borrego springs / salton sea / mount laguna

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Getting around to Part 2 of our little weekend trip out to the desert! You can refresh your memory with Borrego Springs Part 1 over here, if you’d like to. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

After grabbing lunch, visiting “The Mall” and checking into our hotel, Jake and I decided to drive out to visit the Salton Sea. Neither of us had ever been and we were curious what it was like. It’s about a half hour drive away from Borrego Springs, down a winding two lane road in the desert.

welcome-to-salton-sea-sign

Once we came out of SR-22, we saw an AM PM, another road that led you out to Indio and the other desert cities, and across the way we saw this aging sign.

Driving around in Salton City there wasn’t much to see. There were lots of little roads with many plots of land and power lines crisscrossing over the dry land. You’d see a house here and there and obviously it was set up for further development. Following Google Maps I tried to lead us to a harbor area… only to find this.

dry-bed-salton-sea

A completely dried up inlet. That bank you can sort of see in the distance is about where the water starts.

dead-fish-at-salton-sea

There were tons of dried out, dead fish skeletons.

dry-dock-old-boat-salton-sea

This was a dried up dock in the back of someone’s yard with an old rusting office chair left to endure the elements.

We started to walk further down and almost walked out to the actual sea, but the smell overwhelmed us and made us draw back. Also, when we started to walk on that cracked surface, the land felt incredibly soft and squishy. It made me nervous to walk on it and after Jake took a few steps on it, he refused to go any further as well. The kids were not impressed, either, considering S wanted us to turn the car around before we even got to Salton City.

birds-low-over-salton-sea

I used my fancy zoom to catch this shot of the sea from far away. That’s about as close as we were going to get. After one visit, Jake and I decided that we never needed to return to the Salton Sea. The dead fish smell was too much to bear and the area is pretty depressing to go through. We headed back to Borrego Springs for the rest of our evening in the desert.

desert-sunset-borrego-springs

As we drove back to Borrego Springs, I caught this photo of the sun setting in the distance. The desert has it’s own beauty that I started to appreciate more with this trip. I liked the quietness. The stillness. It felt peaceful and unhurried.

We spent the rest of the evening going to the pool, eating a not so great meal at the hotel, and then ended the evening by going star gazing. The sheer number of stars that you can see out here is astounding. Borrego Springs a certified Dark Sky Community  which means the community as a whole works to create less light pollution to protect the dark sky. This makes Borrego Springs a wonderful spot for star gazing. While all we did was sit out and look up at the sky (I forgot to bring our telescope), we managed to see about 10-15 meteorites and simply enjoyed the show of the beautiful, dark, star filled sky. I loved it!

The next day we visited some cool metal sculptures that are found all over town in Borrego Springs:

sloths-borrego-springs-sculptures

baby-elephant-borrego-springs-sculptures

serpent-borrego-springs

serpent-almost-got-me

The serpent was my favorite of the bunch (I took a bunch more photos but figured this was enough to get the point across). This serpent actually spanned all the way across the road, with it’s tail on the other side.

We drove through Julian on the way out and steered towards Mount Laguna for lunch. I wasn’t really happy with any of the food we had in Borrego Springs, and if we stay out that way again, I’d definitely bring and make all of my own food.

pine-house-cafe-tavern-mount-laguna

pine-nuts-coffee-house

This is right when you step into the Pine House Cafe. There’s a little area in the front that sells coffee and other little goods, though it didn’t really seem to be open at the time.

laguna-not-julian

tree-inside-pine-house-cafe

There’s a part of a tree inside the cafe. Very cool.

pine-house-cafe-tavern-menu-1

I was hoping we could make it here for breakfast… but no such luck. Only lunch!

corn-chowder-bowl-homemade-bread-pine-house-cafe

[bowl of corn chowder with homemade bread / $6]

A decided to order the soup of the day, which was a corn chowder made with bacon, as her meal.

bacon-corn-chowder-closeup

Jake and I ended up both adding cups of soup to our meal for an extra $2.50. I wish I had followed A’s lead and only ordered soup because it was very tasty. The broth was hearty and it tasted homemade with chunks of veggies, bits of bacon, and plenty of corn (not that you can tell from this photo, eh). The bread was also really yummy – it tasted like a soft wheat bread and it was griddled/toasted giving it a little bit of crunch.

