My sister, Cynthia, recently came to visit us from the East Coast. I had told her about Anza Borrego State Park for several years, how beautiful it is, the metal sculptures, unique natural mountain landscapes and wildlife. Given how the east coast below zero weather had been, she was game to check it out.
The drive to the campground is scenic and beautiful, once we get off of the major Interstate 15 onto two lane highways 79 and 78. That portion of the drive is one of my favorite California drives with rolling green hills, some interesting rock formations, wineries and farms/ranches. Once we got to route 22 (Montezuma-Borrego Highway), the latter half is a steep descent into Borrego Valley, with a dramatic view into the valley. We stopped at an overlook, which has an elevation of 2,300 feet to enjoy the views. Below are a few photos that my sister took during our stop.
We arrived at Anza Borrego state park and it felt good to be back! It is a peaceful and serene place, though when we had booked our site at the campground several months ago, it had shown that the campground was full. Upon our arrival, it looked fairly booked but not packed. We setup camp and enjoyed the evening with the beautiful sunset colors against the surrounding mountains. Later that evening we had a nice campfire, celebrated Jim’s birthday and found some scorpions around the campground.
Our first day in Anza Borrego, we decided to do the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail hike which would take us up to an oasis surrounded by California fan palms. They are the only palm tree native to California. There would be a chance that we might be able to see some native and endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep but that is always hit or miss. The earlier in the morning that you hike, the better the odds of seeing one. We hiked to the trailhead from our campground. From the trailhead, about 10 minutes into the hike, we encountered a group of about seven or so male Bighorn Sheep grazing. We stopped and watched them for several minutes along with a few other hikers. What a great way to start our hike by seeing these endangered mammals!
We proceeded on and found that the hiking trail had been modified since we were here last April. The hike took longer than previous times but the trail is more clearly marked, which is a good thing! Once we got deeper into the canyon where a creek is, we saw more Bighorn Sheep at the water’s edge (the video below will display properly if you click on it).
We continued on and arrived at the oasis where we relaxed under the beautiful and impressive California Fan Palms, whose lifespan is 80-250 years. We then headed back and about halfway encountered a number of Bighorn Sheep again but this time they were blocking the hiking trail. We stopped to watch them for a while, enjoying what felt like a magical experience (real corny, I know!), then tried to figure what would be the safest way to proceed on the hiking trail without a negative encounter. We decided to slowly proceed, one by one, with a gap of time in between each of us moving. Whew, we made it and nobody got charged! All in all it was a wonderful hike and special since we had seen the most Peninsular Bighorn Sheep in one hike compared to all of the times we’d previously hiked on this trail…..truly a special day.
When we got back to our trailer, we took a break then drove into town to check out the Borrego Art Institute (http://www.borregoartinstitute.org). It is a local grassroots gallery, which has a variety of art displays from local artists as well as classes and workshops. A number of the art pieces displayed are inspired by the scenery, wildlife, people, etc. of the Anza Borrego area. They have a restaurant next door, Kesling’s Kitchen, which we have not tried yet but it looks good. Before heading back to our campground, we stopped by the local grocery store “Center Market” to pickup a food item. Definitely a market you should check out if you are in the area…..funky and interesting yet has items you need!
The next morning after breakfast, we walked over to the Visitor’s Center and spent a little time there. It is a nice walk from the campground to the Visitor’s Center and the center itself is interesting.
We then went into town and stopped by the Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association store and the Anza-Borrego Foundation and State Park Store to look around for some souvenirs. That afternoon, we drove around the area to look at all of the metal statues created by Ricardo Breceda. Though Jim and I have seen these statues a number of times, we never get tired of them since they are amazing works of art. My sister really enjoyed them, especially the sea serpent going under the road…..our favorite one too! A number of these metal sculptures are based on pre-historic fossils found in the Borrego valley area.
Sadly the day came for us to leave Anza Borrego. It was another enjoyable desert visit where one feels peaceful and relaxed after spending time at this magical place. My sister enjoyed it too and experienced the specialness of this wonderful state park. We will be back again!