Hiking up Hell Hole Canyon Trail, we encounter hundreds of painted ladies swarming perpendicular to our path. Flying erratically like so many drunk butterflies, they still manage to maintain a northward direction on their annual migration from Mexico. We’d love to take photos, but they sit still for only seconds as they land and take off from the lavender, yellow, orange and white blooms that carpet Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
Luckily, there are plenty of other stationery marvels to enjoy.
The words lush and verdant are rarely used when referring to our desert, but generous winter and spring rains have converted a normally multi-beige landscape into velvety green mountains and a valley punctuated with splashes of yellow, orange, pink, purple, burgundy and white. The chollas are chubby and tall, the ocotillos are at record heights, and a few barrels are blooming a bit early.
Although a similar “super bloom” unfolded just two years ago, the chances of it happening again soon are — well, who knows? So make the two-hour drive east, preferably mid-week to avoid the crowds. If that’s not possible, know that the town of Borrego Springs (population 3,500) is ready for you.
“This weekend will be crazy,” predicts Julie Gerson, land program coordinator for the Anza Borrego Foundation. The 50-year-old organization purchases private land parcels within park borders and donates it to the park. “Two years ago was the first super-bloom in the age of social media, so the town was unprepared then.”
This time around, though, Borrego Springs has laid in supplies of food, water and toilet paper, and stationed information booths and Porta-Potties in popular areas.
When you arrive, remember three things, Gerson advises:
- Bring snacks and water.
- Leave dogs at home. They are not allowed on trails, it’s dangerous to leave them in the car, and close encounters with jumping chollas can be disastrous.
- Be patient. Weekend visitors will experience waits for restaurants, restrooms and parking places.
- Research before you come: Anza Borrego Foundation – https://theabf.org/explore-anza-borrego/wildflowers/; wildflower guide from the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association http://www.abdnha.org/03flower_main.html; California State Parks http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=638.
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