Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

The Compulsion of the Borrego Badlands

Navigating Fonts Point Wash

Navigating Font’s Point Wash

©Bert Gildart: For a photographer, I can not imagine a better spot to begin touring Anza Borrego State Park in California than Font’s Point. Noted for its views of the Borrego Badlands, the patterns therein provide a fascinating array.

If captured appropriately, the badlands leaves viewers wondering about the power of nature, the power of erosion, the difficulty of navigating such broken land. As well, these broken lands leave viewers wondering about the creatures that may once have lived here, which were, in fact, many.

The view from Font’s Point also reveals much about this largest of state parks in California. Facing south, your gaze embraces Mexico, just 25 miles away. It encompasses Borrego Springs to the west and the Salton Sink with its Salton Sea to the east. Turning around, your gaze falls on the Santa Rosa Mountains to the north.


Font’s Point also suggests a historic association, and the assumption is correct, for Pedro Font was the chaplain and navigator on Spain’s second expedition from Tubac, Mexico to Mission San Gabriel Arcangel in California, in 1775-76. The expedition was led by Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza, for whom this park was named, in part (the other part, Borrego, for the endangered peninsular desert bighorn–yesterday’s post). On this expedition, which brought colonists from Mexico to establish the pueblo of San Francisco, Font’s role was multi-purposed, for he also served as the expedition’s diarist.

Yesterday, we reached the overlook following a four-mile drive from our campground in Borrego Springs to the Pegleg Smith’s memorial, then another few miles along the Palm Canyon Road to Font’s Point Wash. The jeep road is sand covered, and though you don’t have to have four-wheel drive, it makes traction through the four-mile-long wash a bit more secure.

Travel along the wash is another four miles, and ascends to Font’s Point Overlook, and if you think the setting created by the Borrego Badlands appears timeless, you are not mistaken.


First, the badlands are protected under both federal and state laws, and in Lowell and Diana Lindsay’s book, The Anza Borrego Desert Region, the authors suggest that the badlands contain an immense number of fossils to include the ground sloth, short-faced bear, dire wolf, sabertooth cat, mastodon, mammoth, giant zebra, half-ass, camel, yesterday’s camel, llama, giant camel, pronghorn, elk, deer, shrub oxen, and the Bautista horse.

Borrego Badlands

Borrego Badlands

But those are abstractions, obscure and sometimes unfathomable findings from a different millennium. What seems to draw so many now is the staggering beauty, which seems to illicit different reactions. As visitors gaze over this sweep that extents south to Mexico, some call out to friends and family members to hurry; they can’t wait to share the immense beauty. Others simply stand and stare, at a loss for words.

My reaction, the reaction of a photographer, was to mount my camera on a tripod and then search for some balanced and coherent pattern in this maze that will suggest something other than confusion. That’s not to say my gaze provided understanding, rather it was more like the displacement reaction of a startled goose that starts pecking at stones because it is at a momentary loss for anything else to do.

Perhaps I’ve succeeded with my photography, but, if not, the Borrego Badlands have been a million years in their creation, and will most likely be there tomorrow. What’s more, I’m sure these badlands draw people back time after time, for they are endlessly changing–and that’s what makes them so compelling.

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