Sunday, April 18, 2010

Field Trip - Mud Caves!

We had been wanting to head out to the desert for several weekends now, but with other things getting in the way, we had to delay the outing until this past weekend.

While we didn't get ambitious enough to actually set the alarm, we were still on the road well before 9 AM, eastbound on I-8 and into the desert.

Exiting at Ocotillo we topped up the tank ($3.60/gal!) and hit the Imperial Highway,
which eventually turned into the Great Southern Overland Stage Route. From there we turned onto Vallecito Creek Road;
a very sandy wash that's categorized as a 4WD road by the California State Parks. After about five miles of a mixed surface of loose sand and a lot of washboard on Vallecito and Arroyo Tapiado, we arrived at the first canyon to look for mud caves. But first, most importantly, lunch;
which, as any visitor to this blog should know, was consumed in our mobile dining room.
not a bad view in the house

After witnessing a Hummer H2 drive by (the first one ever to tackle terrain more-rugged than a mall parking lot), we ventured out into the 94 degree heat.
It didn't take us long to find the first cave.
This one was only about about 30' deep and 8' wide max, but still a nice place to get out of the sun and escape the heat.
We poked around this cave for a few minutes and then ventured farther up the canyon in search of a larger cave.

Nothing significantly larger was found, so we turned around and Celeste found a perfect fit in a small slot.
Back to the original cave for another break from the sun. It was 12:30 and our grrrl does not like extreme heat.
With how barren the soil appeared...
... I'm surprised to find small flowers in bloom. Adaptation at its finest.
The soil is very sandy but hardens to a concrete-like state in places. Good bricks. Here are some sedimentary rock patterns from the inside of a cracked boulder.
Back to the van, A/C cranked, in search of more caves. A Jeep Wrangler parked off to the side of the trail gave us hope that another was close by. Bingo!
We ventured in, albeit with only one flashlight as I was too lazy to walk back to the van to grab a second one. Plus there were others in the cave so I wasn't concerned if ours went dead.
The air temp was easily 15° cooler inside the cave. Easy to navigate as well, not too narrow and a buffed-smooth floor meant that we didn't have to worry about tripping. After traversing about 10 minutes or so we came across a skylight.
Warm air rushing in, we pressed on farther into the cave.
"I think we need to go this way."
Celeste and I came to a point with a connecting loop. She was getting tired and was ready to get back to the van, so we headed back. Here's Celeste showing us the way. Sorry about the lack of light at times.

Back on the wash, we put Klaus' suspension to the test yet again on the way back to the paved road.

And what a road it is, with plenty of curves, some nice elevation changes and great scenery. Tt'd be magnificent to do a road ride on.
We stopped a few more times to snag some photos of the flora.
And then in Santa Ysabel to grab an Apple Pie at Dudley's.
Back home, the van received a thorough cleaning and bellies were filled with pie. Another fun day in San Diego County. We have to return some day to see more of the caves. Supposedly there are 22 in total. Find out more information on the area here.

No comments: