It's kind of like rediscovering something obvious about an old lover, like a finger or a nose. It was always there, but for some reason you overlooked it. I am talking about walking rather than driving.
Previously when you went to Coyote Canyon, Lower Willows and the Collins Valley, you drove. You drove east from Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs on the S-22 road a couple of blocks to DiGiorgio Road (always good for spotting roadrunners), and turned north up the Borrego Valley. Five miles from Christmas Circle, the blacktop would end and the jeep trail would begin and you would keep right on driving like nothing had ever happened, except maybe to gear down a little if the sand got soft.
But there are some years, and this is one of them, where storm damage becomes a problem. Instead of continuing to drive up the jeep trail, it's a good idea to take another look at how you get from Borrego Valley to Coyote Canyon. The sand in the jeep trail has turned soft, perilously so, and the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park rangers have posted a warning sign.
On busy days, there is even a park ranger standing beside the sweet-smelling citrus groves. His job is to advise motorists of the perils of driving further. Having a four-wheel drive vehicle will help, of course, but as Casey will tell you, even people with four-wheel drive can get stuck. What I make of this is that if your sand-driving skills aren't good and you don't have the equipment for getting out of the sand, it's a good idea to park, even as far south as the end of the blacktop, and walk from there.
Yes, walk. Radical as it sounds, walk. Get out of your car, lace on those boots (you'll want them when you start kicking cactus), protect your skin with some sunscreen and loose, cotton clothing, put on your big hat, strap on your pack with plenty of water and some lunch, and walk. Observe the rules of desert safety, and do not attempt to walk too far in the middle of a hot summer day.
Upper Borrego Valley -- In the Coyote Canyon Landmarks photograph above, note the point where the hillside at left spills down into the valley floor. What the guidebooks (but not the topographic maps) call First Crossing is just south of here. Where the hillside spills down on the right, and is covered with ocotillo and cactus, is the lovely area called Desert Gardens, another landmark and a favorite of day hikers. All of this is an easy walk from the end of DiGiorgio Road.
First Crossing -- After the jeep trail winds through Desert Gardens, it makes a sharp turn to the left downhill to First Crossing. If it's been raining in the mountains, the creek waters may flow this far, but most of the time it's just a dry creek bed. After you cross it, you see signs for a dirt road leading south to the Vern Whitaker Horse Camp. If you are out for just a part-of-the-day hike, you will probably want to turn back to your car here. If you venture up the valley beyond First Crossing, be sure to carry some lunch and plenty of water. You might want a backpack so you can spend the night.
Ocotillo Flat -- For the more ambitious, you can continue walking to Ocotillo Flat, an area of ocotillo, cholla, cactus wrens, chuckwallas, and other desert plants and animals. It stretches between Coyote Creek and the low mountains to the north and east and from First Crossing almost to Third Crossing.
Collins Valley -- If you are a backpacker, you can walk on to Collins Valley, for which I recommend (in the interest of keeping your feet dry) following the jeep trail to Second Crossing, and then continuing to Third Crossing without crossing Coyote Creek. Or, you can walk to Lower Willows (for some of the park's best birding) or to Box Canyon, in which case I suggest you make your way through Ocotillo Flat, keeping east and north of Coyote Creek.
Note: In case you hadn't heard, the jeep trail through the Upper Borrego Valley to Coyote Canyon is exceptionally sandy. Driving the road in a conventional vehicle is not advisable, especially if you are unskilled at desert driving. Not only that but the bypass road linking Lower Willows and the Collins Valley is all but impassable unless you walk. This road, which is closed to vehicles from June to September every year to allow sheep unrestricted access to creek water.