Desert View Tower & Mexican Border


After coming out the bottom end of Anza Borrego State Park, I hopped onto Interstate 8 for the drive west to San Diego.  I had no idea that I’d be passing through a dramatic mountain region, or that I-8 would make such a big climb into the mountains.  All those videos I’d seen of illegal immigrants running towards the border showed a wide, flat desert.  This was quite different.

West of Ocotillo, Interstate 8’s east and westbound lanes split apart, as they tangle with rocks and hills.  Before I knew it, I was flooring the gas just to keep up my speed as the rental car chugged towards the top of the hill, where a reward awaited:

Desert View Tower has held a perch over Interstate 8 since long before Interstate 8 existed.  It was built in the 1920’s, and has undergone various waves of success and hard times since then.  I had arrived too late in the day to pay my $2 admission fee, and climb to the top of the tower…

… but I can’t imagine the view towards the northeast could be much better at the top.

According to the excellent site,, your admission to Desert View Tower also gives you access to Boulder Park, a field of rounded rocks, passageways, and sculptures behind the tower, that your kids will love. 

If you’re westbound, you’ll see Desert View Tower as you climb the hill.  After that, it’s pretty obvious how to get there: take the In Ko Pah Road exit (77), then head northeast to the end of the bumpy, ancient road.

Instead of hopping back onto Interstate 8, I decided to spend the final few minutes of daylight staring into a different country.  Old Highway 80 heads south from the In Ko Pah exit…

… for a very close encounter with the international border.  The picture is a bit grainy, since it was so dark, but you can see the fence that separates the US from Mexico, as well as a couple of Border Patrol vehicles parked on the road that runs alongside the fence.

It’s a strange feeling to know you’re looking at a place you can’t go, or at least, probably shouldn’t go.  Even though I was within a stone’s throw of the international border twice on this trip, I didn’t cross.  Increased violence on the border made me unenthusiastic about a visit to Mexico.

After passing through the tiny town of Jacumba, Old Highway 80 swings north again, and crosses California Route 94.  If it had been earlier in the day, or not as rainy, I would have followed 94 all the way to San Diego.  Weather and darkness, however, changed my priorities, and I opted to drive on to the city (through a rain deluge much of the way).

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