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Visit Imperial County's Pumpkin Patch, where stone pumpkins dot the barren desert landscape

Stone pumpkins numbering in the hundreds, baked beige and reticulated by exposure to the summer desert sun, lie in a patch of several acres at the Imperial County site known as Pumpkin Patch. The spherical or oblate-shaped "pumpkins" are actually sandstone concretions, a somewhat mysterious type of durable sedimentary rock. Concretions can be found in many places throughout the Anza-Borrego Desert region and are known to assume a variety of sometimes intricate but always rounded shapes.

Daytime temperatures are dropping fast in the desert, down from the 90s of October to the 80s of early November. It's a good time, a fairly quiet time in fact, to make the trek out to the patch for a look at these natural curiosities. The trek consists of a two-hour-plus drive east from San Diego through Borrego Springs and toward the Salton Sea. You're going to need a four-wheel-drive vehicle, or at least a mini-SUV having more clearance and traction than the average sedan.

Turn southeast from Borrego-Salton Seaway (Highway S-22) at mile 34.9 onto the dirt road leading through Arroyo Salado Campground and down along the Arroyo Salado wash. Pass through the campground and continue 3.5 miles (from pavement) to the turnoff on the right for Seventeen Palms oasis (itself a worthy stop along the way). Our route to Pumpkin Patch continues southeast, curling up out of the wash and twisting over a low divide and past Five Palms. When you arrive at the next road junction, Tule Wash, stay left and follow the wide, sandy bottom of Tule Wash all the way to Pumpkin Patch on the right -- a short mile east of the San Diego-Imperial County line. At the county line, signs announce that you are leaving Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and entering Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area.

There they are before you, concretions littering the ground and coating the low hills to the south. Concretions, it is surmised, form in wet sediment that consists of fine, sandy particles. In this watery environment, there's a tendency for particles of like composition to accumulate in onion-skin layers around some "nucleus," or common point of origin. A cementing agent dissolved in the water -- silica, calcite, or iron oxide -- is necessary to bind the sand particles together. After drying, a bit of pressure perhaps, and thousands to millions of years, the durable concretions weather out of the softer sedimentary rock they're encased in and reveal themselves to the world above. The Pumpkin Patch concretions originated in the sediments of the ancestral Colorado River delta some three million years ago.

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Stone pumpkins numbering in the hundreds, baked beige and reticulated by exposure to the summer desert sun, lie in a patch of several acres at the Imperial County site known as Pumpkin Patch. The spherical or oblate-shaped "pumpkins" are actually sandstone concretions, a somewhat mysterious type of durable sedimentary rock. Concretions can be found in many places throughout the Anza-Borrego Desert region and are known to assume a variety of sometimes intricate but always rounded shapes.

Daytime temperatures are dropping fast in the desert, down from the 90s of October to the 80s of early November. It's a good time, a fairly quiet time in fact, to make the trek out to the patch for a look at these natural curiosities. The trek consists of a two-hour-plus drive east from San Diego through Borrego Springs and toward the Salton Sea. You're going to need a four-wheel-drive vehicle, or at least a mini-SUV having more clearance and traction than the average sedan.

Turn southeast from Borrego-Salton Seaway (Highway S-22) at mile 34.9 onto the dirt road leading through Arroyo Salado Campground and down along the Arroyo Salado wash. Pass through the campground and continue 3.5 miles (from pavement) to the turnoff on the right for Seventeen Palms oasis (itself a worthy stop along the way). Our route to Pumpkin Patch continues southeast, curling up out of the wash and twisting over a low divide and past Five Palms. When you arrive at the next road junction, Tule Wash, stay left and follow the wide, sandy bottom of Tule Wash all the way to Pumpkin Patch on the right -- a short mile east of the San Diego-Imperial County line. At the county line, signs announce that you are leaving Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and entering Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area.

There they are before you, concretions littering the ground and coating the low hills to the south. Concretions, it is surmised, form in wet sediment that consists of fine, sandy particles. In this watery environment, there's a tendency for particles of like composition to accumulate in onion-skin layers around some "nucleus," or common point of origin. A cementing agent dissolved in the water -- silica, calcite, or iron oxide -- is necessary to bind the sand particles together. After drying, a bit of pressure perhaps, and thousands to millions of years, the durable concretions weather out of the softer sedimentary rock they're encased in and reveal themselves to the world above. The Pumpkin Patch concretions originated in the sediments of the ancestral Colorado River delta some three million years ago.

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If you would like to camp in this area you can rent dirt bike to get there. Also, if you need a rental camper see http://www.ocotillowellsrentals.com they have discount rentals to stay in.

Dec. 13, 2008

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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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