The Hoppy Okapi

A 2012 Pacific Crest Trail Adventure

Wildflowers in Anza Borrego: Palm Canyon Trail April 3, 2009

After our tour of Galleta Meadows and lunch at Carlee’s (home of yummy burgers and yummier homemade potato chips), we headed out to Anza Borrego state park to claim our campsite and do a bit of hiking. We headed out on Palm Canyon trail, the most popular one in the park, and the same one that we started on on our backpaking trip last fall. Anza Borrego during the wildflower bloom is a lot different than Anza Borrego during late fall – more water, more green plants, and way more people. The flowers themselves were pretty impressive once we got about half a mile down the trail – almost every leafy plant in site was blooming, and the buds were just starting to come out on the cacti. We were sad to see a troop of boy scouts playing strange gladiator games and running amok over the delicate desert landscape (I thought the point of camping during scouting was to learn to like and respect nature, not destroy it, but apparently times have changed), but otherwise had a good time exploring the canyon and taking pictures of the flowers. We hiked a little beyond the oasis to a small waterfall, and then took the trail less-traveled on the way back to camp, hiking along the western edge of the canyon. Even though the main trail was pretty crowded, there was no one else on the longer trail back to camp, and we almost lost faith a few times when it took counter-intuitive twists, but ultimately stuck with it and enjoyed the alternate view.

 

Return to Galleta Meadows March 22, 2009

As I mentioned in November, we planned to visit Anza Borrego state park this spring to see the wildfowers. As soon as projections and reports of wildflower blooms started rolling in in mid-February I made a reservation for a campsite, and we headed out to the desert for the first weekend in March. Our Saturday morning activity was to visit all of the Galleta Meadows sculpture sites – we had only seen a few of them as we drove through town last fall, but this time we made a comprehensive visit. Here are some of the pictures I took of the sculptures:

An Elephant welcomes us to Galleta Meadows

An Elephant welcomes us to Galleta Meadows

Mammoths:

Mammoth

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The Giant Bird (with baby warthog in its clutches!):

img_2277img_2280Wild Horses:

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Gomphotheriums -extinct animals that were related to elephants and bear a resemblance to fanged tapirs:

img_2294img_2299Camels:

img_2301Giant Sloths:

img_2310mini-sloth:

img_2321Elephant:

img_2327Tortoises:

img_2331Saber Tooth Tiger:

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And last but not least, the wild pigs (warthogs! cuddly baby warthogs! I think these were Chuck’s favorite…)

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Backpacking in Anza Borrego November 5, 2008

This weekend, we took a mini-backpacking trip to Anza Borrego State Park. Why mini? All told, we were away from home for less than 24 hours, and only hiked about 5 miles in the park.

Looking ahead to the canyon from the trailhead

Looking ahead to the canyon from the trailhead

After driving the long and windy road from Highway 8, through Julian and to Borrego Springs, we stopped for lunch at Carlee’s Bar and Grill, where the sandwiches were good and the homemade potato chips were brilliant. We then headed to the Park Visitors’ Center – it was big and well-appointed, with information exhibits on par with those at Grand Canyon – maybe not surprising considering that the park is California’s largest state park, covering 600,000 acres!

Palm Canyon Trail Description

Palm Canyon Trail Description

We started our backpacking adventure on the Palm Canyon Nature Trail, one of the most popular hikes in the park. It was mid-afternoon when we started out, and it felt like summer instead of the first day of November – it was about 92 degrees and very sunny when we started out along the desert trail.

Trailhead

Trailhead

There are trail markers at strategic spots along the trail, but we hadn’t picked up an interpretive brochure and so tried to guess at what we were supposed to be learning (rocks? plants? dust mites?) as we made our way to the first palm grove.

Clear skies over the valley

Clear skies over the valley

There are a number of trails branching off along the valley floor, and so we only saw about two-thirds of hte markers as we made our way into the canyon. After about a mile of very slow hiking (those backpacks are heavier than we remembered!), we got to the shadier part of the trail, protected from the sun by the canon walls.

Oasis Ahead!

Oasis Ahead!

The official trail ends on the other side of the palm grove,

End of the Trail

End of the Trail

but we continued on deeper into the canyon, scrambling over boulders and through thorny acacia shrubs.

Heading Upstream

Heading Upstream

As we got further up-canyon, the streams were running at slightly more than a trickle and the pools were more numerous, and most importantly, we saw a lot of frogs! They were fairly tiny and hard to get pictures of, but it seemed like there were at least two different species hopping around.

Have you seen my frog?

Have you seen my frog?

It was fun to come accross the pools of water, but everytime we saw one, it meant there were more boulders to climb over as we made our way upstream – four days later, and my legs still have bruises and scratches!

the stream pooling along the trail

the stream pooling along the trail

After a while (making sure we went further than the other backpackers we knew about, since Chuck is all about competitive hiking…), we came across our chosen campsite. We could see another grove of palms another third of a mile ahead and around the bend, we had a nice little pool of water to relax near and soak our feet in, and there was a sandy stretch for us to set up the tent:

The view to the north of our campsite

The view to the north of our campsite

Our very own wading pool

Our very own wading pool

Our wading pool had some frogs and water bugs, but as we were getting out we noticed an ultra-scary mean looking bug on the rocks right below where we were sitting – it looked kind of like a rhinoceros beetle, except it was under water – ick! Normal water beetles and little black grubs were ok, but this guy was creepy!

Chuck set up out tent

Chuck set up out tent

Good color coordination!

Good color coordination!

The downstream view

The downstream view

Since it was still pretty warm in the evening, we left the rain fly off our tent and huddled in our sleeping bags and enjoyed the breeze coming through the tent…until one in the morning, when we were suddenly awoken by…raindrops! in the middle of the desert. The rain only lasted a minute or two, but Chuck threw the rain fly over the tent just in case there was more. We didn’t get swept away by a flash flood, but in the morning it was interesting to see how the stream had surged overnight, with the rocks and sand around our wading pool showing new high-water marks. After a night of tossing and turning (I still haven’t figured out how to sleep comfortably in the tent, even with my new packable feather pillow), we woke up early in the morning and headed out in the morning light.

Morning sun over the canyon

Morning sun over the canyon

A baby palm tree growing near the stream bed

A baby palm tree growing near the stream bed

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Ocotillo

Ocotillo

We didn’t spot any bighorn sheep on our hike, although they were rumored to be in the area, so that’s another reason we have to go back to Anza Borrego. We did come across the skeleton of a baby sheep, presumably killed by a mountain lion – it looked like it had been laying in the stream bed for quite a while. We also heard a scary growling noize once on our way out of the valley, and quickly movedaway from that spot to the other side of the stream bed in case we were being stalked by a mountain lion ourselves!

We got back to the car shortly after eight am, and stopped at Los Jilbertos in Borrego Springs for breakfast burritos before driving back to San Diego – it was the perfect post-backpacking breakfast!

Our trip to Anza Borrgo allows me to cross #59 off of my 101 Things list. Now that we’ve made the trip and know how much fun it is, we’ll definitely be going back!

 

 
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