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It's 5am and the alarm is buzzing. One of the girls is snoring, the other two are talking in their sleep. The apartment is hot, like it never really cooled off over night. I ease out of bed and start gathering my stuff as quickly and quietly as possible. The clock is ticking. I'm supposed to be in Julian by 6:30 to meet up with a few folks who, up until now, have just been handles on a message board.

Heading east in the darkness. The west bound traffic is already beginning to get heavy. The 67 is nothing but a white river of light flowing by me.

The sky begins to lighten as I head out of Ramona. I can tell by the clouds that the sunrise is going to blaze. It's been a long time since I've seen a really good sunrise.

6:15. I hate being late. I fly by Santa Ysabel and continue the climb through the trees.

6:25. Wynola. I blinked and it was behind me. Coming around a corner I come up on a green H2 that I recognize from the forum. Whew. No need to stress about the time.

I follow Dave through town to the gas station where Ollie pulls up a few minutes later. Introductions are made, tanks are topped off and we head out down Banner Grade.

I kind of know where we are going but the list of trails is long and I'm not completely sure of how they all fit together. The beginning starts as we pull off the 78 and start airing down.

Dave heads out, I follow. Up we go. The sun is up now and the heat is coming. A few miles in, we pull off to the side at the Right Fender Ranch. A short distance away is an old mine. The equipment is stamped 1895. There's some history in these hills.

Honk. Honk. Honk. The silence is ruined by the temperamental attitude of my truck which I think is rubbing off on it from my daughters. Still not totally sure how that alarm went off.

Back on the trail we head down into Rodriguez Canyon. The deeper we descend into the canyon the more the landscape changes. Green gives way to brown as the desert comes to meet us. There were a few tight challenges on the way down but I'm learning on every trip out and they are getting easier.

At the bottom, we make a hard right and begin the climb up Oriflamme. Ollie gets on the radio and points out a primitive camp site down in the valley below the trail. Up we go. The trail gets narrower, rockier. The vegetation changes again as we climb. The browns giving way to greens this time.

I've been concentrating on driving so much that I've forgotten about making images. At the top, I jump out and snap a few frames.

We're headed back down into Banner. It's a well maintained road and Dave is just flying while I try to keep one eye on the road and one on the landscape. It's beautiful out here.

Back on the 78 we split up. Dave heads back to civilization and I follow Ollie deeper into the desert. We hang a right on S2. The heat is really starting to kick in but I am glad we weren't out here a couple of days ago. Off in the distance, there looks to be rain.

I haven't been to this section of the park in a very long time. Ollie is back on the radio and we're headed to Canyon Sin Nombre. The S2 falls behind us and we won't see pavement again for another 7 hours. Driving through the Canyon was amazing. I had never seen anything like it. Little did I know but the scenery was going to get better and better as the day went on. We exited the Canyon into a wash (I've forgotten the name) and Ollie took off, a rooster tail of dust stretching out behind him.

We head north in the wash for quite a ways before turning east again. A short distance ahead we stop at the top of Diablo Drop-Off. At the bottom of the first pitch, we stop for lunch. There's nothing but the sound of the wind. No mechanical noise at all. Silence really is golden.

From the Drop-Off, we head into Broken Shaft Gulch. It's narrow and sections of the walls have come down, just as in Canyon Sin Nombre, from all the recent seismic activity but it's completely navigable.

Exiting the Gulch, we come into Fish Creek Wash and have some room to let the trucks run a bit. Ollie is fish tailing a bit and laughing on the radio as he tests out his VSC override hack. We come around a corner of the wash and I come to a stop. The walls of the canyon go straight up for a few hundred feet. The rock formation is stunning and I'm left gazing in awe. High up on the hill, you can see the Wind Caves.

At this point I have zero idea where I am and I don't care. Being out here is amazing. Being able to see areas like this is mind blowing.

We're rocketing down a silt road along side some railroad tracks. John, who came with Ollie but has been riding shotgun with me, says they are used for Plaster City. Plaster City? We're that far east?!? Holy crap. I'm doing my best to keep up with Ollie but the silt is everywhere. Everyone now and then his voice comes over the radio, "Hole." Most times it was too late and I just have to keep my foot on the gas and go. This is fun and I can only imagine what it would be like in something with more suspension and horsepower.

John tells me we are now out of the Park and onto BLM land. He points out Carrizo Mountain and says that's where we are headed.

The tracks go up on a trestle while we head down into a wash. The trestle is covered in graffiti and we are now officially in BFE. The heat is really coming on strong here. Leaving the trestle behind us in a wake of dust, I fully realize how remote we really are. There's nothing. Absolutely nothing out here. Every now and then, we pass a BLM trail marker or a wilderness boundary marker, but I'm left to wonder who comes out here and how often.

