I fell in love with riding the Anza Borrego Desert last year.
Yesterday, I had an opportunity to gain some new perspective on it from the air.
Dave extended an opportunity to me to help scrub his dirty bird and take her up for at least a run around the pattern. We loaded up the car with soap, buckets, rags, and all the other accouterments required for the job. Some time later (she was a dirty bird indeed) we found ourselves looking for cooler climes in the sky above. We’d talked about the dirt airstrip at Octotillo Wells… and I told Dave it had been on my Bucket List for about a year, ever since I saw it while scouting the Stagecoach 400 route.
We departed to the south and headed out over Anza Valley. I’d never been over this area before and found myself rubbernecking as fast as I cold absorb it. Flying over Coyote Canyon, I was able to identify familiar areas we’ve explored by bike, and had lights going off in my head.
“There’s where that canyon goes!” and “NOW I understand why that trail doesn’t go any further!” came to mind. I also gained a renewed appreciation for the rapid change of climate we have here near Idyllwild, where we can ride from pines and cedars all the way down the sandy desert (some 7,000 ft below) in a matter of a half day.
We flew over Borrego Springs, a near-mandatory restocking point on the SC400 route, and headed out into the open desert. The dirt strip at Ocotillo Wells came into view. I was surprised to see it extended further than it’d appeared to be from the vantage point of a bike. We flew in close to make sure the area was clear of any errant ATVs or debris on the field. Dave commented it was in better shape than he’d ever seen.
We noted the Outside Air Temp and landed uneventfully. I noticed the Iron Door was just up the road… I came to love this place last year as a rider’s first (or last) chance for beer before (or after) riding the 30 miles of Fish Creek Wash.
We deplaned, crossed the street for what I figured would be the obligatory Coke at the store, but only found locked doors. Upon returning, we were visited by a large-and-in-charge RAF Merlin. They flew by closely, circled around behind a hill, and ultimately came back to land in the same field we were departing.
Heading home, I saw a wash that needs to be ridden, probably on a Fat Bike. What’s up there? A Palm Oasis, a promontory with a likely great view, and the promise of new discoveries just over the horizon. I think we’ve got a great Fall and Winter season ahead. We’ll just have to ride and find out.