A Day in the Desert, Part 1: Super Blooms and Mythical Beasts
While we ostensibly went to Indian Wells the other weekend to watch tennis, Me being Me and Brendan being Brendan, we usually tack on a side excursion in addition to any primary activity we have planned. In this instance the weekend coincided with the beginning of the 2019 Super Bloom a little over an hour away. I had also always wanted to see the Salton Sea. We combined the two, resulting a day of sights and experiences that rendered the expression “living desert” a vast understatement.
On Saturday morning we were off, armed with a guide and handy maps downloaded from Borregoblooms.org which marked the best viewing spots, stopping for water and gas along the way. After driving about an hour and turning onto the highway leading to the Borrego Badlands, I began looking for the mile marker signs that the map recommended stopping in between.
The only problem was there didn’t appear to be any mile markers on the road. We saw some cars pulled over at a trailhead and stopped. Walking a couple of dozen yards in both directions, revealed some awe-inspiring scenery, but it wasn’t exactly what I would call blooming.
Brendan proved that everyone born in the 1960’s use the same pop-culture references when he began calling out “Bobby, Cindy!” over the barren washes.
Fortunately once we crossed the San Diego County line, the promised mile markers began appearing, while scores of cars parked along the road also gave clues as to where to find the flowers.
At first I was worried the crowds trampling the blooms underfoot would obliterate the stands of sand verbena, lupine and desert sunflowers underfoot, but most people were fairly respectful. As we pushed in from the road, the crowds thinned and we the sights were that much more impressive.
After the badlands we headed for a second mapped just north of Borrego Springs at the mouth of Coyote Canyon entrance to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, where according to the map, areas the desert floor would be “carpeted” with blooms. They weren’t kidding.
While appreciating a good bloom, we are hardly botanists and had a long drive ahead of us to reach the other stops on our itinerary on the other side of the Salton Sea. When checking our map for the most direct route out of town, I noticed a couple of cute little dinosaur figures drawn next to a road running parallel to the one we should have taken, labeled sculptures.
Since we were already there, we decided take the short detour and check them out.
Thus we were introduced to Galleta Meadows, a private estate formerly owned by the late Dennis Avery, heir to the Avery Label fortune. Acquiring a number of large tracts of desert land surrounding Borrego Springs, Mr. Avery put the land under conservation and commissioned artist Ricardo Breceda to create over 120 large-scele sculptures on the various parcels. While the first one we encountered was this Spanish padre and his faithful dog trudging along not far off the road,
most depict animals, some real,
some mythical, and others that once roamed the area in prehistoric times.
The public is encouraged to get up close and examine, touch, or even camp around the artwork.
We visited several
and spied many more from the car as we pressed on to our next destination, Slab City.