March 05, 2013

On The Way To California!

After spending five days in Phoenix we packed up and headed west to the land of sunshine and sea, California! I-8 took us right through the Sonoran Desert National Monument, by large fields of solar panels and again right by the Mexican border.  Since the drive from Phoenix to San Diego was too far for us in one day (pulling a trailer we have to go slower on the highway and Sky is the solo driver), we were just hoping to find a boondocking spot along the way.


Our driving route from Phoenix to San Diego on I-8
Our route! (First blue marker-Imperial Sand Dunes,
second blue marker- our boondocking spot) 
Driving through the Sonoran Desert  National Monument on I-8
Driving through the Sonoran Desert
National Monument on I-8
Solar fields in Arizona
Solar fields in Arizona
Right after crossing the border into California we drove into the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area. The scenery changed drastically: we went from driving through dry, vacant desert landscape to being in the middle of tall sand dunes, similar to White Sands National Monument, but yellow instead of white. We saw a collection of RVs parked off of the side of the interstate so we pulled off in hopes of joining them for the night. It turned out that this was a special BLM rec area for off road vehicles (dune bugging!) and a $40 permit was required to visit. We stuck around for a bit, watching dune buggies and desert motorbikes racing across the sand, and then got back on the road.

Imperial Sand Dunes Rec Area off of I-8
Imperial Sand Dunes Rec Area off of I-8
Imperial Sand Dunes Rec Area off of I-8
RVs at the Imperial Sand Dunes
Imperial Sand Dunes Rec Area off of I-8
Biking in the sand dunes
One of the rangers at the BLM had suggested we try camping at the natural hot springs a little further up I-8. We followed his directions, found the hot springs, but again, there was a cost to park there (and the hot springs were a little lackluster themselves). The camp host gave us new directions on where we could park for free further in the desert on BLM land. “It’s just a few miles down a sand-packed road. In a few places it gets a bit hairy, but I’m sure you and your trailer can make it”, he said. “Are you sure?” I quizzed him. Sky and I debated for a bit and then decided what the heck, how else do you find adventure? Ha!

10 minutes later we were driving down a road path that was really no better than jeep tracks left behind on the beach after the Coast Guard comes through. We kept hoping it would get better, especially since there was nowhere to turn around…the sand dunes were even more soft on both sides and we had prickly bushes literally within inches of the car. Finally we came to a stop (because it looked like there was no road ahead of us) and Sky got out to evaluate the situation. We found we had exactly 20 minutes of sunlight left and about 10 feet of harder looking sand on both sides of us. Well, we Skyler handled the situation beautifully. He maneuvered the truck and trailer back and forth across the road until we’d gotten completely turned around and we drove back the way we came. Thankfully Google Maps worked there and I used satellite images to get us back to where we’d originally intended to go (why I didn’t use them to begin with is beyond me…navigator FAIL). We found the BLM campground, parked on a nice, wide pull-through spot and thanked our lucky stars that we didn’t have to deal with a tow truck that night.

Looking for free camping on BLM land in California
This was the beginning of the road...that path was as wide as our truck 
Our final camp spot for the night
Our final camp spot for the night
In the morning we got back onto I-8. We drove past green fields of produce and workers working with combines. Then we reached the mountain pass (behind which hid the ocean!!! I was so excited to see the Pacific Ocean again!) and the interstate climbed steeply to the summit. I think we went from sea level elevation to over 4,000 feet in a matter of minutes. The mountain pass was gorgeous, with HUGE wind turbines right by the road, massive boulders and expansive valleys. Can you tell I love California? 

Wind turbines right by the road!
Wind turbines right by the road!
Wind turbines right by the road!
Fields of wind power
Driving into the mountain pass on I-8
Driving into the mountain pass on I-8
Driving into the mountain pass on I-8
Views from the pass
The only downfall to this beautiful land is that we were back in the land of $4 gas prices.  Our budget was about to take another hit.

To see more pictures of the drive on I-8, click here.

Happy California driving!

M.

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1 comment:

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