We like to visit Anza Borrego a couple of times a year, in the fall and spring. It is one of our favorite places to camp because it is a beautiful desert and the full hookup campground is a good location, well maintained with great views. We thought that though we had missed the desert super bloom, that maybe we could catch the tail end of some of the desert blooms. Visiting Anza Borrego in mid April is always hit and miss with regard to the weather. It could be cold, moderate or hot. This time for us it was hot and windy. So much so that we ate most of our meals inside. But still it was a very nice visit overall since Anza Borrego always has a special beauty about it, no matter what time of year or what kind of weather.
The forecast for our first full day in Anza Borrego showed it would be in the 90’s. After breakfast we decided to go someplace cooler so we went to Julian. We heard that there was a gold mine tour nearby, which sounded interesting. When we first arrived at the Eagle Mine we did not have high hopes. At first glance, it looked pretty run down. Miscellaneous rusty and broken cars, rusty trinkets and a couple of rundown buildings are the first sites to greet new visitors.
Our initial tour guide did not help this impression. He was kind of a smart aleck and spoke far too fast to really understand. However, after explaining one piece of machinery, another tour guide took over who actually took us through the mine. This tour guide made for a wonderful experience! He was engaging, comical (in a good way) and brimming with interesting historical and geological information. The mines themselves were very neat to see. We saw quartz veins (such as the Star Vein), old mining equipment and learned about the mining process as well as the different work positions and the dangerous day-to-day life of a miner. Your experience at this mine will probably depend on which tour guide you get. Ours took his time to explain and answer every question. He mentioned multiple times he would get in trouble because we were running over the ‘time limit’. So it sounds like the tour guides need to stick to a schedule and may rush the group to meet that. It was fun to go into the mine in the mountain and hear about the history as well as enjoy the nice cooler temperatures inside. The tour ended on the other entrance of the mine, which was a higher elevation than where we entered. All in all, we would recommend taking this tour if you ever visit Julian and have a few hours to spend there!
By the time the tour had ended, it was past lunchtime and we were a bit peckish. We stopped by the Julian Pie Company where we each had a slice of delicious apple pie. Mmmmm, fun to be like a kid sometimes and have a dessert for lunch!
On our way back from the Julian area, we decided to drive over to check out the Agua Caliente campground since we heard good things about it from another blogger’s site. It was a bit of a drive and interestingly different desert terrain. The campground had a few RV campsites, some cabins and tent sites in addition to the naturally fed indoor and outdoor hot spring pools. It looked like the RV sites would be a little small for our trailer so we’re not sure if we would be able to stay there in the future. On our way back via S3, we made a stop where we took some pictures of desert flowers.
Since the Anza Borrego desert forecast for day 2 of our trip was to be hot again, we figured we would go to the nearby mountains again where it was cooler. This time we decided to check out the Santa Ysabel Preserve for a hike. This 3,800-acre nature preserve has gently rolling hills with oak woodlands, native grasslands and fields of wildflowers. It has 18.5 miles of trails, including two loop trails. Since we missed the super bloom in Anza Borrego, we figured that we might be able to see the beginnings of some mountain wildflowers at the preserve. We brought a picnic lunch and lots of water. The preserve is off highway 78 and has a parking lot with Porta Potty bathrooms. The trailhead has maps and info about the area. The preserve is free and dogs are allowed on the trails but they must be on a leash. The trail and preserve was very scenic with rolling hills, oak trees and wildflowers. Once we went over the first hill, we felt like we were far away from highways and civilization with only the trees, flowers and cows to share the beautiful scenery.
After hiking about 1 hour or so, we found a picnic table under a tree on a hillside overlooking the Santa Ysabel Creek with cows grazing near it.
It was relaxing to sit, eat lunch and enjoy the peaceful view since it had been an uphill climb almost the entire way. We had not passed any hikers on the way up to our stop, but when we headed back we did pass several couples. The hike back down was easier though the dogs were ready for a nap by the time we got back to our truck. Plus it seems that some plant seeds really liked Lena’s coat since she picked them up from the trail we walked on. These were rather amazing seeds. They were designed by mother nature to attach, anchor and stay put! It took some time to remove them from her coat.
All in all, I would highly recommend that if you like hiking and nature, to check this place out if you are in the area, as it is soothing for the eyes and soul. Though I would recommend visiting it during the fall or spring since it may get pretty warm during the summer and it could snow during the winter.
On our last evening at Anza, after dinner and once it was dark, we decided to go scorpion hunting around the campground with our UV flashlights and UV safety glasses. As we walked along the roads, it was incredible and a bit disturbing to find so many scorpions about. They were small and large, some on the road and walkways though most were off the road in the sand and a few near the edge of bushes. After finding 70, we lost count.
It gave one second thoughts about venturing out of the trailer at night without a UV flashlight. Funny to know what we had been missing all of the evenings we’d camped here and taken the dogs for walks on the camp roads at night! It was rather amazing to find them and observe their wonderful camouflage at work.
This was another fun and relaxing trip to one of our best state parks and surrounding areas. We are so lucky to have desert and mountains in one area!