DREAMING OF DESERT GOLD
The desert may be a harsh place, but if you know where to look, you can find plenty of magic tucked between the dirt, rocks and rattlesnakes.
I was lucky enough to catch the super bloom in Death Valley National Park last spring, so when I saw reports that Anza Borrego Desert State Park was anticipating a record wildflower display, my friend and I made plans to camp out this week. Our timing couldn't have been better.
Though the bloom wasn't nearly as mind blowing as what I saw in DVNP, the desert sunflowers (geraea canescens) and splashes of sand verbena (abronia) were everywhere, and towards Font's Point, there were a number of desert lilies (hesperocallis) as well. I spent two mornings wandering around the field adjacent to Henderson Canyon Road to shoot the sunflowers, and the way they caught the early morning light was nothing short of incredible.
The flowers are what truly make this park come alive every spring, but the camping experience you can have here is equally awesome. The cabins at Tamarisk Grove are cute and cozy, and generally easier to snag than tent sites at the Borrego Palm Canyon campground. However, if you want get away from everyone (especially during the March wildflower madness), there are plenty of options off the beaten path if you stick to a few simple rules:
1. Find an established campsite and park no more than a car length of the main road. This is to make sure you don't smash fragile vegetation with your wheels or feet, much like you'd do if you're camping on BLM land.
2. Ground fires are NOT permitted, so be sure to bring a metal container if you'd like to burn one, and bring your own firewood -- gathering wood/brush in the park is prohibited.
3. Stay a minimum of 100 feet away from water sources, and make sure you pack all your trash (that means your poo bags) out when you leave.
And...that's it! We found a spot near the slot canyon that was both peaceful and otherworldly, and when we wanted to shoot sunrise closer to the main areas of the park, we found a few dirt roads with established sites that were flat and far away from our neighbors. With showers at the campgrounds, WiFi in the town square and the freedom to camp in a number of spots throughout the park, you could easily spend an entire week here. Flowers or not, I'll be back again soon...