Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Anza Borrego Desert*

Anza Borrego Desert
Today we drove northeast to visit Borrego Springs and the Anza Borrego Desert State Park.  The desert is part of the larger Colorado Desert of southern California, which is part of the even larger Sonoran Desert where the beautiful saguaro cactus grow. Anza Borrego is named for an 18th century Spanish explorer, Juan Bautista de Anza, and for the Spanish word borrego meaning big horn sheep, which live here. It was about a 2 hour drive through the interesting and beautiful Cleveland Forest which began as pretty rocky landscape comprised mostly of chaparral. As we entered the Cuyamaca Mountains within the Forest, we noticed many, many large dead trees; dead so long they were silver and shiny. We later discovered the area was the site of the largest wild fire in California history, the 2003 Cedar Fire. This fire burned 280,000 acres and killed 15 people. 

In the midst of the Cuyamaca Mountains and the Cedar Fire area stands a little gold rush town, Julian. Amazingly, it survived the fire.  We had heard of the Julian pies, so naturally had to stop.  Practically all of the buildings were built ca 1870 during the gold rush.  At some point a Johnny Appleseed bought in and planted a wagon load of apple trees.  And, thus, the famous Julian apple pie was born.  
Julian, CA featuring our pie stop cafe.
The approach to Borrego Springs is breath-taking with steep roads that overlook deep and wide valleys.  The town was surprisingly populated and green with palm trees.  It was 85 degrees and sunny.  The road to the Park headquarters passes the Galleta Meadows where there are 130 metal sculptures inspired by creatures that roamed the desert millions of years ago.  The artist, Richard Breceda, was commissioned by Denis Avery, the land owner, to create the sculptures.  
Galleta Meadows Mastodon
The spring flowers are blooming the in the desert.  They are sometimes subtle, small, low to the ground and not immediately evidenced.  Others are large and bold such as the indigo shrub and the ocotillo cactus.  On our drive back we passed through the Laguna Mountains where we reached an altitude of 4500+ feet.  At one point it seemed we were on a mesa where rivers, large trees a lake and green, green grass grew.  All of here has been a geological delight.