Anza Borrego Desert Magic
California Travel Tale
The biggest danger in Anza-Borrego Desert is not the dreaded rattlesnakes or the
creepy scorpions. In fact, unless you lift rocks or poke sticks deep in open burrows, or stand
absolutely still for hours, humming birds and honey bees, and the odd floppy-eared jack rabbit
playing hide-and-seek are all the wildlife you'll likely see.
No, the biggest danger in Anza-Borrego Desert is something much more elusive. And once
bitten, your smitten and destined to come back.
Located in California 85 miles southeast of Palm Springs, west of highway 86, Anza-
Borrego Desert State Park -- a 600,000 acre oasis -- is also a temporary home for thousands of
R.V.'ers and backpackers, and the only one in the U.S. in which they can camp almost anywhere.
Five hundred miles of sandy trails and rocky washes await the adventurous who don't
mind a bumpy ride. Many folks, some in elaborate motorhomes and some in simple canvas tents,
pull off the allotted one-car-length-off-a-designated road and set up house-keeping. A park
ranger cruises regularly to insure adherence to the rules; and at the same time, he instills a
welcome sense of security.
The common-sense rules can be picked up at the Visitor Center two miles from Borrego
Springs, the little town in the middle of the park that swells from 2500 to over 6000 every winter.
( Borrego Springs has two clinics, three golf courses, four tennis courts, and several private
resorts and campgrounds, and is the town where everyone replenishes food supplies, propane, gas
and water. )
Besides a list of rules, walking and motoring maps and brochures are available with story
descriptions of historical sites with such telling names as Pegleg Smith Monument, Box Canyon,
Sediments in Motion and Split Mountain. ( When wandering among the prickly pear cactus and
the fragile cholla ( pronounced choya ), good boots are very important. Other necessary
accessories are water, binoculars, a light sweater, a hat, sunglasses, a compass and a camera. )
A monthly events calendar lists classes and activities with descriptive titles such as
Pegleg Liar's Contest, El Coyote and Pines to Palms Paradox.
Inside the Visitor Center, nature books are for sale and fine exhibits explain the desert's
history. The most impressive exhibit is an unforgettable four season slide show. You'll be
amazed to discover 600 species of flora growing in the barren land -- from the rare elephant tree
to the common barrel cactus.
The blanket of snow-white primrose or golden sunflowers that covers the arid landscape
during March or April is such an incredible sight that guests leave their names and addresses
with park volunteers who promise to notify them when the buds first begin to peek through.
Another favorite plant is the Ocotillo (pronounced ocoteeyo ), a strange spindly tree with blazing
red blossoms that seem to appear overnight.
Then there is the majestic bighorn; although, to get a glimpse of the secretive sheep is
very rare. The shy and suspicious animals have good reason to be cautious. Only recently has
the government taken steps to protect the 400 remaining sheep of the original 1.5 million that
grazed in Anza-Borrego in the early 1800's.
The days are clear and warm in Anza-Borrego Desert. Empty of man-made power and
intensely silent. A perfect place to get a sense of the past and to ponder the future. A perfect
place to slow down.
The nights are long and cold -- sometimes dropping 30 degrees from the mild daytime 70
degree winter weather.
And somewhere in the distance the wind is heard, long before it arrives to shake and rattle
the tranquility. A lone coyote raises his head to the stars held frozen in the pristine sky and
howls. He is joined wildly in mere seconds by yelping packs. The rattlesnakes and scorpions,
jackrabbits and humming birds shudder briefly in their sleep.
It's a hypnotic sound that will haunt you forever and bring you back.
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