Wind Caves Nov 2012

Our friend Michela let it be known that she wanted to get into backpacking by asking me for advice on gear and where to go hiking. Well, gear advice is easy enough to make, so I made some. And then I offered to take her (and a guest) backpacking with Vicki and me, for training purposes (and for fun!).

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years, it’s that it is very important that your friend have a good time on their first backpacking trip. You want good weather, a beautiful location, a relatively short hike with minimal elevation gain, tasty food, and pleasant company. In other words, the new hiker should have a great time. If they don’t, then they’ll never go backpacking again. It’s better to save that miserable rainy weekend when your tent blows down, your clothes are all wet, and the fire won’t light for another trip. Wait until they are addicted to backpacking before you try anything difficult. A tough hike that seems like a terrible ordeal while it’s happening can become a great story to tell afterward. But don’t try it with a newbie.

Now, when you’ve never been backpacking the choices of where to hike seem endlessly daunting. Luckily, at this time of year our choices had been limited by weather: It was freezing cold at night up in the mountains, especially at the higher elevations. So the obvious choice, if you live in Southern California, is the desert. And, since the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is the traditional start of Desert Season, we decided to join the rest of the off-roaders heading to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. But still we were left with the question: Where exactly would we go? It’s a very big park. But the park is also mostly about driving. Off-road driving. Hiking in the park is only for when the path gets too narrow to drive on it. In fact, backpacking isn’t big in the desert, as water sources are rare, and you can only carry so much of it. Therefore, Vicki and I decided that a good backpacking trip for a newbie (and her guest) would be to go to the Wind Caves.

Sunset Silhouettes at the Wind Caves in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

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