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Travel Logs April 2013

San Diego: Leave the Port and Head over the Hills for Desert Adventure

By Janice Doyle

We took a California Overland off-road excursion in an open-air military truck to experience the desert. Our guide pointed out where Patton’s army trained before heading to Africa. The tour bounced us along rough roads, dry lake beds and into the Badlands, wind caves, slot canyons and more. Jeep tours are also available.

vt_doyle0413bIf hearing “Anchors Aweigh” stirs your soul, San Diego may be in your past. A trip back to the port can offer a trip down memory lane as well as some new adventures. Generations of men have trained either at a Navy or Marine facility in the San Diego area or shipped out on one of the ships attached to the Pacific Fleet. The area is home to the largest military complex in the world, with an estimated 170,000 military and family members.

Naval Base San Diego is home port to more than 50 ships. The USS Midway, an aircraft carrier with a long and noble history, is open for touring.

Movies featuring the area include Top Gun with Tom Cruise who flew out of Miramar Naval Air Station and Sands of Iwo Jima where John Wayne raced up a hill at Camp Pendleton, the setting for the WWII battle.

 

San Diego County

Ready for a new adventure? Then do what we did and head for the mountains east of the city and the Anzo-Borrego Desert. On the way, there’s a hilly drive on Route 79 through charming communities which offer interesting stops.

Ramona, the town, embraces its wild west and pioneer roots through displays at the Guy B. Woodward Museum. Check the town’s web site for rodeos and powwows.

Dudley’s Bakery as you drive through the village of Santa Ysabel is known for yummy breads and pastries!

Julian offers a history of gold mines but it’s home to apple orchards today. Stay at the legendary Gold Rush Hotel (fabulous breakfast!) right in the middle of town. Eat apple pie at one of the cafes early because the town closes up at dark and is a haven for restful sleep. Check the Julian web site for the many festivals they hold.

The nearby California Wolf Center offers understanding of both the Mexican and Alaskan wolves. There’s a great education center and easy live viewing of both species. Only open weekends.

Then it was over the mountain and down, down, down via switchbacks to the town of Borrego Springs on the floor of Borrego Valley in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We stayed at the Santa Fe-style Borrego Valley Inn with an aviary of finches and a variety of pottery pieces set in the courtyard’s desert landscaping. Check out the two outdoor pools, one with “clothing optional” designation.

We took a California Overland off-road excursion in an open-air military truck to experience the desert. Our guide pointed out where Patton’s army trained before heading to Africa. The tour bounced us along rough roads, dry lake beds and into the Badlands, wind caves, slot canyons and more. Jeep tours are also available.

Don’t miss the Anza-Borrego Park Headquarters, literally built into the desert to conserve energy and to be unobtrusive. Great displays inside; outside, hiking trails radiate from the visitor center.

If you’re not prepared, one desert sight is startling. What are those creatures in the middle of the desert? Galleta Meadows sculptures are a giant welded metal menagerie by Ricardi Breceda. Dozens of statues through the valley now include notable humans as well.

When the sun goes down, the desert wakes up. Stargazing is popular in Borrego Springs, one of three certified Dark Sky Communities in the world. Ask around for stargazing opportunities offered by various groups.

On your way either in or out of San Diego proper, you’ll pass within a few feet of the Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center in El Cajon. His famous paintings portray the 19th century American West and the museum has collections of memorabilia to bring alive our memories of Western heroes. You’ll recognize his paintings. Great collection – don’t miss it.

For more information, see sandiego.org.

 

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