“Rail-trail” at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Southern California

naturist 0014 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

This post would have suited last weekend more, as there is a bit of a necromantic element to it… Better later than never, so here it is, another hiking story, but very unusual in a way, as the landscape through which this trail goes is deeply influenced and modified by people of the recent past. I call it a ‘rail-trail’, as it runs along an abandoned railroad, which in its initial times used to be called ‘Impossible Railroad’ due to difficulties with which it was built (in 1919). It was abandoned and then reused a few times in its history with last operation as late as 2011. As nowadays it is not in use, hikers and bikers are free to explore it. Although it might have been [nearly] “impossible” as a railroad, it is obviously very much possible as a hiking and biking trail, perhaps the easiest one in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, with as little change in elevation as it possibly gets in a mountainous terrain.

view 0002 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We started at DeAnza Springs Resort (I’ll review it in the next post), which is the largest clothing-optional resort in the US by territory. I don’t think I should even mention what option we chose in terms of clothing (none!) – the weather was perfect for that, as it usually happens in Southern California. Just the fist couple of minutes of the trail go away from the railroad through cacti and shrub.

view 0001 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The first ghostly train was already behind the first hill.

view 0003 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The train seemed so out of place there, that the fact that we were entering it in the buff didn’t make it much odder than it was…

naturist 0000 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

How often do you get a chance to ride a train naked?

naturist 0002 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

As it should be expected from a ghost train, there was a ghost floating through the aisle… 😀

naturist 0003 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The cars were still in quite solid conditions,

naturist 0001 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

but nature is slowly taking over. Clearly some birds were happy to have this shelter.

view 0032 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We felt like we could spend a lot of time taking pictures in the train, but our hike had barely started!

naturist 0004 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

This view from the back side seemed irresistible to pose with,

naturist 0005 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

so we had to stop for a couple more pics.

naturist 0006 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

It’d be fun to ride a train like this, but the train didn’t move.

naturist 0007 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Even when we tried to push it!

naturist 0009 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

… after which we were too tired to hike, so we decided to hitchhike instead…

naturist 0012 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Our train never arrived, we had to walk after all.

view 0004 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The first bridge was soon followed by the first tunnel, of which I wasn’t aware at all. This was just the beginning!

view 0006 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

This tunnel was very short though,

naturist 0013 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

with enough light passing through. Tunnel’s repeating geometry and symmetry were sort of mesmerizing.

view 0033 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

After that straight tunnel, the road started winding quite a lot.

view 0008 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The valley of Carrizo Creek, which was dry at that time, was still relatively green compared to the rocks above.

view 0007 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Nevertheless, even the rocks were full of desert vegetation,

plant 0000 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

such as cacti and yuccas.

view 0005 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

This dead stem of yucca looked as if it was made of metal.

plant 0001 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

But then we saw a “skeleton” of a cactus!

plant 0002 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The skeleton was actually sticking out from a cactus that was still alive… so it was half-alive, half-dead… a ZOMBIE cactus! I knew something was wrong in that place…

plant 0003 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

But we continued walking, and there I remembered about an episode of ‘Walking Dead’ TV series that I watched on the flight… In those post-apocalyptic scenes, people were walking on an abandoned railroad towards a refuge center. Once they had to go through a tunnel, and of course there was a zombie ambush! If you look at this view below closely, you’ll see entrances to four tunnels that we had to cross…

view 0010 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Here is a zoomed photo of the farthest two, if you couldn’t see them…

view 0011 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

And just like in the series, there were encouraging signs on the way.

view 0012 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Luckily, these tunnels were pretty short and enough sunlight could pass to see without torches.

view 0013 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Here we saw another ghost train.

view 0014 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

And if that wasn’t odd enough on its own,

view 0015 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

this train turned out to have been used in the city of Montreal! This is probably the most unexpected place to see a metro train from Montreal, and we could only guess why this train was brought here from across the continent and then was just left in the middle of the desert…

view 0016 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We got creative again with photography, so here is a scene of me typically being late and trying to catch the train in the last moment (would the train be more likely to wait, if I were naked?)

naturist 0018 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

… and a bit of goofing around.

naturist mooning 0017 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

No zombies were spotted there, and only later on pictures did I notice that we were actually watched by the devil… However, judging by his mischievous smile, he was happy about the mooning 😀

view 0017 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We continued our walk and were approaching another tunnel. There seemed to have been some construction planned but never finished.

view 0018 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Here, the railroad was at the edge of a very steep slope, and this was clearly a site of an accident…

view 0034 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

After entering through that massive gate,

view 0029 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

we realized that tunnel was quite different from the ones we had seen before. It looked more like a cave.

