We were visiting our friends in Orange county, Vlad (vovkus) and his wife Katya. The weather was great, and we decided to take a one-day offroad trip to the nearby Anza Borrego park together. We took a campsite in Palm Canyon campground, our friends stayed in the hotel room in Borrego Springs. The Christmas Eve on the campsite was unusual and cool.

Christmas in Anza:

Our campsite:

We used the "Southern California SUV trails" book. We decided to go to the "Fish Creek - Sandstone canyon" trail, first. We had two dudes, two ladies and two doggies with us, and just one SUV. Not a real outfit for tough trails, so we wanted some very light and easy 'wheeling (but the reality was different).

The ladies and the doggies:

Fish Creek is a very mild sandy trail. It is easily doable in a 4x4 car (like Subaru).

In the beginning, the doggies were having the most fun. The sandy surface presented a great opportunity to play and to chase each other around:

Although the trail was easy, we enjoyed the views. The canyon walls are gorgeous.

The trail was heading from north to south:

Vlad is trying to get the canyon walls picture:

My wife Vera pressed into the canyon wall:

One place was especially nice. We stayed there for a while, exploring the canyon, taking the pictures and testing different flavors of the amber beer:

Crack in the wall:

Jeeps are passing us:

Crack in the wall, view from inside:

Then we came to the road fork. To the right, we had the Sandstone canyon trail (dead end); straight ahead, we had the Arroyo Seco trail. We decided to go to the Sandstone canyon first, then return to the Arroyo Seco. The Sandstone canyon views were exceptional.

Vlad is taking picture of the ladies:

The car:

The canyon:

Feeling great:

The wall:

The trail dead-ends at the sign "no vehicles". The trail is narrow but passable; formerly, it was allowed for vehicles. I do not know why it was closed.

We took a short hike through the narrows.

Always carry your tools on the trail ! Our doggy Sunny got a nasty cactus needle in her leg. It was sticking out about 1/2" but it refused to get out. We could not get it out until I unpacked my tool box and I found a good tool to pull out the needle.



Near the end of the narrows:

View to the narrowest place from the west:

The wider part of the canyon:

Then we returned to the car and we drove back to the trails intersection:

The stream bed in the wall:

At the trails intersection, we turned south, on the Arroyo Seco trail. In the book, it is described as a mild trail of difficulty 5. The bad thing is that I really did not read the trail description (it is the old saying that the software engineers are not reading the instructions to anything - to the programs, to the devices, to the trails, etc, and this is a bad habit). I just checked the map, the scenic rating and the difficulty rating. But if I would read the description, I would know that the trail is nearly impassible from the north-to-south direction due to the two very difficult climbs - the "Diablo dropoff".

Well, I had some bad signs that something is going to happen. First, immediately after the turn, I got a text message from Ray (offroader) with "Merry Christmas". That definitely was something on an 4WD trail :D ... Second, I saw a hand-writing on the canyon wall with text like "if you cannot make it then you are a homo". Second bad sign. The third bad sign was a plate with message that "no drive shaft or oil pan are safe here". The fourth sign was the numerous oil marks on the stones. Then I felt the vehicle was not moving. What the heck ? I checked the GPS - I was driving in the right direction...

I am checking the GPS and trying to figure out why I am not moving forward (you can see the oil marks on the boulders):

Vlad is a great spotter so we passed the stones and we came to the first climb. "And this is a 5th degree of difficulty ?!" we were puzzled. The first climb is very short but very steep and it has deep ruts in the stone. I passed it only after the second take, with the locker on. My tires were still on 30PSI, so I had an option to air down if I'd get stuck. I did not need to air down.

You really need a good articulation, a locker and some momentum to overcome the Diablo dropoff in the reverse direction.

The second climb is much longer and of different nature. Also it is very steep, but the surface is a deeply eroded soft stuff. We calculated the proper line and proper speed, and I took it on the first effort almost without any wheel spin (with the locker on). View from the top:

After the second climb, we stayed on the top and enjoyed the views.

After that, the road was very easy up to the highway.

We also visited the 17 Palms:

The Fonts point:

We saw an unusually large number of Suzukies in Anza. I've never seen so many Suzukies on the trails before. I have always admired these vehicles, I just do not understand where they are storing their stuff and their pets. Probably, Anza is the right place to 'wheel in a small soft-top SUV:

I posted here only some of the pictures, and only the small edited versions of them. The full set of the original size pictures is here:
Full-size Anza pictures