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HAM It Up! Borrego Fest Adventures in the Desert HAM It Up! Borrego Fest Adventures in the Desert
HAM RADIO OPERATORS TAKE ON THE DESERT BORREGO FEST WITH OUTDOOR ADVENTURE USA Special to ModernJeeper by Tom Severin and Dave Kupfer (Outdoor Adventures... HAM It Up! Borrego Fest Adventures in the Desert


Special to ModernJeeper by Tom Severin and Dave Kupfer (Outdoor Adventures USA, LLC)

In 2006, a group of 4-wheelers, who had been exploring some of the most remote locations in the American South West, realized the depth of trouble they would face should an emergency arise when camped a long distance from civilization. It became painfully evident that CB radios were worthless as were cell phones. That’s when the light bulb moment occurred, and Ham radio became an integral part of our gear.

Two years later, with Ham Radio licenses in hand, Outdoor Adventure USA, LLC (OAUSA) was formed. Like us, we knew there were a lot of other outback explorers who enjoyed the great outdoors, and it only made sense to use OAUSA as a means of promoting responsible enjoyment, as well as Ham Radio, (click this link for a more in depth explanation of OAUSA:

Fun for the whole family…

The Carrizo Badlands view is worth the trip!

In the decade (plus) of OAUSA, we have come to realize that we needed to pass on our appreciation of the natural beauty of the USA. That is why we make each of our events a family friendly affair, and why we strive to create each event with something for just about everyone, including members of the family.

Our Borrego Fest event always takes place just outside the Anza Borrego Desert State Park, the largest one in California. This is a family event which includes camping, both 2WD and 4WD trail runs, ham radio testing, a potluck dinner, and wine tasting. You can also find Ham Radio demonstrations, hiking, and for those so inclined, an opportunity to simply relax, surrounded by the beauty of the desert.

Borrego Fest is held at the Stagecoach Trails Campground, literally across the street from the Anza Borrego Desert State Park, (see: .) We settled on this location for a few very important reasons. First, and probably most important, is the fact that is accessible by all vehicles, making it possible for everyone to make it to the event (not just 4-wheelers.) Second, and arguably of equal importance for many, is the full range of facilities available at the camp, including hot water showers, a pool, a fully stocked general store, great campsites, full hookups, hiking trails, activities, and very well-maintained restrooms. All these reasons are why Borrego Fest attracts everyone from hard core 4 WD enthusiasts to families looking for a relaxing weekend in a spectacularly scenic location.

Sundry group of vehicles and living arrangements at the Camp


Four-wheel drive fun…

Great trails abound near the Stage Coach Trails Campground. In the Anza Borrego Desert State Park alone there are close to 600 miles of such trails, some of which are very challenging. The surrounding areas offer a great many more 4WD opportunities. This year we offered two “off road ” runs, with trip reports available here:

On the way to Carrizo Mountain to see the Badlands.


Julian Mine Run…

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is located just east of the town of Julian. The town itself sprang to life shortly after the discovery of gold in the late 1870’s, and unlike many boom towns, Julian still exists today, but as a very popular mountain destination, retaining much of its early history and appearance.  Remnants of many of the early mines still exist today, with some in quite good condition.

I’ll Keep watch outside. Call me on the ham radio if you need help!


The mines we explored were accessible on dirt trails, through several canyons, all of which held sufficiently large quantities of gold to create the boom. The resulting mines included three of the top eight mines of the “Julian boom.” Viewing the remnants of these operations, was a fascinating trip through history.

How did they get this up here in the 1800’s?


Carrizo Mtn. and Mortero Wash Run

This trail travels through Painted Gorge, which gets its name from the colored sections of sandstone blocks within the canyon. Metallic oxides and sulfides have introduced red, blue, and green staining to parts of the narrow gorge. Fossilized remains of marine life can also be found in this area.

At the end of the trail, Carrizo Mountain sits high above the colorful shapes of the Carrizo Badlands at the edge of the Coyote Mountains and offers rewarding views over Carrizo Wash. In the late 1850’s, Butterfield Overland stagecoaches traveled along the wash far below, carrying mail and passengers on a difficult route from St. Louis to San Francisco.

The trails on Carrizo Mountain were constructed for mining, and there are many to explore. There also are some good back country campsites, most of which have excellent views. The route lead through a network of trails to a viewpoint near the summit of Carrizo Mountain. From there, it was only a short hike to the summit to take in the impressive views of the surrounding areas.

HAM radio communications…

During all three days of Borrego Fest we had several ham radio operators maintaining an Amateur Radio “shack” in the desert, in camp. In addition to several High Frequency (HF) bands, their setup served as communication central for all of the runs on Saturday and a 2-meter call-in station for those in need of help finding camp.

When disaster calls, ham radio answers!

Tell me again how to get to camp!

Also, our radio operators, and any guests, participated in the California QSO Party under the special club call sign of W6O. The California QSO event has been an ongoing competition since 1966 and is held every year on the first weekend of October. Stations outside of California and worldwide make contacts only with stations in California, with points being awarded in several categories.

Amateur radio testing…

We offered Amateur Radio testing at Borrego Fest for all levels of licensing. We held it Sunday morning and 2 individuals passed their first ticket or upgraded a level.

You can tell a HAM gathering by the tall antenna


Chow time rocks…

One of the highlights of Borrego Fest has been the Saturday night potluck dinner. This is due in part to the huge turnout for the event, and the equally large number of people who volunteer to bring a variety of dishes.

Perfectly done roast beef in the Dutch Oven


How about a Dutch-oven quad chocolate cake!


In addition to the potluck, wine tasting has become a popular part of the Saturday night festivities. Appetizer/wine tasting started around 4:00 pm and the potluck was served about around 6:30.  It was a great night (and trip) for all.

Before the official wine tasting started.


Tom Severin

Tom Severin is an International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers Association© certified professional 4WD Trainer and a Wilderness First Responder (WFR), and President, Badlands Off Road Adventures.

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