Embracing Your Wild Woman
At nearly 600,000 acres Anza Borrego is the largest state park in California. It borders three counties; Riverside; Inyo; and San Diego. The park sits southwest of the Salton sea and can be easily reached by passing Palm Springs and then heading south. The best way to see Anza Borrego is to strap on your hiking shoes and walk out into the landscape to explore the mud caves, slot canyons, and desert oases that are hidden throughout the park. Only a two hour drive from The Inland Empire makes Anza Borrego State Park accessible for a short weekend trip.
I recently took two of my friends out into the park, they had never been to Anza Borrego. I feel very luckily to have a variety of amazing women in my life. They are a mix of athletes, adventurers, mothers, scientists, and all around bad asses. The two women I traveled with to Anza Borrego are no exception. They are both artist and philosophers who strive to find a connection with the land that surrounds them. Although I had been to the park many times before, seeing it through their eyes gave me a new perspective. This new perspective was not only of the landscape but also on life in general. Spending anytime outside will help expand your mind and during this trip I could not help but have the same theme come back to me time and time again; What makes us wild? Is it only based on the risks we take in life, or are we all harboring an animal on the inside waiting to escape roaring into the desert night? How often we let that animal out depends on many factors including; pressure from society, fear, and embarrassment. How often as a child were you told to just be yourself, and how often as an adult do you tone yourself down and cage the animal. I believe we all crave to let the wild beast out and shed the skin of judgment. Spending the weekend with these two wild women let me shed my skin a bit and start to feel some that wildness creep in.
The first stop on our trip was to see the metal art installations that litter the flat lands of Borrego Springs. Borrego Springs is a small town which lies near the western portion of the park, it is the home to many restaurants, shops and the Anza Borrego State Park visitor center. The town itself is worth a visit but the art installations are a must see. Many of them depict animals that occurred in this area during the ice age. There are also giant insects and a large dragon that spans the roadway. One sculpture depicts two stallions kicking their feet up in the air. The art is raw and wild in the the desert landscape. We take turns posing by it, doing our best imitation of the bucking broncos. In these moments of play we forget the internal judgments we have about ourselves, like children our only focus is to have fun.
Palm wash is located in the northern portion of the park and can be reach by walking northwest up the wash from the Calcite Mine trail head. The narrowest portion of the canyon becomes a foot traffic only trail. The trail winds up the wash through slot canyons and past monoliths of rock that have fallen from the canyon rim. We hiked into a deep box canyon and sat to meditate, something I never had taken the time to do on a hike before. It was a warm day for December and the air was still but once in a while a breeze would blow up the canyon and move the hair on my forehead. A fly buzzed around visiting each one of us in turn and we sat in the sand. Other than these small distractions the canyon was silent. we can find our wildness in silence. When all we hear is our heart beats it reminds us that inside we are alive.
There are a few developed campsites in Anza Borrego State Park but if you want to get off the beaten path you are also able to do dispersed camping along many of the 4x4 trails that crisscross the park. Always remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles and always park your vehicle and camp in already disturbed areas. A high clearance vehicle is necessary for many of these trails, the most challenging spots in the roads are the sandy bits that will happily suck in your tires up to the axles. I wanted my friends to experience real boondocking so we headed out down a long sandy road to my favorite camping spot. Fires are allowed for dispersed camping as long as you bring your own fire ring, which i did. An old washing machine drum found on craigslist, provided the perfect vessel for our fire building activities. After a gourmet tailgate dinner we gathered around the fire ring. One of the women put on music and soon enough without any word spoken we all started to dance around the fire. We swayed our hips, we spun in circle, and we roared like lioness into the moon. To be honest this would usually make me feel silly, I am a shy person by nature and my dance moves leave something to be desired. As the fire burned and the moon came out I let all that self judgment go, I let my hair down and danced in the firelight.
We stirred in our sleeping bags, the smoke from last night's fire clings to our hair and dust coats our skin. We set up the tent so the entrance faced east and were woken by the glow of the sun rising above the desert mountains. This may not be my first visit to Anza Borrego State Park, but it was the first time in a long time I let my hair down and danced half naked in front of the fire.
Sometimes we need to be reminded of our wildness. It may take a trip to a new place; exploring canyons and getting dirty. We need times we can let go of self doubt and let our inner animal out. To have our thoughts revolve around nothing but the feeling of sand between our toes and cool night air on our skin. We need time in which we move with abandon through life. I feel like I found this, if only for a moment, in Anza Borrego with my fellow wild women.