For Sam’s first camping trip with his Boy Scout troop, we headed inland to the desert, camping at a primitive site just outside the town of Ocotillo Wells. This is an annual trip that the troop takes, and it is timed to coincide with the Geminid Meteor shower. Sam and I have been having a bit of a Middle Earth fest at our house (watching the Lord of the Rings, making a Lego Bag End, seeing The Hobbit), and when I started looking at the photos for this post I noticed similarities between some of the landscapes used for Mordor and the landscape in the Anza Borrego Desert. Since we are one big happy Boy Scout troop, I photoshopped in happy Smeagol and not nasty Gollum. Trying to eat people (0r hobbits or goblins) that wander into your lair is definitely NOT a trait that goes with scouting, though Smeagol/Gollum would easily earn the Fishing merit badge.
As I said, we were hoping to get a great look at meteors (desert sky full of stars, right time of year), but the weather did not cooperate. We left Friday night and a few hours into our journey on 8 East, as we were heading over the crest of the Laguna Mountains, it started to snow. The thermostat said it was 32 degrees outside. Looking out the windshield was like a scene from Star Wars, when the ship makes the jump to hyperspace. Huge, fat, white blobs flying out of the black night towards us. Suddenly, camping did not seem like a great idea. We passed a few seedy looking hotels, and looked back at them longingly.
Fortunately the temperature rose and weather cleared up for a time, as we dropped on to the desert floor. There was a bit of difficulty finding the dirt road to the canyon, as the town of Ocotillo Wells is now surrounded by huge windmills that have been put up in the last year. Many of the windmills have red lights on them, so at night it looks like a forest of staring malevolent eyes. The dirt road was eventually discovered at the tail end of the new field of windmills, and we drove for several minutes out into the desert. It was quite windy, but we managed to get the tents up and ensconce ourselves in them just as the rain started. It rained off and on all night.
The big adventure of the next day was a hike to a Montero palm grove. It rained on us as we hiked, but not too heavily. The palm grove was great, the kids had a fantastic time rummaging around the boulders, trees, and little caves. Some of the older boys continued on for a longer hike out to Goat Canyon, the rest of us returned to camp where the boys spent the rest of the daylight hours scrambling on the boulder-strewn mountainsides surrounding our camp.
After a nice dinner of grilled steak and asparagus, we sat around our fire barrels to gaze at the stars and watch for meteors. Two meteors were spotted (not by me unfortunately), before the clouds returned. No rain that night, but there was a howling wind. Sam and I were snug in our tent, the awesome Meteorlite. This is actually Dad’s tent that he bought for backpacking years ago, but it held up great. It is low profile, so when the wind came screaming through camp like a freight train our tent just shook a bit, while other more high profile tents really pitched back and forth.
In the morning we stopped at an abandoned train station on the way out, with an incredibly photogenic water tower and train tracks leading nowhere. Despite the rain, wind, cold, and no meteors, we had a wonderful time, and it was a great first camp out with Troop 985.
P.S. I didn’t yet have my new portable point and shoot camera (when I heard it was going to rain I left my good one at home), so many thanks to Tony T., Steve H., and Mary N. for the photos!
Our primitive campsite out in the desert We all circled around the edge of the canyon.
After breakfast on Saturday, getting ready to head out to palm oasis.
Why is Tony so grumpy looking? He has his coffee. Maybe the sweet, sweet caffeine hasn’t hit his synapses yet.
At the trail head to the palm canyon. A light rain is starting to fall.
The Mortero palm tree grove. There are 50 to 100 palms in this oasis.
Inside the palm grove.
Sam on a fallen palm trunk bridge.
Sam, Matthew, Trevor, and Mo. A soggy bunch!
The race back to camp.
The boys spent much of their free time at camp bouldering up and down the canyon walls.
There were no fire rings (or water, or bathrooms!), so at night we had fires in old washing machine tubs. The firelight shining through the drain holes looked like a Lite Brite toy.
Caravan leaving the canyon, more rain clouds are rolling in.
We stopped at the abandoned Dos Cabezas train station. All that is left is a foundation and a water tower.
Sam and I on the old tracks. I am wearing about 4 layers of clothing, and am already looking forward to my shower when I get home.
On our way out Tony snapped this last photo of the boys working a switch on the abandoned rail road line.