Surprisingly, Anza Borrego Desert State Park is not well known although it is the biggest state park in the USA. Located south of Palm Springs, it reaches almost all the way to the Mexican border. The hottest point of the United States is found here, and visiting is not recommended in summer. Following the winter rains, a multitude of flowers pops out of the otherwise stark landscape and converts the dusty surroundings into a colorful carpet. This year's unusually heavy precipitation covered large areas of this desert in silky green grass.

Those who are familiar with Anza Borrego treasure the scenery and hundreds of miles of 4x4 trails some of which are quite challenging. We had been to this park several times before and twice drove the Pinyon Mountain Road, a four-wheel trail considered a one-way because of the steep decline called the Pinyon Drop-Off. Supposedly this rough obstacle has rarely been mastered uphill. This time three Jeeps wanted to prove this claim wrong...

At the end of Fish Creek we aired down, disconnected the sway bars and followed the wash. We stopped at the Wind Caves and hiked a mile to the rock formations with their wind-carved holes. From here, we enjoyed the view of the surrounding mountains and a handful of washes snaking in between.
Our next destination was the Diablo Drop-Off, a small 4x4 play area. Since our last visit to this tricky incline, nature had modified the terrain and made this obstacle less challenging. So we moved on to Sandstone Canyon, a narrow slot framed by colorful walls. We followed the sandy wash into the canyon and conquered various rocky sections some of which required quite some manouvering. Especially Joe with his heavily modified CJ7 was able to prove the capability of his rig on the tougher spots.
After the return to Fish Creek we continued towards the Pinyon Drop-Off. We snaked along the wide, sandy wash until the trail became a one-lane dirt road and started to climb into the mountains. The terrain slowly became rougher and challenges appeared in front of us more frequently. A good hour before sunset we finally reached the infamous Pinyon Drop-Off. This rocky incline covered with just enough sand to reduce traction hadn't changed much. We walked uphill and considered our options. We could choose between two lines both of which had their drawbacks.
Action time: We started the engines and crawled up the bumpy hill. It didn't turn out to be quite the challenge we expected but nevertheless was intimitating.
After this success we continued just a little bit further until we set up camp.

The next morning it was just a few hundred yards to The Squeeze - no problem for the CJ but very tight for the two Cherokees - tires hugging the rock walls on both sides and mirrors scratching. From there it was a pretty easy run back to the highway. We pushed on north to Borrego Springs to get some gas before heading to Coyote Canyon. This valley used to be a common route into the park for four-wheelers arriving from Highway 371 in the north. For the last few years however, a part of the trail had been closed for environmental reasons. These days, it is open again during the winter months. We decided to exit the park this way. We had been partly into Coyote Canyon before, and this time we were suprised to find the conditions quite different. The latest rainfalls had changed the landscape drastically. The dirt road was gone in places and the river crossings were in different locations.

Along a rocky incline we came across some people from Land Rover who filmed a capability-video for LR3 owners. Soon after we stopped for lunch and were surprised to see a full-size Dodge from the Border Patrol drive by. We continued and moved slowly along the creek bed searching for the right way. The trail had been washed away by the recent downpours; had it not been for the occasional orange ribbons left behind by previous explorers, we would have doubted its existence. As we were driving in the creek, we finally came to a very tight turn between two rocks. Around the turn we stood in front of a four-foot waterfall. My attempt to climb it was killed by sinking half my front tires in quicksand. I could free myself but we decided to continue on foot for a while to check if it was worth to challenge this major obstacle. Through the vegetation we hiked just about a quarter mile to find that nature had taken over completely. There was no way to get through the dense bushes - not even on foot. Unfortunately, the adventure was stopped short. We had to turn around and go back to Borrego Springs to leave the park via paved roads. Nevertheless we enjoyed the exploration of the canyon which hadn't been traveled for years and showed us its cold shoulder.

It was a fun-filled weekend where we enjoyed some surprises in good company - just the perfect combination for a successful four-wheel trip. The next desert journey is already in the planning...