San Diego Trail Tramps - Scheduled Hikes for 2012

   Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves Hike (& Campout)


Date: Sunday, January 15th, 2012  09:00 AM -  05:00 PM (Martin Luther King 3-day Holiday Weekend)

Info. URLs: Weather forecast for that area, Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Hidden San Diego great website with cave photos! (To access maps, etc., membership required.)
DesertUSA Mud Caves review and videos
, Bats of San Diego County

Location: Anza Borrego Desert/Western Carrizo Badlands

Description: Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves Hike

What to expect:
See Area D-12: Carrizo Badlands, Trip 3, Arroyo Tapiado/Arroyo Diablo Loop, in Jerry Schad's book "Afoot and Afield in San Diego County" (c '98, pp. 341-342, map on p. 338) for hike details. ** to*** degree of difficulty out of a possible *****.

This hike will be mostly flat and relaxing (depending on how many ATV's and campers are out there) 7-8 miles roundtrip drive with stops at a few of the more than 23 cave entrances for exploring (plus excursions up into small side canyons with caves, and some scrambling up inclines) and will take about 5 hours to complete, depending on how many caves we have time to explore.

There are so many caves in this area that it takes several visits to see them all! These are the areas we'll aim to explore: Big Mud Cave, Plunge Pool Cave, the slots of Rubble Canyon, Chasm Cave, and Carey's Big Mud Cave.


Directions:
This hike is located in the southern part of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Take I-8 East from San Diego, out to Ocotillo, then head northwest into the Anza Borrego Desert State Park on highway S-2. See the Maps page for more information. It's 108 miles from San Diego to Mile 43.0 on the S-2 highway and will take 2 hrs. to get there.

To reach the starting point, find the signed Palm Spring turnoff at mile 43.0 on County Highway S-2. This is opposite (east of) Canebrake Canyon. Pull off and park at the turnoff, where we'll carpool in from there. We'll plan to meet out there at 11:15 am, then drive in to Arroyo Tapiado Canyon and start hiking thru the caves about 11:45.


From S-2, we'll proceed east on the dirt road, passing the spur road to Palm Spring, and continue (if road conditions allow) down Vallecito Creek wash. About 4.5 miles down the dirt road from the S-2 intersection, make a sharp left up into Arroyo Tapiado Canyon. Our first cave (Big Mud Cave) will be at mile 3.12 up the arroyo, so keep an eye on your vehicle odometer to pull off and park.


Background Info:

In this general area many fossils of land creatures dating back one to two million years have been found, including bones of mammoth, camel, sabertooth cat, dire wolf and rhinoceros. The highlight of the trip is the Arroyo Tapiado cave formations.

A few of the caves in the area are over 1000 feet long, with rooms up to 80 feet high and 30 feet wide. Others are tall and narrow, much like a meandering slot canyon with a roof overhead. Some have multiple levels, and one contains a 45-foot subterranean dry fall. Sinkholes (skylights) illuminate the interiors of some caves. Most cave passages eventually lead upstream through a swallow hole to a "blind" valley (a ravine having no exit for drainage except through a cave).

Preparations:
Some of the caves are pitch black, so for exploring them, bring two flashlights or one with extra batteries (per person) and if you have one, a headlamp and a hard hat or a rock-climbing helmet (bicycle helmets work great, too). Expect to get dusty/dirty, so dress accordingly! A simple, paper facemask can be useful when foot-traffic stirs up the cave dusk.


As usual, we require each hiker to bring their own appropriate hiking gear, including a day pack with food, and sports drinks. Be sure to do your "carb loading" before the hike by eating a good meal/healthy snack and drinking liquids, avoiding dehydration and fatigue. Carb loading the day before is useful, too. And if you leave the hike early, please notify the hike leader directly, so there's no question that you may have gotten lost or injured along the way. Remember... Safety first.

Camping Info:
Since this hike takes place during the 3-day, MKL holiday weekend, we're planning an overnight campout on both Saturday and Sunday nights. The campout will be at the Mt. Palm Springs Campground in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park, on the west side of Highway S-2, at Mile 47.1. (We'll work in a fun hike there, sometime on Saturday afternoon.)

There are no facilities like picnic tables, fire pits or water, just porta-potties. (It's all about what creature comforts you bring with you.) For those interested in joining the campout, please contact the CyberHiker @ sbcglobal dot net ASAP.


For more great info., maps, etc. on the Anza Borrego Desert State Park, here is the url: http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/638/files/anza-borrego%20desert%20state%20park%20magazine.pdf