First Winter Away - 2005 travel blog

the desert in bloom







You've never heard of Anza-Borrego? Neither had we until we came here. It's the largest state park in the lower 49 and located about two hours from San Diego; first hour expressway and second hour twisty, windy, car sicky, mountain driving. The park is an odd doughnut shape; 600,000 acres surrounding a town called Borrego Springs. The town is in a huge valley surrounded by mountains on all side. Typical summer temperatures: high 107, low 76.

We became intrigued by breathlessly enthusiastic commentary on the local TV stations about seeing wild flowers in this park. Anza-Borrego is noted for wild flower viewing every spring. People can even register their address and the park will send you a post card telling you the prime viewing time. With the record setting rains California has had this winter, locals say that the viewing has never been so good.

When we left our campground the fog was thick and continued to be soupy and drizzly until we had driven up to 2,500 feet and crested a mountain near the town of Alpine. We wondered if the weather forecasters had gotten it wrong again, but put our doubts away when the sun broke through and the thermometer began to climb right along with our truck.

To visit the park we started in Borrego Springs and took drives radiating up into the canyons. Every 500 feet of elevation change brought a different view with different flowers. We were both done in by the Jumping Cholla. These cactus have spines about half an inch long with a fish hook shape at the working end. They grow knee high and look like a collection of furry balls stacked on top of each other. The balls break loose and catch on to passing animals and photographers and begin to grow once they fall on the ground. As I flipped one off of my shoe it got stuck on my thumb. I couldn't pull if off or the fish hooks would have gotten stuck on my other fingers. I used a fork left over from lunch to get the main ball off and pulled the spines out one by one. Each hook was in deep enough to cause my skin to pooch as I pulled it out and soon my thumb was bleeding enthusiastically. A small prize to pay for a great photo day.

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