2012 Trip Report - Anza Borrego Wildflower & Wander
Anza Borrego Wildflower Wander
March 23 - 25 2012
by Deb Miller Marschke
Our group came together on Friday March 23,2012 , meeting at the Borrego Springs traffic circle / park. Steve and I met up with Allan Wicker, Terry Ogden, Nan Savage and her daughter Kathryn, Larry Boerio, and Alan & Karen Hodes (with doggies Scruffy & Shadow. ) . Before meeting the group, we had determined that the wildflowers were not yet blooming in Coyote Canyon. We motored south of Borrego Springs on the highway, leaving the pavement of SR-xx into Mine Wash. We stopped and poked around the area of the Indian Mortero site, where aboriginal peoples had used the rock formations as morteros and grinding stones. Many granding slicks and mortero holes gave testimony that this was a preferred food processing site for the native peoples who called these lands “home” for thousands of years. The ethnographic data calls these Indian people the “Kumeyaay”, whom favored a base camp sytle of residency (note that their northern neighbors were the Cahilla). From what I had read, the Kumeyaay favored Mine Gulch due to it’s diversity in plant and animal life. This diversity is still very much in evidence today.
Our group enjoyed the abundant variety of plants and cacti here, with the Ocotillos in full bloom and some agaves beginning to bloom as well. Many of the group were seemingly stalked by chollas, which required careful placement of our feet as we explored this special garden. Our group wheeled over to the nearby Plum Canyon. There were some light showings of wildflowers here, and we abserved monkey flowers, phacelia, purple mat, desert star, popcorn flower, pincushion, chia, Canterbury bell, and chuparosa. It was at one of our stops here that Larry Boerio asked what I was referring to by the term “Belly Flower”? I pointed at the sand near his feet, and explained that the belly flowers were ones in bloom that were so small, one must get down upon the belly to enjoy them. Larry thought I was kidding…but he bent down on his knees and took a look for himself. I think this was one of my favorite trip moments, was hearing Larry exclaim in delight “ Oh my God, there is a whole world down here, I had no idea!” . Plum Canyon was so picuturesque and pleasing that we decided to camp near the end of the route. Our group spread out, and we chose the firepit area. Anza Borrego requires firepits to be within metal containers, so Steve had brought some scrap metal leftover from dismantling an appliance which worked great. We had a pleasant dinner, and watched Nan & Katheryn cook hot dogs over the open flames. Allan Wicker was coaxed into reading aloud the historical account of Juan De Anza’s journey across Anza Borrego in December of 1775. This was another one of my favorite memories of the trip. Allan read, trying not to laugh, about de Anza allowing Christmas Eve to be celebrated with rowdy heavy drinking….” Father Font was furious. He sought Anzato say, “well, sir I wish to say that it does not seem appropriate to me to celebrate the birth of the infant Jesus by getting drunk’..Anza just shrugged” Allan stopped a second, pointing out that it was quite an interesting reaction for a trip leader to display after enduring a life threatening journey…to just shrug as if to say “whatta ya gonna do?” This was quite hilarious! We had a leisurely morning after a quiet nights sleep, leaving camp about 930 a.m. We almost lost our 10% allowance when Nan’s vehicle displayed a “mystery light” (we had a hard time figuring out what it really meant”. It was the consensus that the warning light was not a serious problem. We took to the highway and left the pavement again near Buttes Pass. Most of the group hiked through the area known as “the slot”, which is a very narrow, twisty, intriguing slot canyon carved in the land here. It is a very popular spot, but nonetheless interesting. A fun side trip for all who ventured through. We then headed down through Ocotillo Wells, were non of the DE group could resist a quick ice cream /snack purchase at the camper’s store there. We entered Fish Creek Canyon around mid-day and thouroughly admired the high walls and narrow spots our group traversed. If you haven’t been here yet, you need to check it out! Our group stopped and lunched at the Wind Caves. Ample time was allowed, and some of the DE hiked up to the Wind Caves, which is a collection of rock formations that have been sculpted and pocked by the wind. The wind caves, as it turns out, was over-run by a pack of Boy Scouts at the time. The Fish Creek wash was followed all the way back to Sandstone Canyon. Knowing that this route was leading to a dead end, we drove right in to one of my personal favorite spots in Anza Borrego. The canyon is an easy drive, but the reddish sandstone walls twist and become increasingly narrow. Driving in Sandstone Canyon is a delightful and wonderous experience, which was enjoyed by the entire group. We encountered another group near the end when we reached the turn around point, but they were friendly. Upon exiting Sandstone Wash, we entered Olla Wash which is an entirely different experience altogether. This canyon displays unique rock strata, which is uplifted and displaced. As we continued, the canyon faces morphed into mud palisades, which resemble castle walls like the ones we all made as children with drip-sand at the beach. The scenery was so mesmerizing that we decided to camp here for the night. We bade farewell to Terry Ogden, who needed to be home that evening to see his daughter off to college. In typical fashion, the DE potluck was spread out and miraculously balanced with entrees, salad, cut fruit and dessert. We enjoyed another fine evening of comradarie and restful sleep, disturbed only by a hooting owl. Morning arrived with overcast cloudcover. We exited Fish Creek wash the same way we came in, taking side trips into Oyster Shell Wash . I was looking for a large shelf of fossilized oyster shells, which I was unable to locate this time. Nonetheless, ambling around the many washes of Anza Borrego is always a rewarding day of mystery and discovery. We had succeeded in two and a half days with a feast for the eyes and senses. We took our last lunch break at the trailhead for the Elephant Trees. Allan Wicker marched out ahead, having already had lunch. Steve, Larry, and I opted to take the hike to the Elephant trees as well, meeting up with Allan coming back lamenting that he had taken a wrong turn and didn’t see the elusive trees. We paid heed to Allans warning about the trail, and finally reached the unique trees that are only found in this part of California (all others are in Mexico). Then I declared that our trip was officially over, because we had “seen the Elephant”!