Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park - Blair Valley, CA

Blair Valley's elevation is over 2,000 feet and therefore cold at night - down to about 25F (umm, -4 or -5 C?), but daytime highs are in the 70s and sunny, so we're back in shorts and tank tops.  We camp in a primitive state park campground, which means there are no hookups, but there are pit toilets, all of which we don't need anyway - but it's FREE.  The campground is beside a dry lake, and the vegetation here is much more lush than in Borrego Springs where the elevation was around 800 feet.  Again, mountains (with peaks around 5,000 feet) surround us.  Grady likes his walks here amongst the bushes.

Yaquitepec ruins - the water cistern with homestead wall behind me
Ghost Mountain and Yaquitepec - this is the primitive experimental homesite of Marshal and Tanya South who raised three children here from 1933 to 1946 without any "comforts of home" as we know them - no electricity, nearby grocery stores, etc.  They had to search for sources of water, food and fuel.  The remains of their adobe home and water cistern remain.  The views of the valleys to the east and west are stunning, although I expect that, after a few years living atop this mountain desert wilderness, you wouldn't be so excited by it.
The view southeast from Ghost Mountain
The Narrows Earth Trail - a very short, interpretive trail explaining some of the geology of the area.  The trail is along a fault line and the fault cracks and different types of rock on either side of the fault are easily seen.  We took no photos here because they're just, well, more rocks.

Marilyn climbing down a dry waterfall
Rainbow Canyon - so far the best hike in this park yet.  As its name implies, it is somewhat colourful (although, again, compared to Utah it's drab).  We find rocks that are grey and brown, but also white (quartz and feldspar), black (mica and tourmaline), red, greenish and bluish.  The canyon walls are high and close together, so it is like hiking through a wide slot canyon with several (about 8 or 9) dry waterfalls that we have to scramble up (and then down on our way back).  In total, we climb about 500 feet in elevation from the road to where the canyon widens out at about 1.6 miles in.  The vegetation is very lush here with many plants - ocotillo (awk-oh-tee'-oh), cholla (choy'-ya), barrel cactus, agave (ah-gah'-vay), beavertail cactus, and many others I can't begin to name.  The cholla are starting to flower - they get tough, yellow buds at their ends which will bloom soon I expect.  I would love to see the ocotillo in full bloom - their flowers are scarlet.
A new barrel cactus
A Teddybear Cholla with buds

Desert flora - barrel cactus on left, teddybear cholla with an ocotillo sprayed behind them
We also see some wildlife in the area.  There are roadrunners near our camp and we often see them scooting across the road, and we see a few Anna's hummingbirds on separate occasions.  The Chihuahuan Ravens are a constant on the desert landscape.  There is evidence of nocturnal species like coyotes (there is scat everywhere!).  What's scary are the holes in the desert sand, usually under bushes - I read that tarantulas and scorpions hibernate underground during the winter and Grady likes to stick his arm down these holes during his walks.  A warning from us makes him pull back.  However, the poor guy does get stung by a bee - inside the trailer.  Bees surround the trailer.  They are not at all agressive, but we can't leave our door open and just the screen door closed.  There are about two dozen bees buzzing at the screen the day we arrive and we have the door open because it's hot.  Well, I guess a bee got inside but we didn't see him.  In the evening while we are watching TV, Grady starts sniffing something on the carpet.  I don't see anything there but then he suddenly jumps straight up, then jumps up and to the side again.  Then he starts licking and shaking his head.  Brad catches on right away.  "He's been stung by a bee!"  I turn on the overhead lights and look around the carpet and sure enough, I find a bee with the stinger just pulled out lying dead.  Poor Grady licks his chops for half an hour, but he is otherwise fine.

Tomorrow we head further south in the park to Mountain Palm Canyon where we will stay for a few days and explore the southwest section.

1 comment:

  1. You are intrepid hikers! I'm not as daring as you, but I guess, if time doesn't matter (and it doesn't, right?), you can take it as easy as you want! Notice you're "stripping". Must be getting hotter and hotter.