California Desert

   I have never spent much time in a desert.  A couple of years ago we hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon for a two night stay in a lodge and then hiked back out and that is pretty much the extent of my desert experiences.  I’ve been interested in deserts but I’ve also been a bit scared of them because I don’t know much about them. 


     On our way to Lake Arrowhead we stopped at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center.  There was a great exhibit and we learned there were lots of off-road trails and hiking trails in the Park.  Unfortunately the sun was setting and we weren’t able to see much of the park as we drove through on our way to Lake Arrowhead.



     I really wanted to check out Anza-BorregoDesertState Park so we decided to take the same route through the State Park on the way back to San Diego.  We were able to stop at some points of interest and learned quite a bit about the area.  The landscape of Anza-Borrego is continually changing due to tectonic activity.


     According to a brochure we picked up there’s an active strike-slip fault in Anza-BorregoDesert that is a branch of the San Jacinto fault zone.  The one road we traveled is known as “Erosion Road” that passes through the Borrego Badlands.  The landscape is constantly changing due to the Clark Fault which is the most seismically active in California creating over 1000 earthquakes every year.  Along with the earthquakes wind, rain, heat and cold constantly attack the surface of the surrounding mountains creating arroyos, temporary lakes, gorges and canyons.  Beautifully colored rocks and sand from millions of years ago are visible along with a variety of different plants.



     Although there are numerous hiking trails all over the Anza-BorregoDesert we only had time for a short hike.  Some of the names of the trails intrigued me with names like HellholeCanyon, AlcoholicPass and GhostMountain but we ended up hiking the Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail.  The main reason we chose this trail was because we had heard people had been seeing the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep.  This endangered animal is where the name Borrego comes from.  While we weren’t lucky enough to see any of the sheep on our hike we did see some other neat things.


     The plant life is so different in the desert and we were able to see a variety of plants on the Palm Canyon Trail.  We saw numerous cacti and were able to identify the Ocotillo, Cholla, Beavertail and more.  Hummingbirds were busy visiting the dessert willows, catclaw and honey mesquite plants.  The highlight of the hike was finding a real desert oasis.



     I never knew what exactly a desert oasis was.  The only oasis I had ever seen were the ones along an interstate complete with a McDonalds and gas station.  Here in the middle of the desert at the end of the PalmCanyon trail was a grove of California Fan Palms.  These palm trees are only found where there is water and in this instance the water seeps up through a crack in the earth created by a fault.  The California Fan Palms are both rare and gorgeous with a skirt that protects their bark from water loss. 


     Darkness dictated our need to leave the State Park in spite of my desire to explore more.  The Anza-BorregoDesertState Park with its mountains of over 8000 feet and never ending canyons is a great place to be introduced to a desert climate.  With just a taste of what the area is like I know I need to return to have my thirst quenched by this incredible desert landscape.