At 600,000 acres, the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the 2nd largest state park in the nation and takes up a significant chunk of San Diego County – and the little town of Borrego Springs was our destination for a Valentine’s Weekend Getaway. We left after work on Friday and made the 2+ hour drive in rain (and even a little snow in the mountains near Julian) over twisty back-country routes. We checked into our hotel and sought out food — finding a local Mexican diner amid spattering raindrops. Chips, salsa, a couple of margaritas and a big plate of cheese, rice, beans, and enchiladas and we were happy. Success!
We awoke Saturday to views of crystal-clear blue skies (thanks rain!) and snow-capped mountains and ~60 degrees — we grabbed a hearty breakfast and headed into the ABDSP to orient ourselves and get recommendations on a decent hike that we could do while not having a high-clearance 4WD vehicle (a lot of the trailheads require some off-road access).
The ranger gave us great advice and we headed to nearby Hellhole Canyon (great for Valentine's Day!) ready to go 6+ mi. (out and back with 1000' elevation gain) in search of the “tricky to find” Maidenhair Falls.
It was a great hike — the trail gave way to a foot-wide path between rocks and cacti about a mile in, and that gave way to nothing but boulders, cacti and scrub that became an exercise in choosing the path that seemed to have the smallest chance of a precipitous fall, twisted ankle or embedded cholla.
The winter rains had given the desert a nice greenish tinge and we loved stopping at each new plant or geological formation. After a bit, we spied an oasis — no really, an oasis — a cluster of palms (and oddly enough one lone sycamore) in the middle of the dry ravine and made our way there to finally see…. some wet rocks.
A trickle of water, but certainly no falls. Hrmmm. There was a pair of 20-something girls hiking (2 of about 6 other people we saw) and they were leaving the oasis when we got there — they said they were going to go on ahead. Susan and I poked around and decided to go further too — even though there was seriously no trail. We were debating the wisdom of our actions when we heard in the distance…. "Waterfaaaalllll…!!' — and sure enough, after climbing over a slight ridge there was a little mini-oasis in the distance – with the waterfall! Maidenhair Falls was awesome — 20-ft high, and supporting a small grotto with ferns, moss and a small pool.
How cool to find that in the midst of the desert. We hung out, had an apple and carrots, cooled off and began the trek back down. Success!!
As should happen after all outdoor adventures, we got cleaned up and finished off the day with a 4-course dinner (the hotel/resort had a special Valentine’s dinner) with cocktails and some romantic dancing. Success!