To Borrego Springs - Christmas in Joshua Tree - CycleBlaze

December 25, 2015

To Borrego Springs

Christmas with the cacti

We awoke early Christmas morning, looked out the window, and were glad to see that it was not snowy or icy on the ground but displeased to see the fog.  Hopefully it would burn off by the time we were ready to leave for Borrego Springs.  We turned our attention to our breakfast spread - instant oatmeal, a banana, and the pastries we had brought up with us from the Santa Ysabel Bakery. 

By 8:30 the fog was breaking up so we hit the road, wearing every layer available.  The ride began by backtracking downhill for three miles to Santa Ysabel and we anticipated a cold descent.  We were right - it was cold - but not as bad as we expected; and by the time we approached Santa Ysabel the fog was gone and we were under a nearly clear sky.

At Wynola, ready for the road. Who's afraid of a little cold and wind?
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Three miles into the ride, we're dropping into Santa Ysabel again and out of the morning fog.
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From Santa Ysabel we turned north on Route 79 toward Warner Springs, enjoying the ride more the farther we went as we continued to warm up, stopping occasionally to take off a layer or take a photo, and falling in love with the direct tailwind that shoved us effortlessly along.  There is only a minimal shoulder along this two lane road but no significant traffic either; and with our friend the tailwind we could hear approaching cars far in the distance.  

Along the way we watched the land gradually transform, becoming steadily more open and arid.  By the time we arrived at the turnoff to San Filipe Road (Route S2), it felt like we were in the setting of an old western.  The broad grasslands were littered with large granite boulders - perfect spots for an enemy party to be waiting in ambush.

Heading north toward Warner Springs
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At the turnoff toward Borrego Springs
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Route S2 is an absolute cycling delight.  It comes with a lot of history, following the route of the old Southern Emigrant Trail that brought many early settlers to southern California.  They came this way for the same reason we have today - it provides the lowest elevation passage of the Peninsular Ranges.  The scenery is spectacular, there is very little traffic, and there is a lovely 6 foot shoulder for its entire length.  It's a ride I would love to repeat someday.

The route begins with a gradual climb up Warner Valley to the high point, Teofulio Summit (recently renamed from Warner Pass to honor a member of the Mission Indians who homesteaded near here).  From there it is a fast, beautiful 1700' drop to the end of the road, transitioning from green oak woods at the top to the arid Anza Borrego Desert at the end.  

Looking north from route S2, west of Ranchita.
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At the summit, San Felipe Road
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Beginning the descent from Teofulio Pass
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Descending San Felipe Road
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A wall of frustrated tumble weeds struggling to break through the fence and tumble across the road.
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Finally coming to the end of S2, we turned left onto Highway 68 to start bending back toward Borrego Springs.  If we ever come back this way I would want to continue south though and keep following the  Southern Emigrant Trail to its terminus at Ocotillo Wells (actually, it's beginning of course - the emigrants were going the other direction).  I don't doubt it is a wonderful ride the whole way.

We have more wonderful ride still ahead of us though.  Route 78 winds its way through the rugged canyon of San Felipe Creek for a few miles in a spectacular bit of road that is unfortunately shoulderless and full of blind curves.  Soon though we come to the turnoff for Route 63, Yaqui Pass Road, and head north toward Borrego Springs.  These last 8 miles are like route S2 - zero traffic, fabulous scenery.  From the summit of Yaqui Pass we have a steady descent to Borrego Springs, basking in its dramatic desert setting, surrounded by mountains.

Wall to wall, it has been a great day.  What more could we want for Christmas than this?

Descending Scenic Route 78 along San Felipe Creek
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Rachael foolishly taunting a cholla. Note that it is now early afternoon, and she is still fully clad against the cold.
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Bleached agave
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Rachael chatting with Cheryl, a bike tourist camped for the night at Tamarisk Grove.
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Barrel cactus, Yaqui Pass
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Ascending Yaqui Pass from the easy side.
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Barrel cactus garden, Yaqui Pass
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Dropping into Borrego Springs from Yaqui Pass.
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Today's ride: 50 miles (80 km)
Total: 140 miles (225 km)

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