Borrego Springs Wildflower Viewing

Spring flowers provide vivid colors

Trip Report 20080307

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California Poppy in Henderson Canyon near Borrego Springs.

The Experience

One of the local moggers, Mark Mitchell hosts a wildflower 4x4 trip every spring. This year was no exception and I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to attend. Rather than contend with the early departure time by getting up at "oh dark thirty" and driving there on Saturday, I decided to take the mog there the night before. Sadly, Kathleen's father recently passed away and Kathleen was back with her family attending to issues. So, on this trip, it was just me.

I left San Diego mid afternoon on Friday and got to Borrego Springs before dark. That is just as well. The mountain grade that descends the mountain front into Borrego Springs is very steep. Steep enough to boil the brake fluid out of my reservoir and leave me with no brakes on an 8% hill and a 5,000 pound trailer in tow. Recalling that sphincter-tightening experience of several years ago, I prefer to not travel the Montezuma Grade in the dark.

The photos below are what we saw.

At the start of the Montezuma Grade, I stopped to admire the view. In the distance is the Salton Sea. The Ram's Hill development is visible at the right center of the photo. Note how green the landscape is as a result of the recent rains.

The Borrego Valley as seen from a lower altitude overlook. The valley floor looks positively lush (for a hard-core desert).

I spent the night at Mark's place and we went out to the local Mexican restaurant "Carmelita's" and had a great meal. This was just the ticket as the drive to Borrego from San Diego is about 2.5 hours (mog time) and I had been working all morning preparing the camper for the trip. I was starved and would have likely eaten cardboard and pronounced it a gourmet meal.

Recently, my buddy Kai purchased this Ural motorcycle with a side car. The cycle is a Russian copy of an old BMW design. The cycle has 2WD available via a dog clutch that can be actuated by the rider. This gives this bike surprising off-road capabilities which Kai would prove over the next 2 days. Kai and his son Parker rode the cycle from San Diego to Borrego early in the morning. Needless to say, they were a bit chilled when they arrived.

Mark's buddy Wally came with his wife, dog and Suzuki Samurai. Wally accompanied us on a past Altar Desert trip.

Brian and Kathy from San Juan Capistrano arrive in their Unimog 406 DOKA.

Richard also joined us with his 2450L from Rancho Santa Fe.

Once we had the troop assembled, we headed out for Henderson Canyon near Borrego Springs. I was blown away by how many flowers there were. The colors were quite vivid and there were many people there taking photos and generally admiring the view. Above is one view of the Henderson Canyon area.

Mark advised us that the white flowers were a type of lily and the purple flowers were verbena.

The predominant flowers in this area seemed to be the poppy which have vibrant yellow flowers.

Richard's Unimog 2450L serves as an ad-hoc photo studio for Darren's children.

The yellow color of the poppies were so bright they almost hurt your eyes.

The bajada at Henderson Canyon is filled with flower patches.

Nice poppies were everywhere.

The Henderson area also had a nice stand of lilies as well. Once we were finished at Henderson Canyon, we headed south into the hills of the Borrego Badlands.

Kai and Parker at an overlook in Inspiration Canyon in the badlands.

The badlands are just that -- bad. The mud hills do not support any kind of vegetation and erode in other-worldly shapes and patterns.

From the crest in Inspiration Canyon, you can see Toro Peak to the north and Clark Dry Lake at it's base. Toro Peak is over 8K feet high and gets substantial snow in the winter.

The group admires the flower patches on the hills to the south of our position on the ridge.

John, one of the guests, rides his bike on the trail through the flowers. Lots of grass this year!

Brian follows the trail through the purple verbena into the heart of the mud hills.

Break time on the ridge. Unimogs from left to right: 2450L, 406 DOKA and 1300L.

The lilies were pervasive and nice flowers could be found almost everywhere. Once we complete the run through the hills and sand dunes, we returned to Mark's Borrego house for a BBQ. We had tons of food and washed it down with beer and red wine. Next day, we prepared to return back to San Diego, but first we needed more trail time. So, we headed south out of Borrego Springs and over to Hawk Canyon.

Bill's 1300L with Alaskan Camper (in travel configuration) on the Buttes Pass trail. We have been giving the camper quite a bit of use recently and I hate to say it, but I am now wondering how I got by without it for so long! The camper provides quick and easy setup when we reach camp and the cabin is sufficiently weather proof that weather is now almost a non-issue.

Kai and Parker take a break in the Ural on the way to Hawk Canyon.

The rock fall at the head of Hawk Canyon. Note the bedding in the rocks that have fallen off the cliff. I am glad that I was not camping there when they fell!

We saw a number of this kind of flower. I do not know what it is, however.

On the crest near Hawk Canyon, we had a clear view of the banded mud hills to the north. Our path would take us down a big drop-off and into the valley in the center of the photo.

These two vehicles are scoping out the drop-off. Note the wind caves on the far ridge.

Kai walks back up the drop-off after inspecting it to insure that he can safely descend.

Kai led over the drop-off with Wally following. Kai's Ural is just visible underneath the Samurai.

The view out the windshield of my mog during the drop-off. While it did have deep sand and deeper ruts, it was not all that challenging.

Another view of the wind caves.

The wind blows sand that erodes interesting shapes into the sandstone. Note the see-through cave to the left of center.

Kai got the Ural hung up on the exhaust pipe. Here Mark and Wally assist.

Twin hoodoos with the badlands in the distance. When we finished in the desert, we returned to Borrego Springs to fuel up for the trip home. Diesel was $4.15 a gallon, a new record.

On the return to San Diego, near Ranchita, we passed this overturned pickup-trailer combo. This is a poor photo, but it was the best I could do since I was steering, braking and attempting to point and focus the camera without putting it to my eye. That said, if you look carefully, you can see the police, Kai and Parker in Ural in the side mirror. The object in the lower right hand corner of the photo is the underside of the rear bumper of the tow vehicle. Since this section of road is flat and straight, it is a mystery to me why this fellow overturned. I guess that we will never know.

We decided to take a new route back to San Diego and went via Black Canyon which is a steep, narrow mountain road. Along the way, we came into the area that was burned by the last set of wild fires. As can be seen above, the fire totally cleaned house in some areas of the mountain while leaving other areas intact. Note that only the trees in the actual river bottom survived; everything else burned.

Near the exit to the hard-core portion of Black Canyon, we came across this flock of wild turkeys. There appear to be 2 males and 7 hens in this group. Here, one of the males spreads his tail feathers to give the hens something to follow.

Near the turkeys, we also spotted this alligator lizard. Note the snake-like body.

We had a great time in Borrego. The wildflowers were spectacular and the weather was perfect. Thanks Mark, we appreciate the hospitality.

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