night from temperature changes: once because I suddenly got way too hot and once because I suddenly got way too cold. There was a gentle breeze almost all night. Right before I fell asleep I dragged my tent out from behind the bush so I’d get more of a breeze. The only downside was that headlights from any cars coming down the mountain would shine into my tent, but a) they were rare, and b) they were very far away so it didn’t seem like a big deal. I’d estimate the temperature got down in the upper 50s, though I can’t say for sure.
I woke up the next morning at around 5am because of the light and the sudden heat. I packed up my tent right away so I wouldn’t have to do it in direct sunlight after hiking. I was pretty shocked by how hot it felt so early in the morning. My car’s temperature gauge read 66, but there was a blazing hot breeze blowing through the valley. In fact, I started to do the hike to Pena Springs (also part of Trip #8) but I turned back before even reaching the springs because I could feel the heat starting to get to me.
Overall it was a LOVELY trip. I’m so glad I went.