(NOTE: we had previously called Anza-Borrego a National park … we were wrong, it is a State park.)
We started our exploration of Anza-Borrego State Park by driving to the visitor’s center in the town of Borrego Springs. Cute little artsy town, not much there except a few galleries and hotel/resorts, although just outside of town we discovered an outdoor sculpture garden. This turns out to be the work of metal artist Ricardo Breceda. The person who owns this massive piece of property decided he wanted to put a piece of sculpture or two on it, so he enlisted the help of Breceda who started building them. It seems he’s had trouble stopping, because each time he has said that he was done, another one would appear. They cover 10 square miles of desert! These are just an example:
Past experiences at visitor centers have been that there might be a dozen or so cars in the lot. The super bloom brought a LOT of people out to this desert park, and the parking lot was so crowded that you had to search for a parking spot. Once inside the visitor’s center, there were SO many people that brochures and maps were gone and it was hard to move around. We grabbed a map and got out of there.
The super bloom is not what we had imagined. The map showed us different locations where we could see the wildflowers bloom, and it wasn’t what we imagined. We had seen pictures on the internet of lovely fields of flowers blooming on hillsides, multiple types of flowers, etc. Most of the flowers here were in fields at street level. We’d find a bunch of cars parked on the street side, people walking through the flowers, posing in them, etc. It was pretty, just not what we expected. It’s better to stumble across things with no expectations!
We spent a few days camped on free state-owned land. Similar to the BLM land that we’ve camped on previously, this was a dirt road that went on for miles into the desert at the base of small mountains, and off that dirt road were many areas that had been worn down by other campers over the years. We found a nice level spot with a view of the dry lake bed and mountains on the other side, which was perfect until the traffic started. On Thursday, we started seeing pickup trucks and jeeps arrive. When we took a walk, we discovered a few men and boys setting up camp in a larger clearing, and they were putting flags in the ground with tribe names … Wappo, Tolowa, Yakama. One of the men told us it was a father/son adventure camping weekend. Well, that was pretty cool until the dads started driving their trucks and jeeps down the sandy road as fast as possible. Once the full gang of campers arrived on Friday, most of the dads behaved themselves, and since there was no posted speed limit on this road, all we could do was close our windows and wait.
On Saturday, we noticed an increase in the number of regular cars and SUV’s driving past our site. By mid-day it was like a parade of vehicles. We discovered that the state park had published our dirt road on their list of locations for wildflower sightings. Ah ha! That explained a lot.
Other than the traffic on an otherwise lonely dirt road, our site was great because we had such a gorgeous view. In the early morning, the sunlight hit the opposite mountains and made them pop. Then, the sun washed over the dry lake bed causing the flowers to burst open (yellow brittlelbrush and blue tansy). We were happy to just sit and look at the view.
A highlight of our time in Anza-Borrego was when we discovered the town of Julian, California. What a cute little town! They are famous for their apples and apple pie stores. There are at least three bakeries that specialize in apple pies. We bought one from the Candied Apple Cafe and Bakery and, boy, is it good! We also discovered the Julian Beer Company, sampled their beer and ordered a BBQ pizza to go. WOW. That pie was SO good that we had to stop and get one to take with us when we headed to San Diego! Do we dare to compare it to friend Janet’s famous BBQ chicken pizza when we get to the Laguna area? We may have to!