I’ve always been fascinated by the desert. From the first time I read Marco Polo when I was 12, I’ve always wanted to visit one. It was fortunate timing to visit California’s renowned Anza-Borrego State Desert Park in spring after a La Niña as the spring rains cause the desert to have a rare explosion of flowers. A park warden we ran into on a dirt track in the middle of nowhere didn’t think it was a standout year but I was amazed at how colourful it was.
From San Diego, pleasant backroads wind their way from ocean beaches to lush orchards and wineries fading to pastures and finally dry mountains. The road winds up 1500 meters and after a couples hours from the coast, the landscape turns to cactus and rock. The landscape reminded of the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. We randomly turned off on a dirt road and found we were at what was signed “Plumb Canyon”
We got out of the car and I charged into the jumble of rocks, cactus and flowers. The heat hit me first but most surprising was the smell! The dry air was thick with the pungent and spicy scent of flowers, aromatic wood and seemingly the very desert earth had an intoxicating fragrance.I quickly discovered how easy it is to impale yourself on cactus spines and despite careful walking I put several long spines through my shoes and deep into my foot! No sooner did I remove the painful spines did I get stung by a bee! It seemed the desert was less fond of me as I was of it. But despite these pitfalls, It was an amazing place to wander. The plants flourishing after the spring rain were completely alien and seemingly more at home under the sea than on land. Many plants had a distinctive coral or kelpy appearance. The tall green spines with red flowers in the pic above were nearly ten feet tall. Even the rocks were thick with sparkles of sliver mica and golden pyrites.Above: Barrel cactus blooms bright yellow on the valley floor while sterile, grey hills bookend the valley.Above: Beavertail cactus in full bloom with assorted flowering shrubs and cactus in background. I suspect much of what was blooming is destined to be the rolling tumbleweeds of next week.
Above: I foolishly had no long sleeved shirt so to protect my arms from burning even more I had to wear a light jacket. Those curious about plants and such would have a field day wandering around here. It could be best described as a thousand square mile exotic decorative garden. Also present were a surprising number of birds scurrying about also taking advantage of this brief window of life in the desert.
More photos here.