Wednesday, February 11, 2009

California Crossing: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

To explore Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, plan more than a brief stop. As we made our way west through California on Highway S 22 from Salton City toward Borrego Springs, we had no idea that we were approaching the largest desert state park in the United States. Had we done our travel research, we could have planned to explore Anza- Borrego’s offerings – 12 wilderness areas, 500 miles of dirt roads, and more than 110 miles of hiking and riding trails. Instead, we relied on the recommendation of a chatty man in Borrego Springs’ town square. “Don’t leave without at least a stop at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center,” he advised Ed.

We found mountain vistas, a towering palm grove, blooming colorful wild flowers, and cacti in a panoramic sweep around the Visitor Center. Remarkably, the Visitor Center building did not detract from the surroundings. In fact, we discovered that we had been walking on its roof! Built into a hillside and disguised by desert gardens, the Visitors Center is mostly underground. While walking on the Center and garden paths, I learned the names of the cacti now familiar from our winter stay in the desert. The cacti resembling Mickey Mouse ears have the name Prickly Pear. Some others appropriately look like what their name describes – Beavertail.

Just like the scenery and underground design of the Visitor Center, extraordinary describes the video shown in the Center’s theater. The story took us back to a time between 1930 and 1947. Artist and author Marshal South lived with his wife and children on Ghost Mountain, now a part of the park. From this remote adobe house, a waterless location, he wrote books and chronicled his unusual lifestyle choice in Desert Magazine. Being a writer, I often long for the solitude of a place where I can work undisturbed; South’s life carried this wish to the unenviable extreme. As part of the audience, we witnessed a documentary of South’s interesting experiment in primitive desert living.

More typical were the Center’s informative exhibits, interpretative displays, and gift shop full of books and t-shirts. We breezed through these parts to continue on our road trip west across California. If we pass this way again, we will know to plan much more time in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

February 7, 2009

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Visitors Center

200 Palm Canyon Drive

Borrego Springs, CA


(Open October – May daily 9 AM to 5 PM &

June – September weekends & holidays only)

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