I find the desert intoxicating in the spring, like experiencing a fine wine for the first time. If you have ever done a wine tasting away from the crowds, your entire focus is on the depth of colors, the aroma of flowers, leaves, herbs and spices, the tastes you experience as you roll that first sip around your tongue. A good wine seems to dance in your mouth. I believe the desert in spring in many ways is synonymous to this. There is a harmonious balance amidst the complexity of all the desert sights and smells. It speaks to us on a cellular level, engaging all of our senses. On a cool, clear morning, standing at a trailhead not often traversed, looking out over the vastness of an open desert or a winding canyon, the colors and textures dance before your eyes and if you take a deep breath, the sweet smell of sage, acacia, and palo verde beckon you to move deeper into the wilderness. Hover near a creosote bush and you will remember why you love the smell of rain in the desert.
Recently we returned to Anza Borrego Desert State Park to spend five days with the Jojoba Hills hiking club. You could spend five weeks here and not experience everything this park has to offer. Covering 600,000 acres, with 500 miles of dirt roads and 110 miles of hiking trails (many only available with high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles), this park draws you back time and again. It even has a Sky Trail, which has been described in the Pilots Getaway magazine, and 50 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail meander in and out of the park.
We had been here a few weeks back when the desert was just beginning to awaken from its winter slumber and although the wildflowers were lovely, they were not yet at their peak. This visit they were beyond their peak in many areas we visited, thanks to the hot desert winds and this big fella.
Like an army on the move, he and tens of thousands of his best buddies have chomped through entire fields of wildflowers these past few weeks, leaving barren desert in their wake. These colorful but rather creepy (at least to me) caterpillars are the white-lined sphinx moth, aka hummingbird moth, who lay their eggs on the leaves of young plants. When the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow underground, where they pupate and emerge as moths and the cycle continues.
While the desert wildflowers were vanishing the cacti decided to step up and create beautiful splashes of color across the landscape. Here are just a few of the lovelies that we found while hiking:
Each day was filled with hiking and gatherings at the end of the day to share our adventures with the rest of the group. Some of the hikes that we tackled during our stay were:
Mud Caves at Arroyo Tapiado
Big Mud Cave (now a slot canyon) at Arroyo Tapiado
The Slot at West Butte was enjoyed by the rest of the group while I headed back to Jojoba Hills to attend an art journaling workshop. Someone (who will remain nameless) was responsible for photos but forgot the camera. Hmmm, wonder who that could be? 😉
Anza Borrego is a hiker’s paradise and a photographer’s dream. The topography can change at a moment’s notice, from soaring mountains, to barren desert, claustrophobic slot canyons, rippling badlands, to fields of wildflowers and brilliant blooming cacti. For those who love the desert there can be few better. I can think of no other place an hour away from our winter base to better spend time with our Jojoba friends.
62 thoughts on “Desolate, Dramatic Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA”
Spring is the best time of year in the desert. It’s so colorful. Wish I could get Collins to hike, but that’s not going to happen. Looks like you’re having a great time.
I agree with you Karen. Spring is the best time in the desert. Even a drive out to Anza Borrego to see the wildflowers in bloom would be worth it. Hope all is well with you and Collins.
Wonderful…. and yes the desert is special in the spring when she’s in bloom. Looks like some fabulous hiking 🙂
The hiking was great. You might have to put this park on your list Ingrid. 🙂
Oh, it’s on the list alright. Just have to convince hubby to forgo his Texas adventures 😉
One day Ingrid. 🙂
Definitely sounds like a wonderful time with hiking friends. I love that so many cacti were in bloom. They are gorgeous. I’ve never caught a barrel cactus in bloom. I only get to see the fruit after the fact. The little fishhook cactus is so cute with that neat circle of tiny blooms. We’ve never been to the mud caves. Guess we’ll have to return!! Love your final photo! The B&W sure does demonstrate the drama of the area:)
I am claustrophobic so I opted for the slot canyons down the road instead of the mud caves. I was told afterwards that the slots were more constricting than the cave was. So next time I will have to go for the mud cave as well.
Yes, spring in the desert is nice. Wish I could have gotten out there this year.
There is always next year Andrew. 🙂
Having for the first time in my life seen spring in the desert I agree completely. So gorgeous and your photos are brilliant.
Thanks Sue. It is a lovely place indeed this time of year.
Wow… I loved your opening sentence. “I find the desert intoxicating in the spring, like experiencing a fine wine for the first time.” what a perfect way to describe the spring bloom in the desert. “Intoxicating” that it is! Wonderful photos and some great hiking was had!
The black and white photo at the end… was brilliant.
Thank you. I don’t do much with b & w and should probably experiment with it more.
Thanks Nancy! There is just something about the desert smells in spring that cannot be resisted.
