Nature’s History Lesson ~ Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA

Carrizo Badlands
Carrizo Badlands

After an afternoon visit recently with friends Pam and John of Oh, The Places They Go, we decided hiking was in order, as they planned to spend time in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, just an hour away from where we are staying.

Anza Borrego is the largest desert park in America and California’s largest state park, a whopping 600,000+ acres.  It takes its name from the 18th-century Spanish explorer Juan Batista de Anza and borrego, Spanish word for bighorn sheep, of which there are between 250-300 in the park.  More than 500 miles of roads snake through the park, and 110 miles of hiking trails assure nature lovers ample opportunity to get their desert fix.

Pam and John decided on three combined short hikes in Blair Valley, familiar trails for them.  Our day was to be one of interesting finds, a day to revisit history.  The first leg of our hike was up Ghost Mountain to see the remains of Yaquitepec, the primitive, mountaintop home of poet, author, and artist Marshal South and family. For 17 years, Marshal, wife Tanya, and their three children lived a life of simplicity and isolation on the top of Ghost Mountain, a difficult life for even the hardiest of souls.  The rusted reflections of their time here are evidenced by the still-standing doorframe, dilapidated bed frame, and rain storage barrels.  For me, the 360º panorama from the mesa top was the best part of the hike.

From here we headed over to a trail where pictographs could be found, then into Smuggler’s Canyon, where a dry waterfall marks the end of the trail, with a spectacular view that slopes down to the valley below.  When walking back out, Pam spotted a sun halo, an atmospheric phenomenon introduced to us a few years ago by Nina of Wheeling It.

The last of our hiking for the day took us out to a canyon trail where a number of granite boulders contained morteros, grinding holes created by Native Americans as they ground their daily meals from the bounty nature provided them.

If we had ended our day here, it would have been a wonderful day reveling in nature, exploring with friends, but Pam and John wanted us to experience Font’s Point, gazing  out over the Carrizo Badlands, hopeful of ending the day with a breathtaking desert sunset.  We were not disappointed.

For a bit more history of the area,  check out John’s post here.  A former history teacher can say it much better than me. 😉

53 thoughts on “Nature’s History Lesson ~ Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA

  • And to think that I lived an hour and a half from there, for 20 years, and probably just drove by there many times. I am so glad that I am now interested in these places you visit and hike within. If I ever get back over there, I’ll have to check it out. Love that you were able to do this with your fairly new friends. What a great way to make new friends and keep them.

  • Lovely images along with the history lesson. It’s hard to imagine living in the middle of that desert though. I’m far too spoiled, but the view looks like it would have surely compensated.

  • Great post. I am hearing (maybe paying attention to) many posts about the area I am thinking of visiting for about a week at the end of February. Nice pics too. I enjoy going to historical places. Question, I noticed the guys were using two trekking poles. Do they find two more helpful. I have one and it’s made a difference in what I am comfortable doing, as far as hiking. The ankles aren’t in as good of shape as I would like. Thanks again for sharing Lu Ann.

  • Such gorgeous images of such a special place, LuAnn! Those are three of our favorite sites in Anza Borrego. We’re looking forward to returning at the end of February, and are hoping for wildflowers. The blooms were spectacular at the same time a few years ago. How about a wildflower hike together? 🙂

  • It was a fun day spending time together. I am just sorry that we won’t be able to get together more. But I am so pleased we managed two visits:) Looking forward to more time at some point. Who knows where we may end up this summer and fall!!!

  • We have never been there but will be in a week. We are writing down all the hikes you and Pam/John are doing. This one looks like a keeper.

    You need to be in that last photo to make it complete!

  • Fun Fun Fun ! That last photo you took LuAnn is the bomb! Love it, too bad you did not use a tripod so you can be with the models too.
    I know we will in that area this winter and thanks for exploring it for us. Our legs are aching for a hike.

    • I’m not sure what it is about a desert sunset that is so alluring Bulldog. I guess it is all that wide open space with nothing to obstruct your views.

  • You always have such dramatic names for places over there, we could call them something like Mossy canyon or Big Mountain. I would love to go on a hike there and to find Souh’s physical snapshot into another time is absolutely wonderful, it would be stirring to be there.

  • Magical sunset pics, and I love the modeling shot. Definitely worthy of a front cover. Those morteros are a far cry from the electric grinder I just used to grind my breakfast seeds this morning. We’re so spoilt these days. 🙂 You had such an interesting hike and saw many amazing things. The sun halo is magnificent, but I think I would have found the pictographs the most fascinating of all. Lovely share, LuAnn.

    • Thanks so much Sylvia and you are so right, we are very spoiled, perhaps too much so. It has led to too much of a sedentary life for many I’m afraid.

  • LuAnn, as usual beautifully written. Enjoyed your description of a fun day hiking with friends. What a beautiful area to hike. Gorgeous photos!

    • That is one reason why I didn’t have the Lasik surgery, because so many of my friends spoke of the halos they saw at night around headlights. Hope you are surviving your winter Lisa.

  • LuAnn sometimes I think I am losing my sits. I read this post and was certain I had commented on it prior. Apologies.
    You always have beautiful photos but they have something different about them. I had been wondering what exactly but in this post I think I see it. Your angle or perspective is often very creative. For instance I would love to know if for the last photo you are laying on the ground looking up or at least squatting down. The sky in your photos often is so amazing. i wondered if this would be one of your tips. Just lovely.

    • No problem Sue and thanks. I love sky shots so I am always looking for interesting clouds or times of the day when the clouds cast intriguing shadows or are backlit. For that last shot I stepped down near the edge (hopeful not to slip off the edge) and then sat down. I liked the way the shot turned out.

  • Thanks, LuAnn for such great information. We were thinking seriously about a visit to Anza Borrego and your post pushed us in that direction. We plan on heading to the Blair Valley area tomorrow. We’ve been here just a day and have fallen in love with peacefulness. Currently camping in the Clark Dry Lake area.

  • Breathtaking landscapes!!! The sun halo is real cool. I need to explore Anza Borrego more the next time I visit it. That pic with the chairs is FTW!
    BTW, what watermark app do you use?

    • Thanks Rommel! I just saw another sun halo the other day when I was playing pickleball. They are very cool, aren’t they? I have been using Lightroom for the past several months and still have so much to learn but I really like it. If you are interested, I can send you some videos as I found it to be challenging to get my arms around at first.

  • Anza Borrego looks amazing! The landscape is very different from here up north. The only thing that comes close is probably the badlands here in Alberta. Would love to do some desert exploring. Love those names by the way, Ghost mountains and Smuggler’s Canyon. Makes you think about what happened here in the old days giving them these names:)

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