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Discover spring beauty in Borrego

A change of scenery reveals that the desert offers so much more than the occasional super bloom

Dragon head sculpture in Borrego Springs
Image Credits Wildflowers & Bighorn Sheep: Photo courtesy of Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce; Park views: Photography courtesy of California Overland Desert Excursions; Star gazing: Photo by Dennis Mammana; All other photography by Adams / Hansen Stock Photos

As much as I love the beach, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the month of March in hopes of seeing wildflowers in nearby Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The extent of the bloom depends on climatic conditions, and this year it looks like there will be flowers, but not the dramatic super bloom we’ve had in previous years. 

Anza Borrego, the largest state park in California,  is an easy two-hour drive from San Diego and has much to offer beyond wildflowers. The park visitor center is a good spot to pick up maps and get the latest information on current conditions. The popular, three-mile roundtrip Palm Canyon Trail starts nearby. If you do this hike, watch for borrego, the bighorn sheep for which the park is named. Other wildlife you might see in the park include coyote, bobcat, desert fox, mountain lion, and kangaroo rat.

Bighorn sheep still inhabit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Bighorn sheep still inhabit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

On a recent visit, my husband, Richard, and I had a great time on a four-wheel drive excursion with California Overland Desert Excursions. Our driver, Mark Thompson, is a longtime resident of the area and definitely knows his way around the 1,000-square-mile park that is crisscrossed by 500 miles of dirt roads. californiaoverland.com

At our first stop, we walked along the Calcite Mine Trail to a gorgeous slot canyon where the color of the steep walls ranges from pale gray to deep cocoa. Ella Wash was next and then Short Wash, where Thompson pointed out smoke trees and a palo verde tree. We stopped briefly at Vista del Malpais and then arrived at Fonts Point just in time to watch the sun set on the maze of hills and arroyos that make up the Badlands.  

Still on our to-do list is the Celestial Overnight trip, also offered by California Overland. Borrego Springs is an International Dark Sky Community because it’s on the east side of the Peninsular Range, which blocks Pacific storms and light pollution from cities along the coast. The overnight experience includes luxury camping under the stars, viewing the sky though a telescope with astronomer Dennis Mammana, and enjoying dinner and breakfast at the campsite. Mammana also offers stargazing through his Borrego Night Sky Tours. borregonightskytours.com

As an International Dark Sky Community, Borrego Springs is an exceptional spot for stargazing
As an International Dark Sky Community, Borrego Springs is an exceptional spot for stargazing

Sky Art Sculptures

Of course, we couldn’t resist checking out the 130+ metal sculptures on Galleta Meadows Estate. These are the work of Ricardo Breceda and represent the pre-historic creatures that once roamed this part of the desert. The project was funded by the late Dennis Avery, who received a JD from Cal Western School of Law in San Diego and later became the associate dean. He was also a philanthropist and was drawn to the desert and to the community of Borrego Springs.   

Dragon Sculpture in Borrego Springs
The sculptures on Galleta Meadows were created by Southern Carlifornia artist Ricardo Breceda

La Casa del Zorro

Some things never change in Borrego Springs. There are still no stoplights or big box stores, and La Casa del Zorro Resort & Spa remains an ideal family destination. Sprawling across 42 acres, the pet-friendly resort is home to 19 Mid-Century Modern casitas, 52 guest rooms, and myriad recreational options. These include an excellent lap pool, an exercise pool, three additional shared pools, a yoga studio, four tennis courts, eight pickle ball courts, croquet, bocce ball, a jogging/walking path, horseshoes, a well-equipped fitness center, shuffleboard, a life-size chess game, complimentary bike rentals, and a spa. Casitas range from one to four bedrooms and all have either a spa or a swimming pool — except the four-bedroom Agave, which has both.  lacasadelzorro.com

Casa del Zorro is an oasis in the desert with countless activities set amid peaceful grounds
Casa del Zorro is an oasis in the desert with countless activities set amid peaceful grounds

On second thought, two things have changed: the resort now has three charging stations for electric vehicles
and the food is even better than I remember from previous visits.  

We also had a wonderful meal at Carmelita’s Mexican Grill, which we found tucked away in town at the back of a shopping area. I ordered shrimp enchiladas with green tomatillo sauce, and they were simply out of this world. 

Am I anxiously awaiting the month of March in hopes of seeing wildflowers in Borrego? Yes. The wildflower hotline (760.767.4684) is stored on my phone. Will I still go if the bloom is modest? Sure. It’s 75 and sunny in the desert when it’s cool and cloudy on the coast, and I need to see if those enchiladas are as good as I remember.


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