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A Desert in Full Bloom

by Lisa

Last week I had the ridiculous good fortune of being able to take a trip to San Diego. The primary reason for the trip was to visit some very good friends of ours and get some much-needed vitamin D.

Source: Flickr @mslauraEven though we live a full country’s length away from our friends, we still find ways to meet up for adventures. They’ve travelled to the northwest to explore both Olympic and Rainier National Parks with us. They were also a huge support for us during our hike on the John Muir Trail last summer. If you’ve read through those posts, you may recall that our friend Joe surprised us on top of Mount Whitney for our last sunrise!

As soon as we booked our flights we started talking about what sort of hike we should do. My immediate thought was to explore into the desert, a completely foreign ecosystem to me. So we planned a day trip to Anza-Borrego State Park, about an hour and a half drive east of San Diego.

As our trip got closer we realised that we might just be lucky enough to see the desert in bloom. About a week before our trip we started to see news reports about the possibility of a “super bloom” in the Anza-Borrego desert. We also started following the wildflower report for the area.

In an effort to beat the heat, we decided to get up really, really early (4 a.m.) and make it to the desert for sunrise. We pulled into Borrego Springs with only a hint of light in the sky. Our destination was Coyote Canyon, about 5 miles down a dirt road. We parked partway along the dirt road near one of the stream crossings and at a trailhead for the Ocotillo Trail. Our timing was absolutely perfect; the sky was just starting to brighten.

Sunrise in the desert is an incredible sight. A sunrise that reveals fields of amazing, colourful flowers is even more incredible!

For our first couple miles of the day we wandered along the dirt road, taking in the amazing variety of wildflowers. Among many others, there were Desert Lupine and Desert Lilies, Asters, Canterbury Bells, Monkeyflowers and Paintbrush. As the sun rose higher, the brilliant flowers of the Ocotillo and the Beavertail Cactus started to open as well!

After about an hour of wandering, we headed off onto the Lower Willows trail. This trail travels through a lowland section of the Coyote Canyon that is fed by a spring. Apparently it is one area of the park that seldom dries out. As such it is surprisingly lush and humid, full of greenery and blossoms. We caught glimpses of Barrel Cactus on the nearby hillsides and could also see a Palm oasis partway along.


After a couple miles the trail reconnects with the Coyote Canyon road. We followed the road as it tracked back south, climbing through more arid desert landscape again.



The views of wildflowers and the distant desert hills were fantastic.

We finished our loop with a brief ankle-deep wade through the creek, a refreshing and cool relief for our feet!

Instead of heading back down the dirt road to our car we took the Ocotillo Trail, which meandered through the flats, following along the North bank of the creek and passing through many more wildflowers and beneath shade-bearing Ocotillos.

We made it back to our car around 11, just as the real heat of the day started to set in. There were also many more visitors making their way down the Coyote Canyon road.

I feel incredibly lucky to not only have seen the amazing desert bloom but also to have enjoyed my first desert sunrise.

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