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Wild Recovery
San Jose, California
March 16-19, 2017
Agua Caliente County Park
San Diego County
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The Place

WINTER RETREAT / Agua Caliente County Park - Anzo Berrego Desert
March 16-19, 2017

This 910-acre park is located on the eastern flank of the Tierra Blanca Mountains. It is operated by the San Diego County Department of Parks and recreation. Aqua Caliente Park is a regional camping park located in the Anza Borrego Desert. It is best known for its geothermal heated springs. Three naturally fed pools provide different ways of experiencing the park’s mineral water. Two natural 96 degree F mineral water pools have long attracted people suffering from arthritis and rheumatism who seek after the curative powers associated with hot springs. The third is an indoor therapeutic spa heated to 102 degrees and outfitted with Jacuzzi jets. The seismic activity that long ago shaped the Tierra Blanca Mountains (and created the spur of the Elsinore fault that runs beneath the park) also enabled water to come to the surface and form the park’s natural spring. A wide variety of wildlife is attracted to these springs, including ground squirrels, foxes, coyotes and bobcats. The relatively abundant water supply also supports lush plant life, such as mesquite, willows, Washington palms and acacias. Depending on the season’s rainfall, wildflowers and succulents can put on a colorful show in early spring.

We are staying in the campgrounds only group site: the Caravan site. It is equip with a communal campfire circle, ideal for meetings. It has 5 bar-b-q’s, 8 picnic tables, running water, flush toilets and showers. There is a store nearby to pick up extra water, firewood, propane, charcoal, batteries and whatever else you may have forgotten or run out of.

Water Tank

Walking The Walk

Thursday:Thursday – Moonlight Canyon and Inner Pasture Level: 1, Miles: 2.5, Elevation: 840’ After arrival to the park, a much needed leg stretcher is provided by the Moonlight Canyon Trail. This trail is a 2.5 mile loop trail that is located within the campground. The trail departs from the south end of the campground, at campsite 140, near the shuffleboard courts, ascends south over a saddle into Moonlight Canyon, turns north (left) down-canyon and passes some water sweeps. At the mouth of the canyon the trail narrows and turns west (left), following a rocky path to return to the east end of the camp at campsite 63. Several options are available for the more ambitious that could extend the hike another 3 to 6.5 miles (time allowing).

Friday: Friday – Canyon Sin Nombre Level: 2, Miles: 7, Elevation: 500’ A turnoff S-2 located South of Aqua Callente Park is described as “The Journey Through Time”. ‘The Canyon with no name’ is a 20 mile journey through a natural basin featuring unique geology and natural history. This remarkable canyon’s sediment is geared to provide flashbacks to a half-billion years ago. About 2 miles in there is a slot canyon that opens up to the west (left). A 3 mile round trip hike up a small narrow landslide and along a ridge offers spectacular views of the canyon.

Saturday: Saturday - Whale Peak Level: 3, Miles: 6, Elevation: 1,349’ To reach Whale Peak trail head we must head north from Aqua Caliente on S2; approximately 15 miles, to Pinyon Mountain Road. This is a dirt road. We progress, slowly, down this road about 5 miles. Whale Peak is due south. ‘Whale stands like an island surrounded by a sea of desert. The hike goes about 3 miles through a narrow, rocky wash, across open meadows and up brushy ridges to the flat summit at 5349’. There is no well defined trail. Head generally for the highest area. A small cairn, found in a crack on the topmost boulder of the peak, near the Geodetic Survey marker, has a visitor’s register which marks Whale Peak as one of the Sierra Club’s 100 notable desert peaks in Southern California.’

Host: Anna J.


Field of oaks and fire road


Directions:
From San Jose: Take Hwy 101 South to Gilroy approx. 30 miles. Exit #356/10th St/152 East turn left. Take all the way to I-5 (approx. 40 miles). Take I-5 to exit #161A/Pasadena onto I-210 E (243 miles). Stay on I-210 for 63 miles (be careful not to go into Pasadena) to I-15S. Take I-15S for 57 miles to exit #58/Temecula Pkwy. (For those prone to carsickness, you might consider taking I-15 all the way to San Diego with a detour East on I-8 to S-2 North instead.) Otherwise, bear left onto CA 79. Take CA 79 for 41 miles to San Felipe Rd(CR-S2). Take S2 for 17 miles before a brief turn on CA 78 (right then quick left) back onto S-2. Go another 26 miles to Aqua Caliente Park Entrance. We will be at the Caravan Group Site. Plans to caravan/carpool have been set up to meet at the Camden Rd Park N Ride off the 85 at 4am on Thursday morning. Call Anna J. for more details.

{Picnic bench at view


Know Before You Go:
The park is a desert and it will be during the last official days of winter so pack accordingly. Plan to dress in layers. Both warm and cool clothes will be necessary. Average temperatures during March, in the region, range from 67 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and can drop to the 36 in the evenings. Possibility of rain is slight but don’t count it out and winds can be high. Remember the park is known for its natural spring pools so bring a bathing suit and a towel. The bathrooms have running water and flush toilets. There are showers too. There is a store just outside the entrance of the park. This will allow you to pick up extra or forgotten supplies. The group campsite allows 10 cars and 50 people. Overflow will be handled as first come first serve. Pools are open from 9:30am to 5pm - 7 days a week. Check-in is at 2pm on Thursday and check-out is at 12pm Sunday. All firewood must be bought at the campground

{Picnic bench at view


Camping for three days is currently set at $20 per person. We typically only attract ~15 people for winter retreats; probably because of the distance. The group campground only cost Wild Recovery $305 for the long weekend. With that said, if we get more campers than usual, a refund will be forthcoming (or you can choose to donate the difference to the 7th tradition).
Dogs are allowed in the campground but must remain on a leash (no longer than 6 feet) and could require an extra fee. Dogs are not allowed on trails.