Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Anza Borrego

Anza-Borrego is where I first loved the desert. It's a huge state park- bigger than many entire counties here in Illinois- east of San Diego and south of Palm Springs in the rain shadow of the Coast Range. It's one of the vast and empty places of the American West that I have come to love in the last two decades of my life. Leon and I visited on the Friday of our recent California trip.

It's been a while since I've visited. Two years ago, on our last trip, Leon and I had become sick. Our feelings of malaise increased during the drive down, and we opted to go back to the resort rather than go for a hike. Fortunately we fared much better today.

The trail into Plum Canyon begins as a Jeep road

We chose to hike in Plum Canyon, so named because of the many desert apricots (Prunus fremontii) that grow in the wash. It was a perfect day for a hike, sunny and warm but not hot. There are few flowers in bloom at this time of the year, but the vegetation is still fascinating. Anza-Borrego has some of the most beautiful, garden-like cactus patched that I've ever seen.

Teddy Bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii)

Barrel Cactus

For the first time on this vacation, we were seeing a bit more insect life on this hike.

Grasshopper nymph on a desert apricot branch

Leda Hairstreak (Ministrymon leda) - winter form

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

The Great Purple Hairstreak was, unfortunately, uncooperative for photography. It didn't fly away, but it was very active climbing over the flowers it was nectaring on. It kept moving out of focus, or out of view. It's a species that I see fairly frequently in these mountains. The larval food plant, mistletoe, is abundant as a parasite of the various desert shrubs and trees that grow here.

Mistletoe (Phoradendron sp.)

Why it's fun to hike in the desert

Plum canyon winds up the mountains, narrowing as it goes. As we hike, I'm reminded of the profound silence of this desert. We hear no human sounds and few birds. You can hear the wing beats of the numerous crows flying overhead, the breeze in your ears, and little else. It's a moment of sublime peace.

Looking back down Plum Canyon Wash
The blue spiky plants are agaves (Agave deserti)

The hike ends at the ridge line with a beautiful view of Earthquake Valley and the village of Shelter Valley. We lingered to enjoy the view and the breeze before the descent and evening.

The view into Earthquake Valley

Anza-Borrego Memories

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At 16:50, Blogger cedrorum said...

Great pictures and post. Thanks for bringing back memories for me. We used to go birding at Anza Borrego every once in a while. It was one of my favorite places to bird.

At 17:34, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice pictures, I'm glad you're seeing some insects. I never had the chance to explore Anza-Borrego (where permits are needed to collect insects), but I did spend some time just outside the border in Mountain Spring and in nearby Ocotillo (no permits needed!). Fabulous countryside - I hope to get back again someday.
regards -- ted

At 17:44, Blogger Lemuel said...

I hope Leon was nearby! :)

At 08:43, Blogger Celeste said...

Nice mistletoe pout! Did it work??!!

At 10:35, Blogger Doug Taron said...

cedrorum- The birding is excellent there. I've camped out there before, and dawn always brings lots of amazing activity.

Ted- I have done some nice collecting outside of the park. Ocotillo is a nice collecting spot.Also Jacumba.

Lem- Of course. HE took the photo.

Celeste- I don't kiss and tell.

At 11:48, Blogger Amila Suwa said...

Wonderful post, Doug.
I like the look of that desert apricots. You have captured them in a beautiful light. Hairstreaks are also interesting.


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