Our ridiculously cheap rental car took us out to the desert for the first night of our San Diego trip. ($48 including taxes for five days, the guy even commented that this was why his salary is what it is! Whoops.)
There are shorter ways to get to Julian, CA (our room reservation for the night) but we decided to drive out on I-8 and head north through Cucamaya Rancho State Park. It took about 45 minutes to get out there and the bustle of the city was replaced by desert and mountain views.
Throughout the drive we saw evidence of the California wildfire damage of last year—entire hillsides covered in scorched trees.
My brother, Ryan, drove down from LA for a day of hiking with us. He must have left well before dawn because I got a phone call at 8am that he was sitting in the parking lot! :)
The chilly rain gave way to breaking clouds and finally some warm sun by early afternoon. I swear we went through three seasons on the Palm Canyon trail hike, from downpour to hot sun, but the views were completely worth it.
All this hiking through the mountains and all of a sudden, a palm oasis!
Surprisingly (considering it’s the desert) there was a rushing creek with several waterfalls throughout the hike. So I guess all the rain did have some benefit!
The Anza-Borrego visitor’s center was very helpful in terms of information on hiking trails. We didn’t buy a detailed map ($1) on this visit because we only did the Palm Canyon hike. If the weather had been more predictable we probably would have tried to do more, but as it was, we saw quite a bit on this five mile roundtrip hike.