Anza-Borrego Desert State Park covers 600,000 acres of the Colorado Desert in southern California. The park takes its name from 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, the Spanish word for bighorn sheep, which are common in the park (though we didn’t see any).
One of the key highlights of the park is the Palm Canyon Oasis. In the middle of a desolate, forbidding desert rises a few dozen giant palm trees that shade a pool and year-round stream.
As you approach the oasis, the trail grows wetter and greener. There was a delightful aroma of lavender bushes full of buzzing bees.
The oasis seems otherworldly, almost fake, like something you’d see in the movies. It’s amazing how life can spring from a constant source of plentiful water. The palms tower 50 feet high, creating a deep, cool shade that traps in the humidity and creates a welcome respite for both humans and wildlife from the intense desert sun.
After enjoying the shade, we climbed high on a rock above the oasis to escape the chatter of the tourists below. There was a young brunette woman with a small baby in the oasis. She was wearing a white top similar to Theresa’s, so on the hike back, people kept asking us where our baby was. Finally I started to reply, “Dingo got our baby” to a few nervous chuckles.
We saw a bunch of black-tailed jackrabbits, which are about 2 feet long and weigh 6-8 pounds. Notice their big ears, which about 1/3 the size of their body and help keep them cool in the intense summer heat.
After a four-mile drive through a flat sandy wash and a short easy walk, Fonts Point delivered a stunning view high above the Borrego Badlands.
Theresa and I both love heights. You always want to be aware when you are in the one-step zone. That’s when a single misstep could take you over the edge to your likely death. You must maintain total concentration when you are in that zone, brace for wind gusts, watch for loose rock, and remain there for only a brief moment.
Here we are looking over the Borrego Badlands to our campground in the far distance at the foot of the mountains in the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation.
There is an inherent beauty in the bleak desert landscape. Having a hot woman in the photo helps too.
This was our first chance for off-road driving with our high-clearance, all-wheel drive Toyota RAV4. We had debated whether to buy a Jeep just for this trip so we could do lots of off-roading. I’ve owned two Jeeps in my life, so we are quite familiar with its benefits but also its downsides: poor gas mileage (17 mpg vs. 28 mpg for the RAV4), small back seat and cargo space, and difficulty in removing and putting on the convertible top. We love our RAV4, and it’s always done well in the snow, so we decided to bring it along. And so far it has been a success in the sand.
The drive to Wind Caves was an adventure in itself, with the canyon walls growing ever higher along the route.
The Wind Caves are an amazing rock formation full of holes and crevices and looks like a giant piece of Swiss cheese.
It was fun to climb over and through the Wind Caves to explore all the nooks and crannies.
The desert sun was blazing hot even though the air temperature was only in the 70s. So we sought shelter in one of the caves, put our feet up, and relaxed for a spell.
After exploring the caves, we climbed a few hundred feet on a hill high above the Wind Caves for an excellent view of the caves and the odd Elephant Knees formation in the background.
Next we visited The Slot, a half-mile long, very narrow passageway carved by water and wind through a sandstone canyon.
The Slot is only 1-2 feet wide in some places, forcing me to occasionally remove my backpack so I could squeeze through. Good thing I passed on the donuts for breakfast!
In honor of the Oscars tomorrow night, Theresa is showing off her acting chops, expressing fear at the pending crushing doom from the boulder above.
Anza-Borrego is a beautiful desert park. The weather here in February was incredibly warm and summer-like, sunny but with a refreshing breeze. Click the image above to see the full-size panorama of the Santa Rosa Mountains from the Anza-Borrego Visitor’s Center.