Visit to Anza Borrego California State Park (4/19-20/05)

Finally, I managed to compile a number of photographs that convey the essence of places I visited.

You might wonder what this park is about and why I went there. Here is a brief description of the park (excerpts from You can learn a lot by going to that URL and other links.

Park description: With over 600,000 acres, Anza-Borrego Desert State ParkŪ is the largest desert state park in the contiguous United States. 500 miles of dirt roads, two huge wilderness areas (comprising 2/3 of the park) and 110 miles of riding and hiking trails provide visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to experience the wonders of the Colorado Desert. The park name is derived from a combination of the name of Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word "borrego," referring to bighorn sheep. The park features washes, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti and sweeping vistas. Visitors may also have the chance to see roadrunners, golden eagles, kit foxes, mule deer and bighorn sheep as well as desert iguanas, chuckwallas and four species of rattlesnake.

I went to Anza Borrego without any real expectations aside from wanting to know the landscape of the region that I bought a piece of land through auctioning without ever seeing it. I was also fascinated by the wild flower season, although the peak of that season has past several weeks ago. One benefit of arriving after the wild flower blooming season is that you have the park more or less to yourself. There was no difficulty finding a good camp site.

Anza Borrego is the largest California state park. It's not easy to find your way around this park since road signs are fairly sparse and the park surrounds the town of Borrego Springs. So, you'd find several signs at various places saying that you're now entering the park. If you plan to go, go to the visitor center near this town first. This will give you bearings on what to do, where to stay before venturing out. It was here that the park ranger told me about Wind Caves and the interesting rock formations. More on that with the pictures. One good thing about this park is you can camp just about anywhere without camping in a campground toilets - you can go camp out in the desert wilderness for days without paying a dime. It may be interesting to do backcountry camping. However, do bring a few friends - it's pretty isolated in the backcountries, and a lot of water. Even in April, I found several places to be pretty warm and certainly quite dry. There is no park entrance fee - I suspect this is due to the fact that the park surrounds a town that's not part of it. However, I paid a hefty $20 a night to stay in a campground with water and flush

Obviously, one could spend days to see all of the park's famous sites. I had two days, and through words of mouth, decided to focus on a two areas - Palm Canyon and Wind Caves. Most interesting places require some hiking. Do bring good boots, sun blockers, and water on these hikes.

You should check out the pictures (link at the end of this post), since it gives great visual descriptions of my stay. Here is a synopsis:

Campground: I camped at Palm Canyon Campground - a pretty civilized campground with flush toilet and shower. A word of caution - bring spare quarters for the shower. I found out the hard way of fiddling around with the shower knob for a while before noticing the coin slot. Imagine having to get dressed, go back to your car to search for coins . It was amusing. The wind was quite strong. It almost blew my Coleman stove off the table. So I wound up cooking on the ground.

Palm Canyon: It was not too hard of a hike, although the flash flood of 2004 wiped out most of the trail and many campsites. I took some pictures of the flood aftermath. The canyon was rocky, with nice wild flowers. There was a nice creek that cascaded down rocks to form nice little waterfalls - nothing to compare with what you might see at Yosemite or other places, but a really nice complement to the desert environment. The palm oasis was nice and cool. Did you ever get to be to an oasis? On my way down, my old trusted boot decided to retire, and dropped a sole. I had to limp down for nearly a mile with one good boot. The lesson? Make sure you have a good pair of boots :)

Elephant Tree: This was supposed to be a quick side trip on the way to Wind Caves. It turned out with the bad and rocky dirt road, and the ensuing hike and picture taking, it became a 2 hour detour. But who cares, unlike before, now I have plenty of time! All this to see a rare tree that has the trunk that looks like elephant leg. I posted a couple of pictures of this tree.

Wind Caves: This was the highlight of my trip to Anza Borrego. But be warned, it's not for the faint of hearts. Just getting to the turn off took a long time from my camp site. Then the real fun began when I had to drive many miles along an isolated wash before reaching the intended destination. For non native English speakers like me, one might wonder what a wash is. The definition I found on the web is "the dry bed of an intermittent stream (as at the bottom of a canyon)". This served as a reasonable roadway as well. At places, the width of the wash could easily accommodate 20-lane highways. It was definitely isolated. During the course of 4-5 hours on this journey, I only encountered 2 girls a third of the way in giving up on the trip, and a ranger returning from some unknown locations. I had second thoughts a few times on driving by myself along this rough road for hours. I wondered what if the car broke down, what Wind Caves would actually be like, would it be disappointing, etc. I had not had a chance to see any picture of this location before venturing there. Along the way, I took several pictures of eroded sandstones, soil erosions due to flash floods, and flowers tough enough to adapt to this harsh environment. At long last, I reached the trail head to Wind Caves. It turned out that Wind Caves was not next to the road or down some canyons. It was up a high hill that required some moderate use of muscle to climb up. By the time I reached Wind Caves, the view was fascinating. See the pictures for yourself. The near-full moon was visible late in the afternoon, creating a nice backdrop to a landscape of interesting patterns and extreme solitude. I heard nothing but the sound of my footsteps, the wind and occasional song birds. If you are looking for some nice quiet place to contemplate your future, this would be a good spot. I definitely felt alone here.

That's the highlight of my trip to Anza Borrego. I went there without any high expectations or preconceived notion. I left converted with its interesting landscapes and geological wonders and will likely go back for more exploration in the future.

Anza Borrego Pictures