From San Diego proper, a drive north east to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is not for the impatient.
With no direct route via the interstate, determined flower feelers are presented with a drive of nearly 2 hours. Pick your poison, depending upon exactly where you happen to start out from in the county and steady the nerves for the drop down to the desert floor via S22, S2 or Montezuma Valley Road.
If you’re making the trek on a weekend in the springtime, be prepared for lots of fellow fans of the blooming desert flowers. Don’t worry, authoritarian state parks rangers are around to firmly direct you elsewhere if you’re unfortunate to reach the visitors center at 200 Palm Canyon Drive to find it full.
Truly, your best bet for quiet enjoyment is during the week, or gathering yourself up to hit the road at oh-dark-thirty.
Ah, but the final destination is worth it. There’s 650,000 acres of varied desert terrain, plenty of room for all to see the desert flora in bloom. Beavertail cactus (above) flower in brilliant lavender, chuparosa burn red in the desert sun, and yellow dune sunflowers dance in the breeze.
Numerous choices for hikes abound. If your time is limited, the area around the visitors center is well-marked and noted. Displays inside the center provide insight into geology, history and desert fauna.
A flower guide can be had for $1. You can also pick up a free publication about the park and printed updates on the latest from the blooming hinterlands. A nonprofit group, the Anza-Borrego Foundation, produces literature for sale in the center and also seeks to spread the news about the state resource.
Nearby the park’s visitors center, day use camping at the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground costs $8, but spots fill quickly on weekends.
The invitingly named Hellhole Canyon could feature a 6 mile trek to Maidenhair Falls to view Canterbury bells and popcorn flowers, but of course, make sure you’re properly provisioned, protected and equipped.
Volunteer naturalists provide “walk and talks” that are free unless otherwise note.
Mid-March is supposedly the best time of year and certainly the temperatures are most favorable. (The southern California desert tends to switch quickly from warm to smoking hot by late spring).
But, the blooming desert is similar to the snowflake in that, no two seasons are ever alike. For the avid desert hiker, repeated visits are advised.
For more info: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park information: (760) 767-5311, Record wildflower line: (760) 767-4684; reservations: (800) 444-7275 Official Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Web site