view tunnel 0035 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

And it actually looked more like on the photo below, as brightness on the one above was adjusted. It was very dark, especially after leaving the bright sunlight, and we could hardly see the light on the other side of the tunnel… I wasn’t entirely sure if there was one at all…

view tunnel cave 0036 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

And of course we didn’t think of bringing torches, when we planned a day hike in the desert… In this cave, if anywhere, zombies would definitely have caught us! We had to rely mostly on the tactile sense in our feet and could only hope not to step on a corpse or bump onto some kind of “walking dead”! This tunnel was half-mile long! Luckily, pretty soon it was evident that there was indeed light on the other side of the tunnel. The only problem with it is that once you pass the middle of the tunnel and there is more light coming from the front than from the back, you practically can only see this light and nothing else around you…  Nevertheless, zombies missed all those wonderful opportunities to get us, and we were outside in the broad daylight again. Only cacti looked like they were gathering for an attack, but they were certainly not walking, and they were certainly not dead 🙂

view 0019 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We didn’t have to wait long for another tunnel, and then yet another right away, but these were much shorter.

view 0037 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

One more weird abandoned/unfinished structure…

naturist 0019 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Leaving the last of those tunnels, we came to a fork on the railroad with an option to either continue the road or enter yet another tunnel…

view 0020 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Although tunnels provided shade and coolness from blazing sun, we picked the open road, as that tunnel on the side looked particularly uninviting…  We were rewarded with a spectacular view,

view 0021 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

but soon had to go through a different tunnel. This one was was very short though, and we could see the goal of our hike right after it!

view 0022 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

I think I forgot to mention that our hike actually had a goal to see “the tallest curved wooden trestle ever built in the world”, the bridge over Goat Canyon. Yeah, it’s quite specific, but how often do you get a chance to hike naked to the biggest something of the world?

view 0023 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Here it was, but we decided to cross it, as the other side seemed to provide a better view. It was quite scary to walk on that grid 60m (200′) above the ground! And frankly, the fear wasn’t unreasonable, as not all of the grid plates looked stable.

view 0025 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We saw a group of bikers who continued their way further (and who were utterly over-dressed for that place in my opinion!)

view 0024 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

For us though, it was the final stop, as we still had to make the way back before sunset.

graffiti 0031 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

It was funny to see those messages on the cargo container: “longest hike of my life… brutal” and “I’ll be back when there’s helicopter service”. I’d have to agree with the one in between, who called the authors of the other two “wimps”. 11km one way is a good exercise, but it was still more of a long stroll than a “brutal” hike!

naturist 0020 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

By that time, we forgot about threat of zombies, but I was a little afraid to look inside that wagon. There was… nothing! A much scarier sight revealed on now the opposite side of the Goat Canyon – a crushed tunnel. It was actually that same side tunnel that we saw at the railroad fork a little earlier… I hope no one was hurt in that disaster.

view 0026 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

But then, from the corner of the Goat Canyon, we could see the bridge in its full glory.

view 0000 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The tallest curved trestle in the world!

view 0027 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Certainly not recommended for people who are afraid of heights… or zombies!

view naturist trestle bridge 0027 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

25 thoughts on ““Rail-trail” at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Southern California

  1. Those abandoned railcars are Pullman Gallery cars manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s. Some are still in use to today. Chicago’s Metra has many of them and sold many to other transit agencies in the USA such as MARC and VRE. VRE has since purchased brand new gallery cars.
    http://www.vre.org/service/cartypes.htm

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    1. thanks for the info! I’d still like to know why those car from Montreal ended up there… probably they were going to be refurbished, but something happened on the way.

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  2. Have stayed there a few times and the nude hiking is great. Have also explored those abandoned commuter rail cars – while nude of course. Have not done this particular hike though.

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  3. I live near there. This is a state park not federal. were you at all worried about negative reaction from other hikers or the park rangers like the problems at San O. Would love to take this hike as well.

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    1. To be honest, I didn’t even think about possible issues, as I assumed nudity was a commonplace there. But perhaps you’re right, I should have been worried about rangers and not zombies! From a few hikers/bikers that we met on the way, we didn’t get any obvious negative reaction. With one of them we were joking whether he was overdressed or we were underdressed.

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  4. Wow, this looked like an amazing adventure, and that bridge, wow, must have been awesome! Such wonderful photos a long the way 🙂

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  5. WOW!! an amazing place/hike; and to enjoy it naked must of been truly an amazing day! big thanks for letting us share your journey with the ZOMBIES!! can’t wait to see what naked adventure you are up to next!

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  6. I love the desert environment and this hike looks like a lot of fun. BUT that trestle bridge would have stopped me dead (zombie like!) in my tracks. Thanks for posting!

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