From the United States-Mexico border, up through the high desert near Bishop, California is spotted with a number of unique locations that are now protected as public lands. However, as any history buff knows, these public lands were once a variety of wild locales marked by official and unofficial mining claims that were inhabited by scoundrels, mountain men, prospectors, and general never-do-wells. During these times, the men who lived in these areas were in some respects, bigger than life because of the lives they had lived, and the stories of those lives that may or may not have occurred. While John Samuelson of Joshua Tree, Gus Lederer of Corn Springs, and Shorty Borden of Death Valley all had fantastical tales and lives, the desert dweller with the most impressive tales that remain to this day was none other than Pegleg Smith.
From the Salton Sea to the east, and the expanse between near the Mexican border to the south and the Santa Rosa National Monument to the north, Anza-Borrego State Park has a number of interesting geologic features that can be seen with a little effort. Some, like Font’s Point require at times, four wheel drive to visit, but have a great payoff in terms of sunrise and sunset. Others, like the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves require both four wheel drive, and a willingness to explore and adventure. Out of all of these locations, none is more accessible than Clark Dry Lake Bed.
Every desert has its share of strange and quirky spots, where the past lies forgotten, or where the present has interposed itself. The Anza-Borrego Desert is no different, with abandoned mines, old rail history at the Dos Cabezas station and Goat Canyon Trestle, and a plethora of other mysterious items. Near the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves, however, are two spots where the past and the present intersect. First, is the Palm Spring - not to be confused with the town called “Palm Springs” by any stretch of the imagination. The Palm Spring was a seasonal water source that was a stop for the Butterfield Stage Line, and various other nineteenth and twentieth century desert explorers. Today, the small stand of vegetation is the spot of a California Historical Marker, and at times, some water (when I last visited in fall 2017, there was no water to be found).
San Diego County, as a whole, has many stunning spots to watch the sun rise, and sun set. In my personal opinion, many of the best spots to watch the sun set are along the Pacific Ocean (such as Broken Hill at Torrey Pines State Reserve). Out of all of these locations, however, the most distinctive to watch both the sun set and sun rise is unquestionably Font’s Point, in the middle of Anza-Borrego State Park. The spot is named for Pedro Font, who was a Franciscan priest who traveled through the area on the Anza Expedition of 1775, and was the first European to write in detail about the Anza-Borrego Desert. At 1,253 feet of elevation, Font’s Point towers over the whole of the Anza-Borrego Desert, and is visible from a majority of locations in Anza-Borrego State Park.
One of the many strange things to be found out in the Anza-Borrego Desert are the ruins of the Dos Cabezas Railroad Station. The station was part of the El Centro to San Diego railroad line, which was completed in 1919. Construction on this section of line was first deemed "impossible", but the line was completed and used through most of the twentieth century. The Dos Cabezas station provided a watering stop for the steam engines; and a place for explorers and miners to access the rail line.
One of the more obscure and strange hiking destinations in San Diego is located on the Eastern border of the county, and sits right on the border of the Anza-Borrego State Park and the Cleveland National Forest. In addition to being one of the strangest hiking destinations, the spot has some of the best views in the county as it is located on the edge of the Laguna Mountains.