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Trip report, Corn Spring, California (BLM Land)

Summer 2005

Corn Spring is on land under the control of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which is to say, it's the public's land.

The spring is also out of the way, and sunny. In short, ideal conditions for nude use. For the GPS crowd, try Lat. 33 37 34, Lo. -115 19 30 -- I don't own a GPS, but the place happens to be on the edge of a mapsheet, which makes the measuring a bit easier. For the topographically challenged, it's off Interstate 10, about 28 miles west of the California-Arizona border, and about ten miles east of Desert Center, California. Take the marked exit, turn left at the truck parking lot, and go east until you see a standard street sign labelled "Corn Spring Road". It's a dirt road. The BLM claims that only a four-wheeler should try it, but any two-wheel drive auto can make it. About eight miles in is Corn Spring, tucked in behind the mountain. You can't get lost; it's the *only* road in.

Corn Spring Road

It's desert terrain, specifically, "Colorado (River) Desert", or "western Sonoran Desert", or "Yuha Desert", depending on which geologist, biologist, or other scientist you listen to. Translation: It's hot and dry. Bring plenty of water -- the Spring might be dry, at times, too. My personal rule is a gallon per person, per day.

Corn Spring was part of the old trail system to the California Coast, well before highways and autos. Unlike today's freeways, one couldn't simply drive up the middle of the desert. One had to have water. Water is found tucked in various spots (washes) at the base of the mountains, so the trails tended to follow the water holes. The BLM maintains a campsite at the spring. The overnight fee, on the honor system, is currently $3 per day, well worth the price.

There are about twelve primitive sites, each with a firepit and a concrete picnic bench, plus outhouse-type toilets, and the (hand) water pump over the spring site. Several foot and bike trails radiate out from this campsite, some pass by old native petroglyphs. (Petroglyphs -- ancient etchings on the rocks. Basically, take another rock, and scrape off the algae which color the old granite sort of reddish, and keep scraping until the rock is scraped white. It will take centuries for the algae to cover it over again, since it has to wait for sufficient rainfall.) There are various theories assigned to the petroglyphs, most of them associating the drawings with some sort of religious vision or other.

I have two theories of my own, since it's essentially a guessing game: The petroglyphs invariably involve game and the hunting of it, they might have simply been advertisements for what was available in the local area at the time. The other is more cynical -- graffitti. "Crawling tortise was here/Kilroy was here". Teenagers are teenagers, no matter what the generation.

In any event, the place sees sparse usage. Most modern folks would never think of wandering away from the Interstate. The site's guestbook indicates that an average of three visitors per month sign in. For nude campers or hikers, it's excellent. I've used it as a stop-over on trips between California and Florida, mostly because it's an excuse to sleep under the stars. At night, it's a view that simply cannot be seen in the eastern half of the U.S. (nor Canada, Jan!) The desert sunrise can't be beat, either.

The only bad part? Having to go back to civilization.

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