Desert Rain in May!

It’s been a while since I last hiked on Fridays with my friend Fred. When the weather forecast predicted rain and low temperatures for San Diego (included the deserts!), it appeared to be an unexpected treat – normally, the temperatures in the lower regions of the desert in May are too high for any serious activity – at least for my taste.

Also, rain in San Diego late in our wet season usually translates to “some clouds and maybe occasional light drizzle” in the desert, so it seemed a pretty safe bet to get out there when the coastal slopes and mountains of San Diego County would get some much needed rain. We arrived in Borrego Springs around 11am – and it was raining. Constantly. Not a heavy rain, but not just a light drizzle either. Temperatures were pleasant though, around 65F. We decided to first have an early lunch at “Pablito’s”, which is a nice Mexican place in Borrego Springs. Fred had the Giant Burrito (that he couldn’t finish, haha!), I had yummy Huevos Rancheros con Chili Verde. And no, we didn’t make photos of our food. Though we should have – that Giant Burrito truly WAS gigantic! 😀

When we got out of the restaurant the clouds seemed to be less gloomy, but it was still raining. What an unusual weather for May! We drove over to Highway 78 and to the West Butte Borrego Mountain/The Slot trailhead. Since Fred had never hiked much in the desert before, I was hoping to hike the West Butte Borrego Mountain loop with him, which offers one of the best all-around experiences of desert hiking IMHO.

We arrived at the trailhead and the rain just didn’t stop. The problem with hiking in the rain in the desert is that the ground becomes really soft and quite a mess, so I scratched the idea to hike the loop, and we climbed down into The Slot (which is, you may not have guessed it, a slot canyon, and the most popular one in Anza Borrego for sure) right away.

In the slot canyon (note: the rain was constant, but not heavy – there was no threat of a flash flood at any time. I wouldn’t go into a slot canyon with the threat of local heavy downpours from summer thunderstorms though!) we were sheltered from the rain and Fred uttered his amazement about “all this” (meaning not just the slot canyon, but the ragged landscape of Borrego Mountain Wash as a whole), since it is totally not visible from the street at all. If you judge the desert and its attractiveness from the safety of a car and a paved road, you’re completely missing out.

When we reached the lower end of The Slot the rain actually stopped and the sun began to peek through the clouds. Immediately, it became warm and humid. We left Borrego Mountain Wash and walked up to the beautiful wind caves. And then the rain started again. Seriously? Is this May and the desert, or what? We hiked out of Borrego Mountain Wash via the one-way 4WD vehicle “drop off”, enjoying the views along the rim of the wash and the slot canyon, and returned to the car.

What to do? We drove over to Borrego Springs and S22 again, and then out to Fonts Point – from the rim of The Slot and the wind caves, we saw it nicely lit up by some sun, it looked gorgeous! Upon arrival, it didn’t just rain – the wind had picked up, and the car said that the outside temperature was 54F. My idea was to just hike a little bit east from Fonts Point, towards Vista Del Malpais, along the ridge with the wonderful views of the Borrego Badlands. The wind chill and rain combined were really unpleasant though, since we were already a bit damp and wet from the first bit of activity. So we had to scratch that idea as well. 😛

We made a brief stop at Clark Dry Lake. Constant rain, of course. The water was actually accumulating on the dry lake bed, we could see the raindrops splish down and turn everything into a muddy mess. It was early afternoon and we were ready to give up. Drove back to Borrego Springs, stopped by the Fudge Factory for coffee and a slice of pie. Something warm was just right now. The Fudge Factory was about to close and we went outside, it was nearly 4pm. The rain had stopped, the sky had lightened – we gave it another shot.

Drove down S22 to the Calcite Mine turnoff, parked the car, and hiked up to the Calcite Mine slot canyon – parts of Calcite Road were a real mess, with the mud sticking to our shoes. After enjoying this slot canyon we continued down the other part of the canyon below Calcite Road, and into Middle Fork Palm Wash before returning to the car.

A day that first appeared to turn into a total bust actually ended up touching three of the most spectacular and beautiful places of Anza Borrego, and we got the necessary workout to justify that piece of pie we had as well. 🙂 As usual, some cellphone photos below.

All images and content © by Alexander S. Kunz, unless otherwise noted. No re-use without express written permission. Most images are available as prints and for commercial licensing. Please contact me if you’re interested. Prints and licensed images are NOT watermarked, of course.

Strictly non-commercial usage (ie. no monetization through ads, referral systems etc.) on private blogs and websites is allowed if proper credit and a back-link are provided in the form of “Photo by Alexander S. Kunz –“. Thanks!

2 thoughts on “Desert Rain in May!

  1. Beautiful series. Way to persist. I really must come explore this area some spring.


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