Is that sleet really necessary?

I don’t like to talk about the weather too often, but sometimes that’s the story, as it has been in Borrego Springs these past few days.  For crying out loud, last night we had sleet.  We’re in the southernmost desert in the United States, just barely above sea level.  We’re as low as we can go, and yet …  is there nowhere we can go in the continental US for decent weather this week?

borrego-springs-mercedes-sculpture.jpgWe’re grinning and bearing it, and until last night’s little sleet attack the weather hadn’t been enough to interfere with our activities.   The campground cleared out on Sunday, so things are nice and quiet, which I like.  We spent the day roaming around the park and off-roading here and there, and ran into very few people in the backcountry. borrego-springs-dinosaur-sculpture.jpgWe checked out the iron statues of prehistoric animals in Galleta Meadows, toured The Slot (one of the more famous slot canyons in the park), hiked to the Wind Caves again, ate lunch at Split Rock Mountain, and took in the sunset at Font’s Point.  All very satisfying and not terribly cold while the sun was up.

ab-slot-canyon-emma-laura.jpgIt even seemed like the weather was about to turn warmer, since we got back in the evening to temperatures in the upper 40s, so I broke out the grill again and roasted a bunch of vegetables and chicken sausage.  But that was just a tease.  Rain spit down intermittently all night and all the next day under mostly cloudy skies.  It has been damp, bone-chilling, and very un-desert-like.

With the threat of rain all day today, I wasn’t inclined to get into any off-roading (since the roads can quickly become impassable) and certainly wasn’t going to lead a group of people into a slot canyon.  That meant it turned into a true “Monday” for all of us.  Charon and Laura went off to do laundry,  Alex worked on administrative year-end stuff in his trailer, and I let out a heavy sigh as I opened up the laptop.

This afternoon we broke out for a drive up to Julian, which is high above Borrego Springs in the mountains at about 4,000 feet elevation.  We don’t normally make time for Julian, as it is just a three-block tourist town and over 25 miles away, but a rainy and otherwise disappointing day seemed to be the best opportunity for it.

julian-ca-sticker-car.jpgJulian is a little town of about 700 people that swells to “20,000″ according to a local I spoke with.  He says whenever there is snow, the San Diegans swarm up to see it, many wearing shorts and flip-flops.  That’s when he cashes in selling sweatshirts and warm hats.  When the power goes out in a snowstorm, as it often does, and the roads get clogged with snow, things get interesting. During our visit it was just more light rain and temperatures hovering in the upper 30s.

Emma and I checked out the local historic soda fountain, but cold drinks and ice cream weren’t very appealing on a cold day, and we settled for a hot spiced cider instead.  I was surprised at the number of obvious tourists exploring the downtown on a cold and rainy Monday.  The cafes were close to full even at 2 p.m., and no store seemed to be lacking for customers. But we lasted for only about an hour, ducking in and out of shops in an attempt to stay mostly warm and dry.

The drive up to and from Julian is as worthy as the destination.  Twisty and scenic roads are the rule, and without a trailer in tow it can be a lot of fun.  But the miles add up quickly when traveling around this region, as distances are longer than they appear at first.  A “short trip” across the park can be nearly 50 miles.  Since we have arrived, I think we’ve put about 150 miles on the car and tomorrow our planned route will add another 100 or so.

Tomorrow, the weather will be better. Already the nights are ten degrees warmer than earlier, so we’re no longer facing freezing temperatures in the morning.  This evening was actually sort of pleasant, without the precipitous slide at sunset.  If we could stay another week I think we’d see plenty of the kind of weather we expect but our trip ends on Wednesday — we’re now “weekenders” after all, and obligations at home are calling.

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