Anza-Borrego in Bloom

Anza-Borrego in Bloom

I wasn’t planning to go that far south. Really, I was going to turn around after Valley of Fire in Nevada and start heading back home. But the online wildflower reports and photos posted by my Facebook friends were too much to resist. I simply had to visit Anza-Borrego in California.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park had been on my list for quite some time. A few years ago I was in Yosemite National Park, and Evan Russel, the curator of the Ansel Adams Gallery, was showing me some of Ansel’s little known and very early photographs. As I was leaving, I mentioned that I would be heading to Joshua Tree National Park next. He gave me some tips on things to look for there, and then asked me if I had ever been to Anza-Borrego. Actually, I’d never even heard of it. Oh, you absolutely have to go there, he said. OK, well, I’m not sure how I’ll fit that in, but I’ll keep it in mind.

Beavertail blooms with bright yellow brittlebush in the background, in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

So I get to Joshua Tree, and who do I immediately meet but this nice couple from Borrego Springs, which happens to be a town right in the middle of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, if you can believe that. They also told me the place was amazing. In fact, this guy himself turned out to be so interesting that I wrote an article about him, called General Drift – National Park Inspector. But none of this changed the fact that I simply didn’t have time to add the park to my itinerary – it would have to wait until another time.

Brittlebush and Ocotillo cover a hillside, in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

Well, the years passed, and I just never seemed to make the effort to get down that far. But in the spring of 2017, I had planned a trip to Valley of Fire State Park in southern Nevada, and Death Valley National Park in California, among other places, and I had just enough slop in my schedule to fit in a trip to Anza-Borrego between those two. Frankly, as I said before, the online wildflower reports indicated that this was an exceptional year, and I was just too close to miss it.

Brittlebush and Ocotillo bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

It’s funny how places are never quite what you expected, no matter how much research you do before you arrive. The first thing I noticed about the place was that it was packed with tourists, and they all seemed to be walking in the middle of the fields of wildflowers in large numbers. This is not exactly what I was envisioning as an ideal photographic opportunity. But, you have to do the best you can with what you find, so I started researching areas that were more remote that were also listed as hot-spots for blooms. The park is quite large, and I put a lot of miles on my car in the effort, but I checked out every corner of the park. Some areas were quite disappointing, but others were packed with blooming brittlebush, ocatillo, and beavertail. Granted, they looked like they might be a few days past their peak- after all, I had been getting these wildflower reports for about a week before I could get there – but they were still beautiful.

So, am I glad I made the detour? Absolutely! And, as often happens, I found more than just wildflowers to photograph in the area. Next week we’ll explore some interesting man-made structures that I think you’ll like.

In the meantime, enjoy!

A hillside is covered in blooming Brittlebush, in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

The sign says “Go that way!”, in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

Brittlebush and Beavertail grow alongside the highway, in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

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