We searching for a way over to Carrizo and Painted Gorge but we can't seem to find it. We reach a set of ominous boundary markers and John tells me we must be skirting the bombing range. Where the hell are we? We back track a bit, find a BLM marker and follow it. The trail turns into several miles of whoops. Sky. Desert. Sky. Desert. Sky. Desert. Eventually we make it to close to Carrizo and Ollie finds the right trail. Up the mountain we go.

This is the last major climb for the day and probably the best. The views are epic with the late afternoon light on the desert. Off in the distance, you can see Plaster City. We keep climbing. John points out a trail on another ridge called Cliffhanger. Just the name is enough to keep me away. We keep climbing.

At the top is a large flat area that would make an awesome camp site. Someone had made a fire ring so I'm sure it's been done before. A text shows up on my phone. There's service again. "AT&T message rates in Mexico..."

We empty the last of our fuel cans into the trucks and start heading down the mountain. The shadows are deepening and the day is winding down. I'm not ready for it to end and the desert has one more surprise for me.

We don't come down Carrizo the same way we went up. Halfway down we veer off to the right and drop into another slot canyon. Before we enter the canyon, we are given one final peek of the desert floor. Out in the distance, huge plumes of smoke are rising. The bombing range is active.

The rocks in the canyon are a mix of deep maroons, browns and greens. Even in the early evening shade, the colors are extreme and wondrous. How they would look in soft early morning light, I can only imagine.

We exit the canyon and hit Painted Gorge Road to make our way back to I-8. We're letting the trucks run one final time. Just before the freeway, we stop to air back up. A flat bed semi, stacked with dry wall, rumbles by us heading west into the sun. We fall in behind it and begin our own trek back to civilization.
 

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Your writing skills are on par with your photography skills and I believe you are aware of my opinion on your pictures. The vivid detail is awesome and I am left really wanting to go explore this area!

-JAce
 

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Sean... Great write up. You are required to go on ALL my runs now so that you can writew the run reports. :lol:

I think we found the official BFE section of Anza Borrego. The whoops were murder and this is exactly the reason it's wise to have another truck with you. Breaking down in a remote region like that when on your own is not good. Thanks to those who went along for the ride and especially to Sean for being the second truck. I apologize for the occasional abuse of the skinny pedal. Since John was with you I knew you couldn't get too lost and you did a hell of a job of keeping up considering the dust cloud. Sorry about the late notice on the CHP too. :lol:

Here are a few pictures John (BorregoWrangler) took along the way. I'll post some of mine tonight.

Parked at the gate to Right Fender Ranch.




Heading out towards one of the mines.


Beautiful country.








Intersection of Rodriguez Canyon and PCT.


We had to deal with a leaking gas can.


Continuing on down Rodriguez Canyon, we follow DaveK and smslavin.




Oriflamme Canyon.



Views coming down Canyon Sin Nombre.


Lots of collapses through Arroyo Seco Del Diablo Canyon.




Ollie starting down Diablo Dropoff.


Smslavin following.






Lunch break before dropping into Fish Creek.


Ollie just manages to maneuver away as the side of the canyon comes crashing down! ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Your writing skills are on par with your photography skills and I believe you are aware of my opinion on your pictures. The vivid detail is awesome and I am left really wanting to go explore this area!
Thanks

FJ-Ollie said:
Sorry about the late notice on the CHP too.
I'm just glad I saw him when I did or it would have been bad news. :bustedcop:

Looking forward to seeing your photos later.
 

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Frickin awesome guys.....
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I like it.. I shoot so many pix for the mag I hardly shoot pix of myself off-road these days. Need to do more trips...
Thanks.

Kind of the opposite these days. Shooting more for myself while trying to get back to published status. Funny sometimes how things come back around. Keeping my fingers crossed that I can get back on the photography horse a bit more. Been missing it.
 

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Looks and sounds like an amazing day all around. Your photography is amazing as well, I hope I can join you in a run some day.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Looks and sounds like an amazing day all around. Your photography is amazing as well, I hope I can join you in a run some day.
Thanks.

My wife and I have been talking about making a camping trip with the kids up to El Capitan. Not sure yet if we're going to use the tent or stay across the highway at the Canyon in a cabin. The girls might have more fun over at the Canyon.

There's a couple of trails I'd like to do up in the hills above SB (Camino Cielo, Big Caliente Spring Trail and the hot springs). I'll keep you posted.
 

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Yeah that could be fun. Camino Cielo isn't much of a challenge but it could certainly make for some beautiful photgraphy.
 

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Yeah that could be fun. Camino Cielo isn't much of a challenge but it could certainly make for some beautiful photgraphy.
Not looking for challenges with the girls aboard. :wink: Need to keep it mellow for them to keep their interest high.
 

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Then that will do it. Certainly a scenic drive with views over all of santa barbara and you can see the channel islands if the fog has burned off.
 
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