Sunday, 31 March 2013

Anza Borrego Desert State Park

At the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, a flat dry lake basin stretches out for miles. A few grasses and cactus have taken hold. We found a spot on the packed sand and gravel to set up the Motor home at a good distance from the few other RVs scattered among the dusty roads. We relaxed in the late afternoon watching the clouds creating a spectacular shadow-show across the rocky range. After dark, under the constellations, we watched the hint of a glow as a sliver of new moon glided behind the mountains.
                                                                                           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.

Chris hiked up into the Rosa Mountains with a Geology specialist. Viewing the Luit Fault, the trekkers were able to view the Salton Sea and Mexico in the distance. Personal travel stories and lore of the first peoples enriched the experience for everyone.

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.

We spotted a snake but it was too hidden to identify. They are beginning to come out of their winter hideouts. A colourful Chuck walla lizard, the size of a squirrel, scrambled across some rocks as in a disco dance. Many small brownish-pink lizards sporting blue tails, darted between the rocks. Bees are plentiful around the flowering bushes and we saw a huge black variety as large as prunes. I had to take a shade break to cool my jets and Chris carried on to trail's end where an oasis of water and palms created a cool refuge.

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!
We spent the next day at camp, hot and weary from lack of sleep. Dixie is very unhappy with the heat and lies under the RV in the shade while I work on my art and Chris reads and researches on his Iphone. The crazy winds picked up just after dinner and we could not enjoy a fire or hang outside with the nasty blowing sand. Geesh, how did those cowboys survive? The mighty gusts stopped abruptly at 9am.
hair fashioned by the wind
In 94o temperatures, we decided to give Dixie a break and take her for an air conditioned drive. She chilled in the car as we drove across the bumpy, sandy roads to Fonts Point. A short walk fro the car was a magnificent view over the Borrego Badlands, reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. Swallows flew to and from their cliff side dwellings. We stopped for a tailgate picnic lunch and spoiled Dixie with a few crusts.

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. 
We began our next day with a stop at the town of Borrego-Springs "Christmas Circle" where a first-rate Art Show was underway. Local talent showed photography, pottery, metal sculpture, textiles, jewelry and painting. Dixie paid no attention to the creative displays but enjoyed dipping her toes deep into the cool emerald grass and asked if we could move the RV there, pleeeeease!
Following the winding mountain roads, we travelled up in elevation to 4000 feet where we were greeted by refreshing cool temperatures and pale sunlight bouncing off spring blossoms. We trod the town walking-tour of Julian, a former mining town whose residents now seem obsessed with a penchant for pie. There are at least five shops that serve pie by the slice or send fresh-baked classics away with customers. We snagged a cherry pie whose flaky crust and sour fruit filling gratified over a number of days. A barbecue lunch accompanied by a town micro brew was enjoyed in the great surroundings of an old saloon.
We drove out to a small lake to allow Dixie a swim but being California, we were told that humans and animals were not allowed to enter the water for the sake of ecological balance. Interesting that motor boats were allowed nonetheless. The Pinyon Mountains bore enchanting shadows as we wound down the arching roads back to our hot desert camp. The screaming winds did not let us down and shook our home all night once again.
The next day I waited for Dixie to complete her "morning constitution" while Chris lay in and suddenly the entire RV started to shake and rumble. I wondered what the heck Chris was doing inside!? As Dixie and I returned, Chris asked "did you feel the earthquake?" Quakes are common in these fault-lined regions but this one really packed a punch and news- folk and bloggers were all commenting on the millisecond second shake up.

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!
                                                                   little white rectangle at 4 'oclock is our car
                                                                                                    bum rock
                                                                                               what time is it?
Around the town of Anza Borrego are a number of rusted metal sculptures set into the fields and meadows. The larger than life-sized monuments were created by artist Ricardo Breceda with scrap metal and wire as commissioned by Dennis Avery. He depicts some of the extinct animals of the region as well as farmers, livestock, insects and fantasy creatures. We drove about discovering and photographing the statues. As you can see in the photo, Dixie got to know some up close and personal! Surrounding the fields were many citrus orchards that hung with a few of last year's lemons and oranges and whose fresh blossoms pumped whiffs of heaven-scent into the air. On our return to CC, we packed up and made ready for one more onslaught of high winds. The next morning we were heading to Wickenburg, Arizona.

                                                                             the ultimate desert-proof RV