By Devyn Kowitz
Galleta Meadows and the Giant Sloths
After about a two and a half drive through surprisingly snowy terrain and endless fields of grazing cows, me and my dad finally arrived at Anza Borrego State Park for our first stop of the adventure – Galleta Meadows.
Galleta Meadows is an extremely popular tourist destination known for the over 130 metal sculptures that are scattered over a vast area of open desert. These sculptures were made by Ricardo Breceda, and his works can even be found in Canada and Australia.
Breceda’s story is actually pretty remarkable, so I recommend checking it out if you don’t know the story. The land itself is private property belonging to Dennis Avery, who actually commissioned these works.
Don’t worry though, the land is open to the public and even has some camping options. If you have never been, you’re just as likely to be blown away the first time as you will every time afterwards.
This was the case for me, as I had seen these sculptures years ago but hadn’t been back since. I had seen the majority of the sculptures before, but little did I know that these artworks would soon unravel new stories.
Of the many metal behemoths my dad placed his Power Wagon next to for some amazing photos, a few in particular stood out to me, which I had seen before but did not know what to make of them.
They basically look like a bunch of hairy T-Rexes with the teeth of an herbivore. Luckily for me, between my trips I visited one of the natural history museums down in Balboa and was finally able to determine what these monsters were.
These massive creatures belong to the family of giant sloths. That’s right, you heard me. These beasts could weigh up to 4 tons and measure up to 20 feet in length from head to tail. So, the massive sculptures you see in Galleta Meadows might be pretty accurate.
Definitely research giant sloths if you’re at all curious, and I guarantee you’ll be blown away by all of the interesting facts and species that are described on the web.
They are closely related to modern tree sloths, anteaters, and armadillos, but if you see the bones of one of these giant sloths you might think you’re looking at an enormous grizzly bear.
They went extinct between 10,000-5000 years ago, but prior to this many different species were found all across South and North America. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to be a prehistoric human encountering (or even hunting) one of these strange creatures.
While my dad’s Power Wagon is a beast in its own right, there is something so captivating in imagining what an entire species must’ve been like based solely on a herd of giant metal sculptures.
Font’s Point Time Travel
Once we left Galleta Meadows, me and my old man pulled up into Font’s Point, where he was greeted by some friendly fans who quickly recognized him. After some conversing about his set up and theirs, my dad directed me towards the overlook of Font’s Point.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was completely blown away with the scenery that was laid out before me. It seemed as though I was 10,000 feet in the air overlooking a vast mountain range that went on for miles.
Font’s Point is sort of a visual illusion in that sense. The truth is that I have never seen anything like it, and there are information markers around the area, some describing all the artists and writers that have traveled to this place in order to capture its magnificence.
Even looking back at the pictures and videos we took, it just doesn’t do this place justice, and they still look absolutely incredible. It’s definitely one of those places you need to experience for yourself.
If you read these informational markers that are scattered around the overlook, you may gain some historical insight that will even further magnify the sheer awesomeness of this natural wonder.
Apparently, millions of years ago, Anza Borrego was not a desert, but a vast land filled with water, vegetation, and all sorts of wildlife. Font’s Point itself was actually a basin that filled up with water from the Colorado River as it traveled towards the Grand Canyon.
This means that the Font’s Point that we currently can observe and fall in love with is really only the canvas of a vast work of natural art that we can now only get creative with in our imaginations.
For me, after learning this, Font’s Point became even more beautiful as I pictured the endless landscape being covered with trees and running water, as well as extinct animals and that inhabited every inch of this terrain.
That’s what I love about natural history – it helps us to tell stories with the natural landscapes that lay before us. Font’s Point is like a playground for the imaginative mind, and trust me, it’s not hard to be imaginative with a place this breathtaking.
Truck Haven – Kid and Lunatic Friendly
Our next stop was described to me as an off-roader’s playground, and when we rolled up to this place I could see why. Mariachi music was blasting as different types of ATVs, dirt bikes, Jeeps, and 4-wheelers cruised by in every direction.
This impressive spectacle is what is known as Truck Haven. It is a relatively 30-acre dirt area filled with 22 man-made obstacles. Each obstacle falls under one of three levels of difficulty – easiest, more difficult, and most difficult.
However, I think that the signs give a misleading idea as to the difficulty of these obstacles. If I had to order them, I would say the three levels go as follows: easy, hard, and insane.
There is still some variation within each category, as nothing really seems to be as difficult as the 20-foot-tall ramp composed of 6 concrete tubes.
While having three drastically different levels might not make sense, I don’t think it’s supposed to. Truck Haven has obstacles that children can do as well as some obstacles only the most battle-tested off-roader should even consider approaching.
In this way, Truck Haven is inviting for everyone while at the same time providing some extremely unique and near-impossible challenges. You can have just as much fun going through the easy obstacles as you will imagining the epic fails that must have occurred with some of the more behemoth challenges.
The medium ones are not to be joked about, but I believe these are about as challenging as any you may see on any given trail. You should take your time and have a spotter, but unlike the insane obstacles, the medium ones remain within the realm of “safe” possibilities.
