My friend/colleague and I just finished up at a 4-day conference in San Diego, in Southern California. We chose to extend our trip and head east so we could check out the wildflower bloom in the Anza-Borrego Desert. It was in March 2017, after California experienced a winter full of rain and storms that allowed the state to recover from a long-standing drought. The reservoirs recharged to the point of endangerment, and some experienced damage from the amount of water that fell on the Golden State (Oroville Dam comes to mind). But in the more arid regions, the foothills and mountains experienced spring with wildflowers in “Super Blooms” that had a grandiose that surpassed all of those in recent memory.
We found a hotel at a casino that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. Harrah’s Resort and Casino Southern California is located in Funner, California. The resort tried to be true to its location name, and had a little mini waterpark equipped with its own “Lazy River” to provide fun for kids and adults of all ages. Harrah’s is about 45 minutes from the McClellan-Palomar Airport, and half an hour outside of Escondido, and seemed to be this giant splash of lights in the dark hills after dusk. We rested up in our nicely air conditioned room, and I kept battling a bad cold that I caught while at the conference.
The following morning, we headed out to Anza Borrego Desert State Park, which was about an hour drive from our Resort. We drove along highway 76 east to Montezuma Valley Road, which is such a beautiful drive as you drop into the canyon where the desert is. Degrading granite boulders littered for as far as the eye could see.
There are numerous mountain ranges in the area; Vallecito Mountains, Pinyon Mountains, Santa Rosa Mountains, Laguna Mountains, and In-ko-pah Mountains that are in and around the state park. The geology is fascinating, and I wish that we had more time to truly explore. The park is home to its own Badlands, banded metamorphic rock (gneiss), and visible faults. The granite was once basement rock of volcanic island arcs, or volcanic chains on land that are similar to today’s Cascade Ranges (with the most well known volcano in the United States; Mount Saint Helens). These granitic remnants of volcano building subduction zones range in age from 93 million years old to 170 million years old . This basement rock has been exposed thanks to the faults and seismic activity of the Elsinore Fault Zone to the west, and the San Jacinto Fault Zone to the east. East of Anza-Borrego on the eastern side of the Salton Sea is the most famous fault in California – the San Andreas Fault Zone, which is the boundary between the Pacific and North American plates. The Andreas Fault Zone was responsible for famous destructive earthquakes in 1906 and 1989 in the San Francisco Bay Area. And yes! The fault really extends that far across the State; it is over 800 miles long and 10 miles deep into the Earth’s crust !
The road was busy, as many were trying to catch their share of the Super Bloom too. There were spots here and there to pull over and catch views of the immense valley and blooming plants. We also spotted jack rabbits, as they were sprinting the clearings between shrubs and cacti.
The ocotillo were happily blooming their gorgeous red flowers, and each shrub and cacti had little flowers as well. It’s amazing to me that a lot of people consider the desert dead. Obviously they’ve never seen a Super Bloom before! The viewspots were incredibly windy as valleys within the ridges made perfect wind funnels, guiding the air to greet you face to face.
Once we made it into town of Borrego Springs, we were greeted with TONS of people who were attempting to catch their share of the Super Bloom too. The volunteer staff notified us that we were coming after a massive heat wave killed out many of the flowers, but there were still some areas to check out. Even though it was super crowded, we still were able to find little spots to ourselves. And according to the volunteers, it does not get nearly that busy throughout the majority of the year.
It was spectacular to visit the park for my first and only time during one of the best Super Blooms in recent memory. Although we only had a couple of hours to drive around, we made the best of it, hunting for fields of wildflowers that were easily accessible. We did not have time to check out the Badlands or the cool geology within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, but that just means that I’ll have to return someday.