You create such poetic imagery with your words, LuAnn. I agree, the desert is intoxicating — and lucky you, to be there with so many of the cacti in bloom. Glorietta Canyon is one of our favorites, along with Borrego Palm Canyon, of course. I love the smell of creosote bush after a rain. 🙂
Thanks Laurel! I missed seeing all the wildflowers but when I began to see all the different types of cacti in bloom, I was a happy girl. Thanks for the tip on Glorietta Canyon. 🙂
Wonderful descriptive narrative LuAnn , you really made me feel I was there . Those smells and sights and your awareness of it all evoke a longing to explore such places like that again myself . We’ve only had a couple of trips to Arizona and Utah – so many other wonders to see .
Happy Hiking . Your photos are quite lovely indeed .
Thanks poppy! We love the desert this time of year. Utah is another place where we hope to spend lots more time.
Anza Borrego is one of our favorite places ever. You are so right about the hiking. Just a fantastic place to see God’s beauty.
The desert can’t be beat in the spring. Gorgeous!
What God had done with such a vast blank canvas is remarkable! I trust that your back is better now.
Looks like a fascinating trail to explore, LuAnn. Beautiful wildflower photos you have captured! 🙂
It was pretty spectacular this time of year. Thanks for stopping by Amy. 🙂
This is a lovely area. We went there to see the huge sculptures but are not capable of the long hikes that you guys do, so it’s sweet to be able to see this scenery through your camera lens.
Thanks Cheryl! Even to take some drives through Anza Borrego is well worth the trip. Take care! 🙂
Beautiful LuAnn! We have spent the last week in San Diego and Tucson and everything is so lush and in bloom!
Glad to see that you are enjoying the desert as well. We have been to SD several times in the last few weeks as many friends have been there visiting.
I LOVE San Diego. Wish so much we could live there! But I know it is so expensive but it is really an amazing city.
When I lived in Phoenix many years ago I always thought there would be a day when I lived in SD. We are close with our winter base outside of Temecula so I guess this will do! 🙂
Your place is pretty nice LuAnn !
I cannot complain. 🙂
The last time I was in the desert in the spring was Operation Desert Shield/Storm. I remember how different it looked from when I arrived in the previous October. Flowers growing right out of the rocks – a truly amazing sight.
Isn’t it amazing how something that seems so fragile can grow with almost no soil or water. 🙂
great photos and commentary, wish we were there now to…….enjoy!
Before much longer I fear it will be getting a little warm for Anza Borrego.
Love the poetic description of an awaken desert. I can sense, smell and feel the lovely area that we might be spending our winter this year. Love it!
Thanks MonaLiza. I bet you two are excited to get back out west. 🙂
I have seen several posts from Anza Borrego Desert State Park, seems to be quite a popular spot to visit. And I can see why from all the pictures I have seen. The desert flowers are beautiful! And the hikes look fun! A very interesting landscape to discover. Beautiful.
Definitely a place to put on your list. 🙂
Wilflowers in desert look fascinating. I’ve never had the chance to visit these places, but when I see your pictures, I’m very envious.
You look to have had some fabulous adventures. I look forward to following along with you. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
I would love to go back to the US, there are still many parts I haven’t got the chance to visit. We were supposed to go to Death Valley, but it was too hot for us and the access was forbidden, unfortunately; that was a huge disappointment.
We are still wanting to go to Death Valley also, and one spot that I wanted to see I learned requires a special vehicle to get to. 😦
which spot would you like to see? Does it requires a 4 *4 ?
I want to see Racetrack Playa, where the boulders look to have slid across the earth by themselves.
LuAnn, for most of the year it takes a keen eye and lots of patience to spot interesting things in the desert. You great photos show that spring is the exception to the rule. This looks like a fun group. ~James
Thanks James! It was a great time. 🙂
Now I’m normally not a fan of wine, thinking it all tastes like vinegar but perhaps I really should give it a proper go. Interestingly the first business I saw when I first touched down in America was a ‘Naked Winery’ just outside Portland. The mind boggles over that one.
It just shows that the desert is a vibrant and colourful place and not at all barren, you are a wonderful guide and I hope the camera is back with you on your next jaunt.
When I went there, i only planned to stay a day and so had only one basic place in mind. There really is so much more to Anza Borrego. More reason for me to come back. 🙂 I love BS. 😀
You definitely need to go back Rommel, especially now that you have found your hiking legs. 🙂
I’ve never imagined such beauty in a desert.
Love the desert in spring…so colorful.
what fun – and that blue sky sure is rich and seriously, the desert is so beautiful… enjoyed every pic. 🙂
Thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂
Your opening paragraph sets the tone for this gorgeous post LuAnn! What a captivating landscape…and how enticing you make it sound! Hope I can experience the feeling someday.
Thanks Madhu and I can only hope to see some of the spectacular places you have visited around the globe. 🙂
I have never seen desert in spring. These are fabulous photos, LuAnn! I can’t believe, I missed you recent posts… 😕
Spring in the desert is wonderful!
Well, LuAnn, I just discovered your blog and am very impressed. I had no idea you were blogging! So happy that you and Terry are our neighbors and I look forward to reading your adventures while you are on the road or trail. We pretty much stick close to home anymore but maybe your posts will motivate us.
I haven’t blogged since we have been back, taking a hiatus for now. We are very happy to be surrounded by such wonderful, talented neighbors at Jojoba. It has been wonderful getting to know you and Norm.