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From the desert to the ocean

Started: 2019-03-10 22:07:44

Submitted: 2019-03-11 00:41:18

Visibility: World-readable

20th February 2019: In which the intrepid narrator wraps up his time in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, visits the ocean, picks up his family from the airport, and goes native in the local dialect of Southern California Standard English

The first thing I did on my last day in Borrego Springs was walk, from my hotel, to the Borrego Palm Campground, 500 meters away across the open desert; then continue through the campground to the short Panoramic Overlook trail, on a small hill overlooking Borrego Valley.

Borrego Palm Canyon Campground
Borrego Palm Canyon Campground

The trail climbed steeply from the desert floor up the side of San Ysidro Mountain, terminating at a local maxima where I could look out onto the valley floor below, looking over the town of Borrego Springs, surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which served as my desert refuge for the past three days.

Borrego Valley
Borrego Valley

I retraced my steps down the trail, through the campground, and back down the road to the little trail leading to my hotel, The Palms at Indianhead; then drove through the town of Borrego Springs to Clark Valley. I turned off the pavement and drove along the dirt road leading into the valley, curious how far I could get. I drove until I reached the edge of the dry lake bed making up the valley floor, then parked and walked out onto the dry cracked mud. The soil still held some moisture from the rains earlier in the week, but the top layer was dry and cracked in interesting patterns as I walked out onto the lake bed, before eventually returning to my vehicle.

Rental Ford Expedition in Clark Valley
Rental Ford Expedition in Clark Valley

I was unwilling to test the alleged four-wheel-drive capabilities of my rental car, lest I get stranded somewhere in the desert; so I turned around on the road and headed back to Borrego Springs for lunch at Red Octillo, on a little dead-end spur road radiating from Christmas Circle at the center of town, which appeared to be one of the better restaurants in town (though its dinner menu was fairly veg-hostile, so I found other places to eat my evening meals).

Properly fortified, I drove out of Borrego Springs and headed west towards San Diego, following the Montezuma Grade into the foothills of San Ysidro Mountain, then past the high-point of my route at Ranchita, and onwards through the winding mountain roads and broad grassy valleys in rural San Diego County. As I drove the partly-cloudy skies turned fully cloudy, and it rained intermittently as I drove through San Ysabel and Ramona and the other towns I'd come to know from my two wintertime visits to Borrego Springs.

I hit the outer suburbs of San Diego and turned into Poway to take the Ted Williams Freeway to Carmel Valley Road. When I turned off the freeway and onto the surface streets, under the towering overpass carrying I-5 high above me, I recognized the place: I'd been here, multiple times, over dozens of visits to San Diego while I was working for Qualcomm.

I drove past Los Penasquitos Lagoon and up the hill to turn left on Torrey Pines Road (still under construction, four years after my last visit), then parked on the road and climbed out of my car in the spitting rain to scramble down the rocks trying desperately to keep the ocean from eroding the road and stood on the beach, feeling the soft wet sand under my feet and smelling the salt spray of the ocean, hearing the cries of the gulls as they looped overhead over the rumble of the waves as they broke in front of me, crashing onto a beach eroded by winter storms.

Pacific Ocean at Torrey Pines State Beach
Pacific Ocean at Torrey Pines State Beach

This was a place I remembered, a place I'd visit almost every time I came to San Diego, a place I drew strength from the powerful overwhelming ocean stretching to the horizon. (But not, I noted carefully, in the back of my mind, a place I called home. I was happy to visit, to refresh myself at the shore of the ocean, and to leave again.)

Torrey Pines State Beach
Torrey Pines State Beach

I walked south along the beach and followed the road leading up into Torrey Pines State Preserve, clinging to the bluffs above the ocean and protecting the last remaining range of the Torrey pine. I walked along the Guy Flemming Trail, a short loop along the top of the bluffs, through scraggly pines and yucca and agave past weathered sandstone that looked like it owed as much of its climate and plant life to the Colorado Desert, two hours to the east, as to the central California coast I knew so well, hundreds of miles to the north.

Trail at Torrey Pines State Preserve
Trail at Torrey Pines State Preserve

The trail took me near the edge of the cliff a hundred feet above the sandy beach (at a minimum safe distance to compensate for future erosion) giving me a commanding view of the ocean below. I could hear the throbbing hum of what looked like Seahawk helicopters running lazy patrols up and down the coast.

Trail along the bluffs at Torrey Pines State Preserve
Trail along the bluffs at Torrey Pines State Preserve

As I walked through the crumbling sandstone I tried to soak up as much of the scenery as I cloud, to remember it and take it with me after I left.

Eroding rock at Torrey Pines State Preserve
Eroding rock at Torrey Pines State Preserve

I followed the trail down to the beach, winding through the narrow canyons running down to the beach, ending in a stair bridging the last ten meters to the beach, the stair itself clinging tenaciously to the sandstone lest it follow the path of erosion down into the ocean.

Bluffs above Torrey Pines State Beach
Bluffs above Torrey Pines State Beach

I returned to my car and drove town Tʜᴇ Fɪᴠᴇ towards the airport to pick up my family for the second half of the week. Cognizant of rush-hour traffic in San Diego, I had budgeted an hour to make the half-hour drive from Torrey Pines to the airport; and I ended up needing all of that time.

I staked out the baggage claim for Delta flight 1368 from Seattle, facing in the direction I expected my family to arrive from; but while I was waiting I heard "Uncle Ted!" from somewhere behind me, which turned out to be my nephew Caleb running ahead of the group to greet me.

(My nephew Caleb (my only nibbling, to date) recently turned three, and is only recently able to call me by the obvious title, "Uncle Ted", which I am still getting used to.)

We originally planned our time in San Diego around Calvin's school break, and then invited Caleb along when it seemed like a good idea; and then my sister-in-law Jessica decided to join us as well. So we ended up with seven people (me, Kiesa, Calvin, Julian, our au pair Alejandra, Jessica, and Caleb); which should explain why I was driving around (by myself) for several days in a giant rental Ford Expedition with eight seats.

Once we claimed the bags, we headed back to the parking garage and figured out how to get the two car seats and one booster seat into the car. We headed to Chipotle for supper, then walked across the street (in a light drizzle) to In-and-Out, for our Southern California fast food cultural experience, where the carnivores in our party ate supper and the herbivores in the party ate milkshakes for dessert.

Properly fortified, we returned to the road and drove north on Tʜᴇ Fɪᴠᴇ to Carlsbad. (Jessica, who grew up in the Inland Empire, was pleased that I had gone sufficiently native to refer to numbered roads using the definite article.) We checked into our three-room suite at the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort & Hotel (the only way we could reasonably expect to get enough space for seven people) and settled in for the night before heading to Legoland the next day.

For more pictures from my journey from the desert to the ocean, see Photos on 2019-02-20.

"minor logic error" .. funny.. that reminded me of how my
mom describes her third child.
- Scott J. Galvin, 14 January 2002