We didn’t spend as much time here as the others, as it was pretty crowded considering we are in the midst of a pandemic, but I could definitely see myself coming back here once the world has gone back to normal.
Our Last-Minute Camping Spot
When I’m out on the trail, I don’t really get stressed out if things don’t go as planned, because that’s my entire goal of going overlanding – to get away from stress. That being said, my dad is an amazing planner when it comes to overlanding, and being the retired Master Chief that he is, he takes initiative when things go off-course.
This is what happened when the camping spots my dad had previously saved now seemed to all be behind signs that forbid us from camping there. My dad couldn’t make sense of this, but instead of trying to fit a square peg in a circle hole, he decided to look for a new spot.
We pulled down a smaller dirt road off the main one and quickly found ourselves a beautiful spot just as the sun was setting. Leave it to my old man to use his expertise and make quick work of a less-than-ideal situation.
However, we would soon find ourselves faced with another challenge as we were preparing dinner. The hose that we had was too small to hook up our big propane tank to the grill.
Instead of letting this minor setback spoil our moods and possibly our dinner, my dad and I talked about our situation and decided that we would have to go old-school and cook over our gas fire pit he had brought with him for the first time.
Instead of focusing on how we couldn’t use the grill, we instead thought about how lucky we were that he decided to bring the fire pit, as it adequately cooked our dinner and kept us warm through some great conversations.
When you’re watching my dad’s YouTube videos it might seem like everything is smooth sailing most of the time, but there are constantly setbacks on the trail for us just like everyone else. The real challenge is how you deal with these obstacles and who you’re going to face them with.
I’ve met most of my dad’s buddies and can tell you that he brings with him friends who he can trust and who trust him. Even though I’m not as vehicle-savvy as my dad, we trust each other, and I like to think this is what makes our teamwork so great.
Wind Caves & Fish Creek
The next morning was a brisk one, but I was greeted with a warm cup of coffee by my early-rising dad. The fire pit was up and running again and was much appreciated as I waited for the sun to finish rising over the mountains.
After we ate, we set out on a short little excursion to locate the trail that led up to the wind caves. The trail to the wind caves is only about three quarters of a mile, but it’s all uphill, so it can literally take your breath away.
The wind caves themselves are more like funnels through the rock, but some of them are big enough where you can crawl through or stand in and look at the unique formations.
Sadly, there are names and what not carved in the rocks, which is sad to see. If you’re visiting this incredible geological formation, please leave it better than you found it. I think it’s nice to have parts of nature not stamped on by people.
After spending about 10 minutes checking out the wind caves, we made the journey carefully back down the trail and got in the Power Wagon to head towards fish creek.
When you first roll up to fish creek, it looks like the film set of a Star Trek episode. On each side of the trail are these slanted cliffs with layers upon layers of rock and sediment.
Apparently, it gets its name from the fossils that have been found throughout this area, and according to my dad, college students will often come here to study the geological formations.
It’s the only place I had been to prior to this trip, but it still captures my attention every time as I wonder what caused these formations to be shaped this way, and how long it must have taken.
Some people will camp in this area, but as it’s heavily trafficked and the cliffs can sometimes have rock/mudslides due to rain, I would recommend finding a different spot. It also gets really windy in here, so it won’t be a quiet night’s rest.
Salvation Mountain at Last
One of my friends has been to Salvation Mountain more times than I can count and has been telling me for years I need to visit this place. When my dad mentioned it to me, I was excited at the opportunity to finally cross this place off my list.
This impressive work of art took over 28 years and half a million gallons of paint for creator Leonard Knight to complete. By using cement and old items such as sheds and beat-up cars, Knight was able to make more of a hill than a mountain, but it’s incredibly impressive, nonetheless.
Most of the area is blocked off by wood planks and paint cans, and I’m honestly not sure if these areas are closed due to COVID or are just generally off limits. Either way, you don’t need to climb the mountain to take in the sights.
There were small groups of people that would walk around and observe the religious artworks as well as take the more-than-occasional selfie. Sitting in the center appeared to be the caretaker, who actually has their own housing directly next to the site.
If I’m being honest, my expectations for this place may have been a little high after all I heard. Me and my dad were very excited to see this place only to be a little let down once we arrived.
The work is definitely impressive, it just wasn’t this magical, mythical spot I had believed it to be. Albeit, the weather was pretty ugly that day, and perhaps I didn’t get to have the full experience due to COVID restrictions, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
The place itself lives up to the name of Salvation Mountain, as bible verses and Christian sayings are literally painted on everything in sight. It’s a friendly place and you can tell that love and care was put into all of the works.
This was honestly the least exciting of all of the spots we went on this trip, but rather than being a knock against Salvation Mountain, I think it really just gives credit to how absolutely incredible the other places were.
I hope you enjoyed this little dive into the behind the scenes of the TrailRecon adventures and were able to get some burning curiosity for these places that I mentioned. Believe me, if and when you visit them, you won’t be disappointed.