Hans and I had hiked this peak once before. In 2006 we had an epic 16 mile day on the trail with two of my buddies, Kathryn and Celine. On that day we chose the long West route and, due to the lack of defined trails on this peak lost our way, adding several miles to an already long day.
This time, having a 4WD truck, we decided to do the shorter North approach even though the access road sounded a little gnarly...would we be able to get past The Squeeze??? But, fortuitously, in the pool the evening before we talked to a couple of locals who told us that when we come to the second high point on Pinion Mountain Rd. we should park on the spur road to the right and walk up the ravine where we would find a good trail to the peak. This starting point is located before The Squeeze.
This turned out to be excellent advice. The road was a bit hairy for our big truck, quite narrow and sandy in places. We ended up with a moderately strenuous 5 mile out-and-back hike on a mostly obvious trail. I say mostly because any route to Whale Peak includes finding your way through rocky sections marked with cairns that can be difficult to follow at times. Also, when I saw a photo of The Squeeze later I knew our truck would not have made it through...which would have added four miles to the hike!
|We could see Whale Peak from our camp site.|
It is the highest point on the left in the distance.
|We parked on this little spur road off of Pinion Mountain Rd |
opposite a hillside with interesting rocks protruding from the side.
|The trail started with a steep rock scramble up a ravine.|
|Hans, Martin and Chelsea are hanging out on the peak with the valley including our campground in the background.|
I even found our entry on the trail register from our 2006 hike!
The next day we explored an area known as the Mud Caves. Less than 10 miles from Agua Caliente Regional Park via decent roads through sand washes, the Mud Caves are located in Arroyo Tapiado and are created by wind and rain erosion of this ancient lake bed.
There are 22 known caves and 9 slots. Some of the caves are hundreds of feet deep and have huge rooms inside. We chose to avoid the caves due to concern over their safety, especially since there has been a fair amount of rain in the desert this year and we saw plenty of signs of sliding mud in the surrounding mud hills. The slot canyons were fun to explore though!
|Approaching the mud hills of Arroyo Tapiado.|
|We walked up three separate canyons and encountered cool arches like this in each one!|
|The morning shade was welcome as we walked into each slot canyon.|
|Not many plants were able to take root in this bleak terrain, but amazingly we had spring flowers!|
|After leaving Arroyo Tapiado we made a loop drive on the back roads, coming out through Canyon Sin Nombre.|
This beautiful area required 4WD to get through. It's hard to see Hans but he is in front of the truck scouting the route.
|Our second Three-Lined Boa sighting in as many weeks!|
|All over Anza Borrego the beavertail cacti are just on the verge of an explosion of pink!|
|Looking down on the campground from Moonlight Trail with the Whale Peak range in the distance.|
Agua Caliente Regional Park is about 100 miles east of San Diego in the Anza Borrego desert. It's got 140 campsites, many with full or partial hook ups. There are a few miles of trails at the park, but many miles of exploration is readily available in the surrounding desert.
The park is only open from Labor Day weekend to Memorial Day and it is very popular due to the geothermally heated pools onsite. The three pools range from 83 to 102 degrees and the warmest pool is indoors and adults only. This park can be extremely crowded on the weekends.
Due to the popularity of this park reservations are recommended on the weekends, midweek there were plenty of sites available. We happened to stay here during spring break and the park was 99% full over the weekend and about 25 - 30% full on weekdays.
When we made our original reservations for February we had the enormous site #104, but when we changed our reservations due to family health issues we had fewer sites to choose from and site #99 was pretty tight with barely enough room for our truck and trailer and a tiny sitting area behind the rig. Most sites are pretty close together and some are rather unlevel.
Despite the close sites and weekend crowds, we loved our stay here! Fortunately we only had neighbors over the weekend. The views are spectacular, the pools are nice during the week, the trails are lovely, the wildlife watching was excellent, and the exploring in the surrounding desert is spectacular...oh, and we happened to be here during a good spring bloom!
Verizon signal was nonexistent, except for a few hours each afternoon with our booster.
|We had site #99 and you can see that site 100 is close, just a couple of feet up from us.|
Also, site 99 had very little space behind it for a sitting area...but the views were good.
Our door side got blasted by the afternoon sun.
|Looking at our site from the other direction.|
|Shuffleboard and horse shoes.|
|The indoor pool is the hottest at 102 degrees...adults only.|
9:30 - 5pm daily, 6pm - 9pm on Friday and Saturday.
|There are two outdoor pools and both are all ages.|
This is the coolest pool at 83 degrees. The other outdoor pool is about 96 degrees.
|One of our favorite sites #96. It sits at the end of the row with nice views and pretty plants.|
|Site 98 is very narrow just like our site to the left.|
|Another favorite site is #104. It's at the top of the hill with commanding views, only one neighbor and it's a really big site.|
|There are several cabins for rent.|
|Seen from the pool!|
|Hooded orioles like ocotillo flowers.|
|Rosie loved this park!|
Here she is basking in the sun without a care in the world!
Next up: we move on to Anza Borrego State Park.