Thursday, March 23, 2017

Super Bloom in Anza Borrego Desert


We’ve spent the last three nights parked off Rockhouse Trail near Borrego Springs, CA. This is probably the 5th time we’ve stayed here and even though the legal area for dispersed camping is much smaller than it used to be, there aren’t all that many rigs here, probably due to the heat over the past week. It was 90 on Monday afternoon when we arrived, hotter than predicted, and although it’s cooled off a bit the past two days, It’s still been warmer than was forecast. Can’t trust those weather people! And the wind has been blowing like crazy.


As the sun was going down and it cooled off a bit on Monday evening we took a drive to the Anza Borrego State Park visitor center and walked around the nature trails and down to the campground. There were quite a few people around but not too bad.

The area around the state park visitor center was full of flowering desert plants.











We drove around some of the sculptures but we’ve taken many photos of them before so we didn’t stop.


The park and some of the Borrego Springs businesses got together and paid for a bunch of porta-potties to be scattered around, as apparently there were so many people with nowhere to go, they were just going wherever they happened to be. Crazy. This downed toilet is along Henderson Canyon Road, a popular area for photographers because of the fields of desert sunflowers.



Since it was still in the 80’s on Tuesday we figured it was wise to hike at higher elevations, and try to avoid the flower-peeping crowds. Also wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t yet been, so we took a drive south to Blair Valley and a few miles down a dirt road to the trail for some morteros or Indian grinding holes.


Jim wasn’t too excited about the morteros, but he did like the scenery and huge boulders along the trail.







About a half mile from the morteros trail is more challenging trail to the former home of writer Marshal South, who along with his family spent almost 17 years living on secluded Ghost Mountain. A steep rocky trail of just under a mile is the only way to reach it.


We couldn’t imagine having to carry supplies up here.



With the views and seclusion it’s easy to understand how this location drew him in, but it could not have been an easy life. After 17 years his wife divorced him and took their three kids to San Diego, never again speaking of their life on the mountain. You can read more here if interested.




There isn’t much left of the house.


But the water cistern looks like it will be here for awhile.



We saw hundreds of century plants but most were dead, except for these two.



On the drive back we made one more stop for another short hike at a place where we saw a bunch of parked cars and people out taking flower photos. By this time there were no cars, and it had become overcast, so we had this lovely trail to ourselves.




There was a good chance of rain Tuesday night but it never materialized.


And yesterday morning it was raining to the west but again it never made it to us, and turned out to be a beautiful, partly sunny day.


Wanting to avoid the crowds we drove about 8 miles east of Rockhouse trail along the Borrego Salton Seaway to the badlands. Not as much in the way of flowers out here so we found solitude.  We parked along the highway near an overgrown old road and began hiking south, hoping to find an easy way down into the wash.



After about a mile we saw this road going down, which Jim said  we could have done in the Subaru, but what fun would that have been.


It was as wide as a highway down in the wash, but we saw no vehicles. I imagine on weekends there are a lot of OHVs driving through it.


Jim poking at fallen sandstone.




We had to be careful where we stepped, as these caterpillars were everywhere.


They are actually called hornworms, and will eventually become Sphinx moths.


It was a good hike, and we did find some blooms.



Just one more photo from near our campsite, looking down on the rock snake. There is so much grass growing around it this year I actually almost stepped on it before I realized it was there.


Our internet connection, although 4G, was almost useless in Anza Borrego, probably due to to saturated towers from so many  people around the area trying to post their flower photos on Facebook and Instagram.

Today we made a short move of 50 miles northwest to Jojoba Hills, the Escapees park where we plan to hang out for a month. Time to visit with friends and get our pickleball fix. And try to figure out what we’re going to do this summer.


  1. One word....Gorgeous! Gosh I wish we could have stayed in the desert just one more week. How beautiful.
    Everyone that visits Jojoba Hills loves it. Have a good time.

    1. Too bad you missed all the blooms in the desert. And it's just amazing how green it is everywhere!

  2. Your site looks pretty perfect. And WOW, gorgeous pictures of the bloom. Love the hike you took. The Marshal South story is actually pretty sad. Boy what a lot of work that was.

    1. We're always fascinated trying to imagine what life would have been like without all the amenities we take for granted.

  3. Beautiful photos! We're amazed at the how green everything is in the desert this year.

    1. I know, the desert looks so different this spring with all the green. A nice change!

  4. Wow! The flowers are spectacular. I can't believe all the colors. Great photos! The hike up to Marshall South's is always fun. That looks like a new sign with the photos from back in the day!? Have you ever seen the movie at the VC on Marshall South and their time on the "hill?"

    Sure hope it cools off for you. Say hi to LuAnn and Terry!

    1. We didn't get to see the movie but will definitely do it the next time we go.

      It's much cooler here at Jojoba. We had dinner with LuAnn and Terry last night. They are doing well and it was great to see them again.

  5. Thanks for sharing that beautiful area and all the flowers. It would be a hard but beautiful place to live. Interesting about Marshall South.

    1. Yes, we could not imagine hauling water and other supplies up that trail. They were a hardy family.

  6. Beautiful blooms! I can imagine how crowded Borrego must have been...San Diegans don't get good spring blooms in the desert very often, now two years in a row!

    How funny that you almost stepped on the "snake" since it is so covered in grass!

    Enjoy your time at Jojoba...I bet the vernal pools at Santa Rosa Plateau are full this year.

    1. We haven't been to the Santa Rosa Plateau but it looks like a good place to hike while we're here. I'm sure there would be water in the pools based on how green the hillsides are.

      We couldn't believe all the traffic heading into Borrego Springs as we were leaving yesterday. Reminded us of the roads in FL heading away from the coast during a hurricane evacuation!

  7. Your photos of the flowers are beautiful—it looks a lot like the bloom we caught a couple of years ago when we were in Anza Borrego. Looks like a new sign for Ghost Mountain—it's such a fascinating story. The filmmaker (of the film at the Visitor Center) is a high school track buddy of Eric's, and we met up with him for a personal tour last time we were in Anza Borrego. Perhaps you might find this interesting:

    1. I remember reading your excellent post. You were so lucky to have the filmmaker along for the hike!

  8. For some reason these comments would not publish, so I copied them.

    Mike & Deb has left a new comment on your post "Super Bloom in Anza Borrego Desert":

    Great pictures of the blooms. Have fun in Jojoba Hills.

    Jeff Pierce has left a new comment on your post "Super Bloom in Anza Borrego Desert":

    Beautiful pictures of the flowers and fields. Borrego's HawkWatch is reporting hundreds Swainson's Hawks now feasting on the caterpillars. Did you see any? If you're still in the area it is spectacle to watch.

    1. Jeff, we don't remember seeing even a single hawk, but we saw hundreds of caterpillars. That would have been exciting! Guess we were in the wrong place.

  9. Nice flower shots. Sure looks different than all the "beige" that I remember from last year!

  10. WOW! The flowers are spectacular at AB this year. But oh those crowds.

  11. Your photos of the superbloom are wonderful, although with more and more caterpillars around it won't be long before the fields start to empty. We did the morteros trail and Marshal South with John and Pam a few years ago. It certainly has more wildflowers along the trail this year. Love the desert in spring.

  12. It appears the desert has painted some beautiful scenes this year!! Gorgeous!!! Your pics are amazing!!

  13. Such a wonderful year to be in AB - thank you for sharing so many beautiful photos!! Love all the color and variety. Those caterpillars are very fancy :-) Great pics of the Marshall site.

  14. You mention many of the places and trails that we know and the proliferation of flowers after this years rains. I think we have missed our visit this year but have a virtual one from you instead.