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.
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.
Anza-Borrego State Park is one of the hidden gems of Southern California. While it does not have the notoriety of Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, or the Mojave National Preserve; it does have abandoned mines, long-lost nineteenth century stagecoach stations, a mountain with a cabin atop it, petroglyphs, the best mud caves in North America, the largest free standing railroad trestle, and much more, including strange myths and legends. It also is home to "the Slot", a little known but excellent short hike that has become one of my favorite hikes in the park.
One of the things that fascinates me about the desert is the knowledge that millions of years ago the desert wasn’t always the desert. Not all of the features of the planet can make that claim. Large portions of the world’s oceans were always oceans, especially the deepest most mysterious bits. Mountains, by and large, usually have been standing in the same spots for millennia; and in some cases, have grown shorter by the long wait. Deserts, on the other hand, are mutable creatures. East of the Sierra Nevada, the Owens Valley sits in barren desolation today. Thousands of years ago, this valley was a giant glacial lake, likely over two hundred feet deep, and covering an area of over two hundred square miles. Aside from the salt flats and water pockets that remain in certain places, the only remnants of the lake are in spectral mirages that now shimmer on hot summer days.
Some of these desert transitions are easy to imagine, as they leave historical remnants behind, or provide ethereal gateways through which one can peer in a hopefully non-delusional way. Other times, it’s impossible to see how the desert could have been anything but desert. Sometimes, the desert finds a way to reach out and metaphorically smack even the most unimaginative with what it used to be eons ago, when man was not the central player on the planet. Galleta Meadows, outside Borrego Springs, California, is one of these places where everyone has a time machine and can see the pre-historic creatures of the past.
Yeah, that’s right; I said “pre-historic creatures”, and not “dinosaurs”.
There’s a reason for that. The creatures you will see at Galleta Meadows aren’t dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were a group of small to large reptiles that roamed the planet for thousands of years that were terrifying in some cases. And again, that’s right, I said, “reptile”, and not lizard, because they were reptiles, even though their name “Dinosaur” means, “terrible lizard”. The creatures that you can see in Galleta Meadows lived in a time after the dinosaurs became extinct. They were large. They were fierce. But they were not dinosaurs. Let’s take a small sample of some of the things you will see at Galleta Meadows. For starters, you will see Wooly Mammoths. Would you ever call a Woolly Mammoth a dinosaur? I think not. You will also see a pack of Saber-Tooth Tigers. Would you call a Saber-Tooth Tiger a dinosaur? Of course not. You can also see GIANT SLOTHS. Would you ever call a GIANT SLOTH a dinosaur? Of course not, it’s clearly warm blooded, even though it’s a lazy sloth.
Now, I don’t want to sound like a crotchety old man, so let me place this disclaimer here after the bantering of the previous paragraph: even though they are pre-historic creatures, you can call them dinosaurs if you want. Especially if you are a small child, because you’re just learning these distinctions and it’s probably just extra cool to you to see these things.
But, to the adults, let me also say this: you’re not going to impress anyone by calling them dinosaurs. Because they’re not dinosaurs. Seriously. So, if you want to sound extra cool, smart, and witty, be sure to say to the other people in the car when you drive by and or get out to gape enthusiastically, “Look at those pre-historic creatures”. If you do this, I guarantee everyone will be impressed at your knowledge, even if you know nothing else, and can’t tell the difference between a Mammoth and a GIANT SLOTH. (Here’s a hint though: GIANT SLOTHS do not have tusks).
Now, if you have decided to focus on what the creatures are called, you may have missed the surrounding pictures in this blog about what they look like, and may be wondering what I am talking about. What I am talking about are giant metal creatures in the desert, some of which are fifteen to twenty feet high. I’m talking about a metal herd of Saber-Tooth Tigers stalking metal pre-historic horses. I’m talking metal Mammoths thundering down a stationary hill. I’m talking about metal sloths that are perpetually hungry because they’re frozen in time. All of these creatures are here for two reasons: first, because the landowner, Dennis Avery has a passion for fossils and pre-historic creatures. Second, because Dennis Avery was able to find a unique and talented artist, Ricardo Breceda (http://perrisjurassicpark.com/) to bring his passion for fossils to metal life. So, regardless of whether you like dinosaurs, pre-historic animals, or just plain art, I highly recommend checking this out if you are in the area – it’s one of the easiest adventures I’ve posted, and it’s a lot of fun. And, don’t worry: GIANT METAL SLOTHS don’t eat people. (Except in B-grade movies, which as everyone knows, aren’t real in most cases, so you should be totally fine, unless you’re visiting the art during a comet fly-by, weird Northern Lights, nuclear attack, or during the thirteenth day of the thirteenth month of 2013 at 1313. Then you might have a problem).
How to Get There (I Don’t Care What They’re Called, How do I see GIANT METAL ANIMALS?): There are a number of ways to get to Borrego Springs, California, the nearest town. However, once you are in Borrego Springs, take Borrego Springs Road, and go either North OR South to see the creatures. More information here: http://www.galletameadows.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=69 , http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/19170