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Visit Anza-Borrego's Mortero Palms, and make the arduous trek to the giant San Diego and Arizona Eastern railroad trestle if you dare.

As temperatures cool in the desert east of San Diego, campers and hikers are again fanning out over the spacious 1000 square miles of territory in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. If it's solitude you're looking for (at least until the late-winter wildflower season kicks in), try visiting the southernmost area of the park -- just north of Interstate 8, less than two hours east of San Diego by car. Mortero Palms, with heaps of huge boulders and a huddle of palm trees, is one good destination in the area.

Thanks to Anza-Borrego's open-camping policy, you can car camp, or carry your overnight gear as near or as far from any paved or dirt road as you like, and commune with nature -- without having to deal with reservations or fees. (Just remember that any campfire must be in a container off the ground, and you can't burn any of the local vegetation.)

To get to Mortero Palms, drive east (from San Diego) on I-8 to Ocotillo, and take Highway S-2 4 miles north and west to an unsigned dirt road on the left. Go south on this road and swing right after 1.1 miles. Continue west for another 4.6 miles, and turn left across the disused San Diego & Arizona Eastern railroad tracks on a paved crossover. Continue another 0.1 mile, then veer left, away from the tracks. Go another 1.6 miles, staying left at the next two junctions, and then go right toward the Mortero Palms roadend. (To check on the condition of these dirt roads, which might require high clearance or four-wheel drive, call Anza-Borrego Desert State Park at 760-767-5311 or 760-767-4205).

The palms themselves lie in a wide canyon about a half-mile west (not south) of the roadend. Look for bedrock morteros, or Indian grinding holes, below the first few palms.

If and only if you're an accomplished, well-prepared desert hiker ready for at least three hours of scrambling round trip, you can climb past the palm grove and navigate through gauntlets of cholla cactus to reach a 3300-foot saddle in the Jacumba Mountains above. From there, you can head west (downhill) into Goat Canyon, where you can spy from a distance the famous 200-foot-high wooden trestle on the old San Diego & Arizona Eastern rail line.

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As temperatures cool in the desert east of San Diego, campers and hikers are again fanning out over the spacious 1000 square miles of territory in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. If it's solitude you're looking for (at least until the late-winter wildflower season kicks in), try visiting the southernmost area of the park -- just north of Interstate 8, less than two hours east of San Diego by car. Mortero Palms, with heaps of huge boulders and a huddle of palm trees, is one good destination in the area.

Thanks to Anza-Borrego's open-camping policy, you can car camp, or carry your overnight gear as near or as far from any paved or dirt road as you like, and commune with nature -- without having to deal with reservations or fees. (Just remember that any campfire must be in a container off the ground, and you can't burn any of the local vegetation.)

To get to Mortero Palms, drive east (from San Diego) on I-8 to Ocotillo, and take Highway S-2 4 miles north and west to an unsigned dirt road on the left. Go south on this road and swing right after 1.1 miles. Continue west for another 4.6 miles, and turn left across the disused San Diego & Arizona Eastern railroad tracks on a paved crossover. Continue another 0.1 mile, then veer left, away from the tracks. Go another 1.6 miles, staying left at the next two junctions, and then go right toward the Mortero Palms roadend. (To check on the condition of these dirt roads, which might require high clearance or four-wheel drive, call Anza-Borrego Desert State Park at 760-767-5311 or 760-767-4205).

The palms themselves lie in a wide canyon about a half-mile west (not south) of the roadend. Look for bedrock morteros, or Indian grinding holes, below the first few palms.

If and only if you're an accomplished, well-prepared desert hiker ready for at least three hours of scrambling round trip, you can climb past the palm grove and navigate through gauntlets of cholla cactus to reach a 3300-foot saddle in the Jacumba Mountains above. From there, you can head west (downhill) into Goat Canyon, where you can spy from a distance the famous 200-foot-high wooden trestle on the old San Diego & Arizona Eastern rail line.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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