Wildflower time in the Anza Borrego desert. When do they bloom? That's the big question. When the winter rains and temperatures are just right-how unpredictable is that you say? You are right! There are wildflowers year round in the desert but February and March are usually the right time. Each month has its own blooms. April is the best time for the Palo Verde trees with its yellow blossoms and in June the Smoke Tree is covered with dark blue flowers. If you are like me you have been hearing about Anza-Borrego State Park for years. Borrego Springs is actually a village in a park. No other U.S. community is completely surrounded by a state park. There isn't even a stoplight in town. So road trip and off we go.
There are many ways to get to the area but since I had out of town company with friends to visit in Palm Desert we drove from there on CA-86 turning at Salton City onto S22. Allow at least 90 minutes for the drive. It has been over 40 years (am I dating myself here or what?)since I had seen the Salton Sea,remembering it as basically a mud hole. I was amazed at the size of it-water as far as the eye can see with lush,green agricultural fields beside the highways. Nice to see new Date groves and lush green vines and plants.
When you get close to Borrego Springs you will see an area called the Badlands. Having returned from a trip to the South Dakota Badlands in September I was astounded at how VERY similar in formation and coloration these were. RVs,campers and ATM vehicles were spotted along the washboard ,two lane highway.
There are many accommodations from sleeping under the stars, luxury RV camps, vacation rental homes, rustic campsites, to budget-friendly motels. With the help of the Trip Advisor website we decided to book the Palm Canyon Resort, a resort and RV park with a restaurant on premises, http://www.pcresort.com/, 800-242-0044. Great location, 1/4 mile from the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitors Center, which should be your first stop. We found it to be clean and roomy including a coffeemaker, TV, and refrigerator. On premises there is a pool, jacuzzi, market,laundry,the Bighorn restaurant , and a fitness center. While the restaurant was only open for dinner at this time, there was a varied menu. The Vegetarian entree, asparagus tacos, intrigued us. Peak season will be the next two weekends.
Our breakfast the next day at the Red Ocotillo breakfast served all day beginning at 7am,was more than ample outside by a patio and pool. Service was slow , prices reasonable.
A stop at the Visitors Center which is open 9-5 Thurs.-Mon until 5/31, then weekends only , http://www.parks.ca.gov/, will enlighten you about what the park has to offer including trails, campgrounds, wildlife, and what species are blooming where. There are nice displays about the area and its history spread throughout the building..
Some of the most interesting spots can only be seen using your own four wheel drive vehicle or booking one of the pricey tours operated by California Overland Desert Excursions, http://www.californiaoverland.com/, 760 767 1232. Given our time allotment we chose to trek the 3mile round trip Palm Canyon Trail, where we were assured we found find one of the best blooms. Another factor was the oasis deep in the canyon. Allow at least 2 hours for this hike and bring at least 1/2 gallon of water. It is rated moderate/difficult because of the rocks and bounders to climb over in several parts of the trail. While we had fairly pleasant temps of 85 you should start your hike as the season progresses in the early am and definitely before 9am. While we were not one of the people who have been sighting the Big Horn Sheep daily we were rewarded with a profusion of colorful blossoms including the Red Ocotillo, Desert Lavender, Brown-eyed Primrose, Desert Dandelion, Checker Fiddleneck, Goldenbush, Whispering Bells, Fremont Pincushion and too many others for me to identify, not being a horticulturist.
The oasis at the end beside a babbling brook will be a welcome escape from the heat.
Not a flower lover? There are other points of interest like the Calcite Mine Area, Blair Valley Pictographs and Morteros, Box Canyon/Mormon Battalion Site (part of the Southern Immigrant Trail that even the gold rush 49ers used, and the Narrows Earth Trail where you will walk to one of the Anza-Borrego's earthquake type faults. In addition there are dozens of metal sculptures on privately owned property off of the main roads depicting animals that roamed in the area thousands of years ago. For a map go to www.galletameadows.com. Of course I'm sure the community would love for you to indulge in a little retail therapy also. Don't forget star gazing!!!
We chose to vary our route by leaving town on SR 22 to the 2 to 78 via Julian, Ramona etc. Very nice drive and of course who could leave Julian without a slice of pie (diet or no diet) and bread from Dudley's!!
In my opinion Anza-Borrego is an interesting area ,but two days seemed ample to spend in the area. It is too long of a drive for just half a day . Perhaps if you were a nature/desert enthusiast or an RV/ATM person you would choose to spend more time.