Women’s Wilderness Backpack Adventure

12/06/2012 - 5:00pm
12/09/2012 - 5:00pm
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Leaders: Janene Colby & Nancy Wittig
$160 / $140 for ABF members

Inspired by the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed, this 3-day, women-only adventure will take you into the wilds of the Anza-Borrego Desert. For beginners, the trip will be an introduction to desert backpacking. For the more practiced outdoorswomen, enjoy a fun group experience in a seldom-visited area of the park. The trip will include 2 nights of backcountry camping and up to 7 miles of moderate hiking per day

The women's weekend is designed to be a fun and relaxed backpack trip that will include a mix of backpacking and day-hiking. Get to know some new ladies as you explore and camp in a beautiful area of the park.

Trip guides will provide water filters, camping stoves, and cooking pans for group use. Participants must provide their own meals and all other equipment.

Day 1 – Thursday, December 6
Meet at 5:00 pm at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center for a pre-trip orientation.

Your trip begins today at ABDSP Visitor Center in Borrego Springs. Meet your guides and the other group members for a rundown of the trip itinerary, review of the gear list to ensure everyone is prepared for the excursion, and packing. Dinner is on your own this evening. Borrego Springs has a variety of good places to eat. Join the trip guides for dinner in town if you would like some time to get to know each other. Tonight’s dinner and lodging are not included in your trip cost.

Day 2 – Friday, December 7
Meet in the back parking lot of ABDSP Visitor Center at 7:00 am for carpooling. From there we will drive to our starting point at Coyote Canyon’s third crossing. The first leg of our backpack will take us through Lower Willows, one of Anza-Borrego’s richest riparian habitats. We will hike on a trail that winds its way along Coyote Creek and passes through a dense stand of willows, cottonwood trees, and California fan palms.

After about 2 miles, the willows give way to the broad expanse of Collins Valley ringed by desert peaks. At this point we will leave the trail behind and travel cross-country as we continue to follow Coyote Creek northward. Depending on the time and our pace, we will continue another 2 to 3 miles before finding a spot along the creek to set camp for the night where we can relax and enjoy watching the sunset over the San Ysidro Mountains.

Hiking: 4 to 5 miles, 270 - 340 ft elevation gain

Day 3 – Saturday, December 8
At breakfast, we will pull out the maps and make a group decision on either an easy, moderate, or strenuous day hike.

Easy Option: An easy hike would entail hiking 2 miles up to the lower end of Middle Willows where we can relax by the creek or spend some time exploring this beautiful riparian area.

Moderate Option: A moderate hike would take us up through the dense willow stands of Middle Willows to the upper end where we will have lunch and then return the way we came back to our base camp.

Strenuous Option: The moderate hike could be turned into a strenuous loop route by continuing up into Yucca Valley were we would hike through stands of Mojave yucca to a point overlooking Salvador Canyon. From here we carefully pick our way down the slope, hike up to the first Palm Grove, and then hike out the mouth of the canyon along a jeep trail and back to our campsite along Coyote Creek.

Hiking: 4 – 7 miles, 230 – 800 ft elevation gain

Day 4 – Sunday, December 9
After breakfast, we will break camp and backpack out along the creek to Lower Willows and our vehicles.

Hiking: 4 to 5 miles, 270 - 340 ft elevation loss

Backpacking Gear Rental
If you need to rent gear for the trip (i.e. backpack, tent, sleeping bag, etc.), there are a few retailers in southern California that rent equipment:

Adventure 16
A16 rents tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags and pads. There are five store locations: San Diego, Oceanside, Solana Beach, West LA, and Tarzana.

Most REI locations in southern California rent tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags and pads. There are about ten store locations in the San Diego and LA areas.

Note on Itinerary
Backpack location may change depending on water availability. Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule listed above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control.

Price Includes
Professional guides; group first aid kit; water filters, camping stoves and cook pans. A detailed packing list and menu/meal ideas for the trip will be sent upon registration.

Not Included
Transportation to group meeting point; insurance of any kind; backpacking gear; all meals; alcoholic beverages; first night accommodations; guide gratuities and items of a personal nature.

The hiking level for this trip is moderately strenuous. Participants will be carrying their own backpacks weighing 35-40 pounds distances of 5-7 miles daily over varied terrain. To maximize your enjoyment of the trip, we strongly encourage participants to be involved in a training regimen beginning at least a month before the trip. Most important to your enjoyment of the trip is your overall fitness level.

Daytime temperatures usually range between 70 – 80 degrees but can sometimes climb even higher. Evening temperatures range between 45 – 55 degrees or even lower. While rain in general is rare, there is always the possibility of rain, so adequate raingear is important, even in this arid landscape. The trip is rain or shine, as long as road access into Coyote Canyon is feasible.

About the Guides

Janene Colby has a passion for working and playing in wild places. She works as a wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game. Her job requires carrying heavy packs and hiking long distances through rugged terrain as she monitors the endangered peninsular bighorn sheep in and around Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. She is a highly skilled mountain and desert backpacker with present and past field jobs that have taken her into the most remote areas of the western US to survey species as diverse as grizzly bears in Glacier, amphibians in Yellowstone, and Mexican spotted owls in Arizona’s Mogollon Rim.


Nancy Wittig is a retired ranger who spent 25 years working for state parks. Nancy worked in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for nine years, eight of which she spent as the patrol ranger in Coyote Canyon. She also worked at Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area for more than 9 years, where she was able to put her EMT training to the test. Prior to becoming a ranger, Nancy worked as a veterinarian technician in an emergency animal hospital. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience about the park and especially Coyote Canyon, where we will be backpacking. Nancy is a true ranger—she loves the wildlife and the desert environment in which she worked and enjoyed helping and educating park visitors about the park and the wonderful resources it holds.