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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”!