Borrego Springs, CA
Ladies and gentlemen, today's post is all about nature. Specifically, about the mind-boggling things that can happen in the desert, transforming it from a dusty wasteland that seems to be filled only with sand and rocks and dirt into a verdant oasis blooming with green plant life. Thanks to the incredible amount of rain Southern California (and the rest of the state) has received over the past few months, desert wildflowers have been springing forth with much greater intensity than usual. These super blooms areaboon for nature lovers and floral enthusiasts, and one of the places currently experiencing peak bloom conditions is the Anza Borrego/Borrego Springs area.
You might remember Borrego Springs as that place with those crazy metal sculptures of prehistoric creatures and fantastical figures. Turns out it's also a great place to check out wildflowers each spring. And while Anza Borrego State Park has popularly been the place associated with seeing springtime florals each year, based on my visit this past weekend, it's neighboring Borrego Springs that holds those "endless fields" that people imagine when they think of a desert super bloom.
Those wishing to head out have the next few weeks to catch the bloom in peak action. This year is a "rolling bloom," which means different flowers will be open at different times. While my friends and I saw a nice assortment of desert dandelions, desert lilies, evening primrose, sand verbena, and desert sunflowers, other buds, like cactus blooms, were in short supply. It's also best to head out nice and early and catch the flowers in the morning, since many close in the afternoon in response to the heat.
Your best bet is to call the Desert Nature Center of the Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association at (760) 767-3098 to get updates on the best places to visit peak blooms. They are also updating flower conditions every few days on their web site. You can stop by the Desert Nature Center too at 652 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA 92004. It's just west of the big traffic circle in the center of the town. They'll have a free map outlining the best blooms of the day--all of which are relatively short driving distances from the center itself, and the vast majority of which can be accessed with regular cars as opposed to trucks or SUV's.
Those who want to get an easy start may consider visiting the botanical gardens right behind the Nature Center. It's not that large--basically the size of a generous back yard--but there is a nice variety of different types of flowers on display, planted along a short little trail. Each plant has a little plaque identifying the species and common name.
Those who want to see things on a larger scale can venture forth, taking many of the same routes used to see the metal sculptures. This is convenient. You can kill two birds of interest with one stone's road trip if you've always wanted to see Ricardo Breceda's work.
On last weekend's visit, there were plenty of blooms along Borrego Springs Road, north of Palm Canyon Drive, and also along Lazy S Drive to the west. Further north, the parallel Di Giorgio Road offered a large selection of blooms closer to Coyote Canyon, and those with 4 wheel drive and willing to venture deeper into the canyon could (and can right now) find a lovely patchwork of desert wildflowers of all colors and varieties. Further east, there were broad fields along Henderson Canyon Road, east of Borrego Valley Road, with plenty of blooms as well. The vast majority of the photo you're looking at in this update was taken from the above listed locations.
It's interesting to see the difference in scene between being there in person and capturing on camera. The flowers certainly seem to come out more densely in photos than I perceived them in person. That's not to say that they were sparse, but in many locations, they weren't necessarily clustered together with the packed tightness of a bouquet (though some fields came close). Those expecting something like the Carslbad Flower Fields may be a little underwhelmed, but then again, the fields in Carslbad are cultivated and designed to attain that look. Here in the desert, it's all Mother Nature.
I didn't actually go into Anza Borrego State Park on this particular visit, but it was probably for the best. My group didn't arrive until after 9:30, and by then, we found a long line of cars waiting to enter the park. According to rangers, it was practically brimming at 8:00 in the morning. But while I don't now the flower conditions on hikes inside the famed park, I was told that the blooms in Borrego Springs were "better."
Driving around to see everything can take several hours. Borrego Springs itself has a few restaurants and modest shopping center ("The Mall") all within 15 minutes or so of most places on the flower map, but they're all pretty much located at the center of town or just east along Palm Canyon Drive. It's definitely helpful to bring water and snacks and prepare the same way you might get ready for a day hike. There's not much hiking involved, at least not mandatory hiking, but you might be surprised at how exhausting the sheer desert heat can be, if you happen to visit on a warm day.
Ultimately, this was a fun and unique desert trek that provided a verdant escape from the city. It's a 2-1/2 or more hour drive from L.A. and Orange Counties, so it's certainly a bit of an investment. But this year's Super Bloom may very well make things worth it. If you're interested, make plans these next few weeks before the bloom passes. Just in comparing these photos with the backdrop of the metal sculptures from last year's Borrego Springs Sky Art Sculpture Gallery update shows what a difference some rain and a different season can make. It's kind of gnarly to see the wonders and miracles of the desert in action. But it's also kind of spectacular.
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.