Driving to the desert.
In the morning we explored the park Visitor's Centre that had a great labelled garden, a historic display of the local flora, fauna, geography and geology. A seldom seen blooming Century Plant displayed its glory. I purchased a softcover containing Marshall South's articles and poetry from the excellent bookstore. South was an icon of the desert, living and raising his family in the isolated mountains and desert climate in the 1940's.
The day was extremely hot so beyond short hikes around camp, we spent most of the afternoon keeping cool. We had a great campfire enjoying the universe above us. A comet called "Pannstars" was visible through the binoculars under the moon. We were able to watch it's brilliance and shimmering tail every night during the week we stayed at Anza Borrego.
One morning, I joined a small group for a desert hike on Elephant Tree trails. Our host pointed out many wild desert flowers and cactus blooms. Without the experience of our guide, I would have walked right past many species growing up from the sand and between rocks. Some travellers are lucky to see the desert floor covered with a blanket of multicoloured blooms in the spring desert like the photos that adorn the travel brochures. That phenomenon is rare and depends on the right conditions, especially a large rain fall. Fremont's Pincushion, Brown-eyed Primrose, Wishbone Plant, Desert Star, Brittle bush and blooming Barrel, Beaver tail and Cholla Cactus were just a few beauties that we found.
After our hikes in the extreme heat, we vegged under the stars wearing as little clothing as possible and waited for our body temperatures to return to normal. Dixie too was overheated and craved a wave or two to splash through.
Heading out the next morning, we packed tons of water, donned our "dunk 'n cool" neck bandannas and put our minds to hiking into Palm Canyon. With temperatures in the 90's and little shade, the sand and rock trails were the easy part of our journey. The stone cliffs surrounding us were beautiful as they leaned in layers of ginger, cinnamon and clove; prime examples of the region's geology.
In the centre of the valley, a small river meandered, satisfying the thirst of many small trees, grasses, wildflowers and Bighorn Sheep. The green and orange of the Ocotillo, the bright crimson Chuparosa, the Goldfields yellow daisies and the fragrant soft purple Lavender bushes added welcome bright spots along the sandy trails.
I felt cooler when a group of girls, in full head-to-toe orange uniforms, hard hats and heavy backpacks trekked by. They were a group of fire fighters in training and I'm sure the conditions that scorching day were as hot as being next to a forest fire! We were treated to a sighting of two Bighorn lambs who clambered down from the cliffs, posed for a Kodak moment, then scampered away to Mom. We were only able to see her butt some distance away. The remainder of the day was spent cooling down. At night some crazy winds blew in and their howling and brutal shaking on the motor home had us up at 3am, pulling in all the slides. Dixie had to sleep on our bed and thought the new arrangement was grand!
hair fashioned by the wind
We viewed the Palo Verde Wash with another view of the badlands and where blooming cactus demanded our attention. As we drove east, the Salton Sea was visible in the distance. We stopped at a few look-overs, Coach Whip Canyon, Calcite Mine and South Palm Wash. The evening falling stars, satellites and "our comet" were a treat to see in the cool night sky. Unfortunately we were greeted with the ferocious winds again and earplugs were partially helpful in allowing our tired souls to get some rest.
I mentioned the book by Marshal Smith, a local enigma and hero. He convinced his wife to give up her worldly possessions and move with him to a mountaintop abode. They lived off the land with their three children on Ghost Mountain. Locals visit the few remains of their settlement in homage to the family's spirit and endurance. We hiked the mile long mountain trail in the soft morning light and viewed the rubble of the home entrance, a crude sundial, some bedsprings, an old oven and a reservoir to collect rainwater. It's incredible to think of them hauling their belongings, including wooden beams and cement up the mountainside. They did have a hell-of -a view and nary a concern about neighbours!