Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park ~ Borrego Badlands ~ San Diego County

The San Jacinto Mountain Range made a great backdrop for our drive down to Borrego Springs, located in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park an hour or so from Palm Springs, CA.  We’d taken this trip before but hadn’t time to see all that we wanted so we were on our way again.  We followed I-10 to S86 and stayed on that road passing the Salton Sea until we reached S22, which took us west into the State Park.  Click here for the map of the Park.

San Jacinto Mountain Range across the Borrego Badlands
It is hard to imagine what would have given the early people the reason and fortitude that would take them through this barren desert and over the mountains but they did. The ancient trails they used are usually the best route between water sources, having passed the test of time and being the best choice for the challenges of the land, and the route most of the roads still follow.

Borrego Badlands
The Badlands are a haven for dirt bikers and a busy place especially on the weekends.  As we stood over one canyon to take some pictures, we could hear the echo of the bikes coming from far away as they made their way towards this canyon.  The trails used can be seen at the bottom of this valley.  There are over 850 km (500 mi) of dirt roads in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Ocotillo in Anza-Borrego Desert
The ocotillo can be seen scattered throughout the desert.  It is tall and spindly and grow in all but the highest and lowest elevations.  We found this one, which was over 4 metres (12 ft) tall, in bloom, but most were not quite ready for this display yet.  We hope to be able to enjoy more blooms on our next visit.

Blooms on ocotillo cactus

The cactus blooming season is very hard to pinpoint as it is subject to the weather and temperature so can vary from year to year. The best of the season lasts about two weeks.  The ocotillo blooms are such a beautiful vibrant orange but not to be picked from this plant with the very sharp spikes hidden under the green leaf. Enjoy them from afar!
Teddybear cholla cactus
This teddybear cholla (choy-ya) cactus is coming into bloom.  It is also called the ‘jumping cholla’ because it drops the joint, which look like spine balls, then it rolls around and can attach to wildlife or until it has a chance to root.  Most cacti should be approached carefully due to their spikes, but this one especially as it comes to you.

Galleta Meadow Estates at Borrego Springs, CA
The elevation in the park ranges from less than 5 meters (15 ft) to peaks over 1830 metres (6,000 ft).  There are hiking trails throughout the park suitable for all levels of hikers.  Information is available at their Visitor Center in Borrego Springs with a great short movie showing the desert in different seasons of the year.  The elephant is part of the incredible metal art displayed throughout the Galleta Meadow Estates.  Click here to see more of these artworks.

Borrego Badlands in Anza-Borrego Desert
The Borrego Badlands are one small part of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park but they sure are impressive.  We made several stops on our drive through to take some pictures of them at different times of day.  The afternoon sun shows these incredible shapes differently than the earlier sun, shapes which were formed over millions of years.

Sun setting on Borrego Badlands

We are roadside for this picture. If the roads follow the old footpaths of those Native People that first crossed this desert hundreds of years ago, we can only imagine the challenges they met daily. It has only been over 150 years since the San Antonio to San Diego mail route first passed through this area on their 53 day journey. The 2375 km (1475 mi) trip crossed the desert and over these mountains with stagecoach and mules.
The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park was named for Captain Anza who led the colonists across the desert form Mexico to Monterey in 1775 and the borrego is the young sheep, which were with the very early settlers in this area. There are more than 600,000 acres in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that makes it one of the largest state parks in the United States and they’re planning more development. For more info on the park, click here.

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