Borrego’s ‘super bloom’ did not disappoint

Borrego’s ‘super bloom’ did not disappoint
The fields of desert sunflowers along Henderson Canyon Road mimic an impressionistic painting. (All photos by Jerry Ondash)

 

Were you one of the thousands of looky-loos who visited Anza Borrego Desert State Park in the last two weeks to ogle at the much ballyhooed Big Bloom?

We were.

The crowds were out in force during March to see the “super bloom” in Anza Borrego Desert, as well as the 70 metal sculptures created by Ricardo Breceda. This is the head of a giant serpent that spans the road.

The crowds were out in force during March to see the “super bloom” in Anza Borrego Desert, as well as the 70 metal sculptures created by Ricardo Breceda. This is the head of a giant serpent that spans the road.

We innocently wandered into the fray (20,000 visitors, it was reported) with friends from Wisconsin who had never seen a flowering desert. We had — but not like this. Stories of the “super bloom” and the swarms who came to see it were not exaggerated. Hordes of visitors wandered mostly on the desert floor not far from Christmas Circle in the town of Borrego Springs. They marveled at the carpet of desert sunflowers, dune primroses, purplemat and sand verbena. They squatted among the foliage to examine more closely this miracle of nature. They snapped photos and selfies and panoramic pictures.

They also wreaked havoc on tiny Borrego Springs (population 3,500), which normally welcomes spring and the attending visitors with relish.
But this year?

Desert lily

Desert lily

Restaurants ran out of food, the town’s plumbing was challenged (certainly not enough toilets), parking spaces were all but non-existent, and with temps in the mid-90s, the paramedics were kept busy treating people who didn’t bring enough (or any) water. (It’s the DESERT, people …)

And except for a few ambitious early birds, there was not a chance of getting into the park’s visitors’ center.

Sheriff deputies were out in force, directing traffic in front of barricades that blocked entry to the center’s parking lot.

While waiting in traffic, we saw one rather timid woman approach a deputy and ask, “Could we ___?” and before she could complete the question, the deputy bellowed, “No!”

Dune primrose

Dune primrose

We avoided most of the mayhem by driving five minutes south of Christmas Circle on Borrego Springs Road and introducing our Midwest friends to the Breceda sculptures. This was followed by an uncrowded lunch at the Borrego Springs Resort (no bare cupboards here), then we spent some time leisurely strolling the fields lining Henderson Canyon Road. Cars were parked along the road as far as you could see, but there was no problem finding an opening.

You’d think after dealing once with the heat and descending “locusts,” as I heard one local refer to the hordes, that we’d be crazy to return the following week — but we did.

Purplemat

Purplemat

Good thing, too, because the desert was showcasing an even more splendid palette.

We returned with friends from Orange County, and expecting the worst, we arrived Sunday, when most people head home. Though Borrego Springs was busier than usual, the stories in the media must have scared away a lot of folks. The crowds were not overwhelming.

Brittlebush

Brittlebush

We also didn’t think that the Big Bloom could get any finer, but we were wrong. On this second visit, there were additional flowers to complement the previous week’s floral display in the flatlands. People walked through the fields of saffron-colored desert daisies like so many sojourners in an impressionistic painting. Upon closer examination, we could see that the caterpillars were enjoying the floral display as much as the looky-loos.

Brown-eyed evening primrose

Brown-eyed evening primrose

Also, the cactuses had begun to display their regal blossoms. The beavertail, with their bright pink, waxy flowers, were the leaders, but the cholla, hedgehogs, barrels and ocotillos weren’t far behind.

This time, we put on our hiking boots and headed up the mountain from the Hell Hole Canyon trailhead. There were plenty of flowers everywhere and the cactuses were showing off their colors even more as we ascended to the ridge. We were rewarded for our slow, hot climb with a magnificent view of the Borrego Valley.

Desert dandelion

Desert dandelion

I doubt we’ll see anything close to this year’s Big Bloom again in our lifetimes.

For more photos, visit www.facebook.com/elouiseondash.

E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at eondash@coastnewsgroup.com

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