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. 😉

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