skin-on-fries

[basket of french fries / $3.50]

S wasn’t feeling that hungry that day, he had started to get car sickness and was only interested in eating french fries. The fries were housemade – each fry seemed to have a slightly different cut to it with the skin still on the ends. These were cooked nicely – double fried and crisp.

blackened-burger-pine-house-cafe

[blackened burger / $9.50]

Jake went with the Blackened Burger which is covered in blackening seasonings and then cooked in a cast iron skillet. He got pepper jack cheese on top. The bun was toasted and the patty was a little overcooked but not too bad. I know that it tasted better than what I ordered below…

bbq-chicken-sandwich-pine-house-cafe

[bbq chicken sandwich / $8]

I had had a disappointing burger the night before at the hotel and wasn’t interested in another burger. A pulled chicken sandwich sounded good to me. They use roast chicken for the sandwich which is mixed in their housemade sauce. The sauce was incredibly tangy to me and the sourness from the coleslaw didn’t do it any favors in my book, either. It just tasted like a sour on sour mess to me with a soggy bottom bun. I was pretty unhappy eating this and Jake could tell since he offered to switch food with me. He thought it tasted fine and didn’t mind it but the flavors were too sharp for my poor little tastebuds.

peach-cobbler

[peach cobbler / $5]

I forgot the kids don’t really like fruit all that much (what) and decided to spring for the peach cobbler. It was homemade and they gave an okay sized portion for five bucks. It has pecans in it, too, and kinda of looked like a dried fruit bar. The fruit is simmered in brandy and it has a pecan crumble on top. I liked the crumble part but wasn’t too into the flavor of the peaches with the brandy. Maybe if it had been a different fruit I’d have been more into it, but I thought it was just okay.

I have a feeling breakfast might be the better time to visit Pine House Cafe. It definitely seemed like a cozy spot and I could see it being full of patrons in the winter, hanging out in front of their large fireplace.

Pine House Cafe & Tavern
9849 Sunrise Hwy
Mount Laguna, CA 91948
619-473-8857

I love our little weekend trips and I hope we get to do more of them – maybe more desert exploring will be in store for us in the future!

Author: Mary

Mary is a San Diego native and has been a food blogger for 11+ years. She is an avid reader, a lover of puppies, and loves trying new food. Foods she loves: sweets, peanut butter, pasta, Triscuit crackers with cream cheese, and extra nuts on top of her sundaes. Food she dislikes: pickles, really spicy food, runny eggs, olives, and too much arugula.

5 Replies to “borrego springs / salton sea / mount laguna

  1. I’ve always wanted to go to the Salton Sea – I’ve seen cool documentaries about the history – but the bf has been and said the same thing: it smells really bad and he would probably never go there again. Haha.

    1. Hi J.S.! I actually think it’s cool to go once… but yeah… once is kind of enough. I wish we had driven around it some more but it was getting dark, but I don’t really feel the need to ever go again, haha.

  2. We just got back from a week-long vacation ourselves and now I’m tempted to post fun travel pictures since yours look so cool. I love the dragons in the sand! And maybe one day we’ll actually catch a pretty sunset (we keep forgetting about stuff like that). Too bad about lunch in MOUNT LAGUNA though. haha, that sign.

    1. Hi Lynn! You should do some travel posts! It’s hard to pare down your whole vacation though. You might just want to do a few posts. Sometimes it’s too much to talk about the whole trip. Where did you guys go?! We’re hoping to go to Portland in December.

      I loved that Mount Laguna sign hahaha. I guess they’re a touchy about that. 🙂

  3. We were at Borrego Springs in January 09 and really liked the place. The Borrego Valley Inn where we stayed was quiet, very comfortable, and different and we enjoyed it. The Salton Sea was a let down. Certainly a run down area of failed development and not at all attractive. I don’t know if the ‘sea’ is shrinking, but from recent comments here it looks as though the fauna has taken a hit in recent years. Certainly, one visit was enough (even for a zoologist) but it didn’t produce a noticeable smell at that time of year. When we left Borrego Springs we climbed out to Julian where it was snowing (the Valley was about 70 F) and it reminded me of the weather in the UK! We didn’t linger in Julian either, but travelled further, en route to San Diego.

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