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This barrel cactus is an early bloomer. Experts say that cactuses will be in full bloom about the first week of April. Photo by Jerry Ondash.
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Hit the Road: Winter showers bring spring flowers

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.

A carpet of desert dandelions blankets the valley floor bordering Di Giorgio Road in Borrego Springs. Photo by E’Louise Ondash.

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.”

Abundant Phacelia surrounds cholla cactus along Hell Hole Canyon Trail in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. This year’s abundant rains have brought forth another “super bloom,” similar to 2017. Experts say this one is more slowly to appear but will last longer. Photo by Jerry Ondash.

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:

The current landscape of the Anza Borrego Desert resembles a watercolor painting.  Photo by Jerry Ondash. 

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