The desert is waking from her deep winter slumber, the time of year when Mother Nature playfully splashes every color in her palette across the barren landscape. Winter is not quite ready to relinquish her hold, as cold winds and rain still find their way down the mountains, scuttling across the desert floor of Anza Borrego State Park. But spring is gaining ground and the colors, textures and smells of the desert are wonderful!
We would find it shameful if we did not experience Anza’s wildflowers, given we are just an hour away from California’s largest state park. Actually they are just now beginning to burst open from their underground rest, so the next few weeks should prove to be quite spectacular.
Just a few of the wildflowers making their colorful debut:
We had only a few days to spend so we wasted no time in setting up camp near Coyote Mountain, at Clark’s Dry Lake, one of the more popular boondocking spots in Anza Borrego. We ventured down Rockhouse Road until we found a spot away from everyone else, with nothing to break the silence except the howling wind and coyotes late at night. Once settled we headed over to the trailhead for our first hike.
Anza Borrego is known as one of the hottest and driest deserts in the U.S., so it might be surprising to learn that there is a place where palm trees, sycamores, and cottonwoods flourish. And if you are persistent, don’t mind a bit of boulder-hopping and bushwhacking, and listen intently, you might stumble upon the tiny cascading waterfall known as Maidenhair Falls, for the lush ferns and moss lining the canyon wall. Welcome to Hellhole Canyon, a 5-mile trail out-and-back that keeps you on your toes as you try to determine which way the trail went, as it has a tendency to disappear within the vegetation-choked canyon floor.
Beyond the tantalizing images of the desert awash with color, we were looking forward to our visit with the birders Raven and Chickadee, better known as Eric and Laurel. One of the perks of following other RV bloggers is finding out who is circling in the area. These two little birdies were not only circling but they had landed and we feel grateful to have spent two fun-filled days with them and their Ashland friends. And, of course, another hike was on the agenda, this time an afternoon trek into Palm Canyon in search of the bighorn sheep.
Palm Canyon was once the most beautiful and lushest of the 25 palm canyons within Anza Borrego but a freak summer thunderstorm in 2004 brought a 20-foot wall of water rushing down the canyon, carrying with it hundreds of uprooted fan palm trees. These displaced palms, carried along by a massive mudflow, hit the state park campground, causing considerable damage and what some have dubbed a “thousand-year flash flood”. This 3-mile out-and-back trail is still quite lovely, despite what she has endured. We did not find the elusive bighorn sheep on our hike but when we returned to camp the Ashland crowd who stayed behind had seen them on the ridge above the campground…bummer for the hikers!
Although our time at Anza Borrego was short, our days and nights were packed with interesting conversation, lovely hikes, great food and drink, and entertainment. It seems this Ashland bunch are very talented. We can’t thank them enough for including us in their intimate group. We had a blast and look forward to meeting up with them again later this summer. :)