Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
via Joshua Tree National Park
February 11-13, 2005

Cucamonga Manroot (a wild cucumber)

On Friday I left Springville at 1:30 pm and headed south to Bakersfield.  I didn't know exactly where I was going to go when I left, all I knew is I was headed to the desert...  but after I got a hold of my mom on her cell phone and she said she and my dad would be able to meet me out in Anza-Borrego, well, that's where I headed.

A belt of rain was moving across southern California that evening but I didn't encounter any rain until I came to Landers, just north of Joshua Tree National Park.  And what a storm it was, it was coming down hard and the highway was flooded in many areas.  I decided that when you're driving across the Mojave Desert in a fierce rain storm the best song to listen to is "Two Step" by the Dave Matthews Band.  Its steady rhythm seemed to match the rhythm of the rain.  Soon enough I made it to Yucca Valley and stopped for some dinner.  I made the decision to drive into Joshua Tree National Park and stay there for the night then continue my trek to Anza-Borrego in the morning.

I saw two jackrabbits that night cross the road as I made my way to Jumbo Rocks Campground.  It was raining lightly when I arrived but the rain let up around 9:00 pm and that was the last of it I saw all weekend.  I slept quite peacefully all night long and woke up before sunrise.  I got dressed and walked to the south end of the campground then out over the desert to take pictures of the sunrise.  There were in fact several sunrises that morning as the sun rose over belts of clouds.  Behind me was a dark front of clouds that contrasted so nicely with the rocks and Joshua trees being lit up with the early morning sun.
Arizona Lupine
On the way back to my campsite I started not feeling so good.  Ugh, stomach bugs are the worst, especially when you're camping.  When I was feeling well enough again I packed up and got back on the road.  I drove to the south end of the park which is lower in elevation and there I saw my first desert wildflowers...  lupine and pincushion in were most profuse!  And their fragrance rose up from the desert floor being warmed by the morning sun; it was so lovely.  That and the cacophany of birds singing that morning, it was a sensory overload! 

I left the park and drove west on I-10 a little ways to Coachella.  This stretch of freeway is beautiful right now - lupine and desert sunflowers carpet the desert on either side.  In Coachella I drove south along the western shore of the Salton Sea and then turned west to head to Anza-Borrego.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in the Lower 48.  It's a huge expanse of mountains and canyons and badlands and this time of year nearly all of it is green!  Well, green interspersed with carpets of yellow, pink, purple, red, blue, and white flowers ;)

My first stop was the visitor center and there I picked up some info and then my stomach started grumbling again.  So I decided to stay in Palm Canyon campground which has flush toilets and showers even.  It was a wise decision, I would've liked to go off and find some remote place to camp but I ended up being sick most of the afternoon :(  But I had a few memorable animal encounters as I was sitting around camp trying to get better.  A roadrunner came up quite close to me and hummingbirds visited the bright red chuparosa flowers near my tent all afternoon.

My parents came around 3:00 pm and we took a short walk around my campsite then took a drive up S-22, a crazy steep road that climbs thousands of feet in just a short time.  We took a few pics then headed to their hotel room which had a kitchenette where we made dinner.  While my parents had tostadas I could only stomach a little bit of applesauce and a few crackers.  But it stayed down, the first food that I'd had all day, so I was happy.  My parents tried to get me to stay in the hotel with them but I thought I'd be okay in my tent so my dad drove me back over to my campsite and we made a small fire and talked for a little bit.  Then he left and I crawled into my tent and was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

In the morning I awoke to coyotes singing and I felt much better, thank goodness, so I ate cream-of-wheat for breakfast and had some tea and then my parents came over.  We geared up for a little hike and off we went up Borrego Palm Canyon. 

Palm Canyon is an absolute jewel of a hike.  My parents and I hiked it once before, about 12 years ago when I was still in high school.  It was fall the last time we went and we saw a herd of bighorn sheep (see last two photos).  No sheep this time but the wildflowers made up for their absence.  I have never seen so many flowers in the desert before.  And there was a lot of water coming down the canyon.  About one and a half miles up there is a palm oasis.  There is a main trail that basically follows the creek but it was largely wiped out in a flood that occured last fall.  There is an alternate trail that follows the rocky hillside and it's tougher but more beautiful.  We went up the main trail and came down the alternate trail.  Walking down the alternate trail was like walking through the most beautiful desert wildflower garden you can imagine.  We saw about 30 different species of wildflowers!  I'm still working on identifying a few but here's the ones I know we saw...

Indigo Bush
Brown-eyed evening primrose
Desert Chicory
Fremont Pincushion
Sand Verbena
Dune evening primrose
Blue Phacelia
Arizona Lupine
Canterbury Bell
Gold Poppy
Rock Daisy
Popcorn Flower
Dune Sunflower
Desert Dandelion
Desert Sunflower
Desert Lavender
Lacy Phacelia
Beavertail Cactus
Bigelow Monkeyflower

There were lots of folks on the main trail but hardly a soul on the alternate trail.  We took our time and very much enjoyed our flower hunting.  Many desert wildflowers are small and they are harder to spot.  But many are showy as were the gold poppies and the brittlebush.  It was a great hike and I'm so glad my parents were able to come with me.  They've never been big hikers but occasionally I've been able to get them out on the trail :)

Around noon we made it back to my campsite and I'm glad we did the hike before then as it was quite warm.  I took down my tent and then we headed into town for lunch.  Then we parted, my parents headed back for San Diego and I headed northwest to my home.
2008 trip to Anza-Borrego
2010 trip to Anza-Borrego
More about Anza-Borrego

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Beavertail Cactus
Chuparosa (the hummingbirds were all over this shrub!)
Indigo Bush
Canterbury Bells
Bigelow Monkeyflower
Desert Chicory
Desert Gold or Desert Sunflower...  Can you see how it's carpeting the desert out towards the cliffs?
Dune Sunflower
Gold poppies and Rock Daisies
Gold poppy and Desert Chicory
Geranium and popcorn flower
Mom and Dad hiking along the alternate trail
Wispy clouds float high overhead the canyon walls
Green canyon walls accented with yellow sunflowers and a sky ever so finely streaked with clouds
Can you see the carpets of purplish pink sand verbena?
Sand verbena and brown-eyed evening primrose
Sand verbena up close, definitely one of my favorites that I saw
Brown-eyed Evening Primrose
Dune Evening Primrose
Fremont Pincushion
Fog in the desert
View looking south from S-22
Peninsular Bighorn Sheep
This photo was taken on our hike up Palm Canyon in 1993 and hand processed and printed by me in high school :)
The waterfall at the oasis, another pic taken in 1993