Morning in the backyard

Now that’s it cooler in the mornings, I think the kids and I will go wander around outside before we start school. There are so many things to see.

Our backyard has two areas: what we call the inner yard that is fenced off really well and the outer yard that is still fenced but is mostly wild and not great for playing in (but great for hiking!).

There is so much land here that I haven’t walked it all yet. Josh has.

The inner yard is a great place for an almost two-year-old who loves rocks. And putting rocks in toy dump trucks is even more fun!

A dove is nesting in a cactus right by our front porch. She has two babies. Fortunately, she doesn’t seem to mind us too much. We check on her every time we go outside.

We will see what new surprises we find tomorrow morning!

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Wildflowers in the Desert: Borrego Springs, California – March 8, 2019

We have posted about the wildflowers in the desert before, but since this is possibly our last trip to see them for a while, we wanted to write about them again. It’s interesting to see the differences from year to year.

You can read about our previous trips in Borrego Springs, California: Wildflowers 2017 and Borrego Springs, California – Wildflowers.

Most of our trips to the desert include side trips. This year’s side trips were to Packard’s Coffee Shop in Ramona, CA, Dudley’s Famous Bakery in Santa Ysabel, CA, and Culp Valley Cultural Preserve right outside Borrego Springs.

We love Packard’s but we live so far away that we only make it there about once a year. The big blue box in the front is the reason we first visited because Josh and I are Doctor Who fans. We have never tried their crepes or baked goods, but we always buy some of their coffee. They are really great about updating their Facebook page with the baked goods they are offering for the day or week.

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Packard’s TARDIS is a Little Free Library. I think this is such a great idea!
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The front porch at Packard’s.

 

Dudley’s Famous Bakery was our next stop where we picked up five loaves of bread. With the size of our family though, five loaves of bread doesn’t last very long!

 

That is a LOT of bread. We bought four loaves and got one free. We were hoping the strudels were included in that but sadly, they were not. I had to tell my oldest son to go put the raspberry strudel back. I regretted that later, because I don’t think strudel is something I will ever attempt to make.

Our next stop was Culp Valley Cultural Preserve. We didn’t actually hike anywhere here but it was an interesting place to stop. It was neat to watch the shadows of the clouds move across the landscape. It was very windy here!

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We like to stop at the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association Desert Nature Center near Christmas Circle to pick up a wildflower map before we head out to the fields.  The staff there are very knowledgeable and very helpful. They also have a nice gift shop. My rock hound son has picked up a few books about rocks, gems, and minerals there. For this trip, we purchased a wildflower guide and a guide to the sky art metal sculptures around town. The wildflower maps are always free and are invaluable to figuring out where is best to go.

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Usually, we head out to Henderson Canyon Road to find wildflowers but this year our main stop was Coyote Canyon. I think we were early enough in the day that it wasn’t too difficult to park close to the dirt road that would take us to the fields. For this trip, we walked east from Di Giorgio Road. The most prevalent wildflowers were desert sunflowers, sand verbena, and dune evening primrose. The colors were amazing.

We also stopped at a few fields east of Borrego Springs. Josh took pictures out there since I stayed in the van with our baby. I also was a bit of a wimp and didn’t feel like dealing with the wind.

 

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I think this might be my favorite picture that I took of the wildflowers.
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Desert Lilies
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Desert Chicory over Popcorn flowers
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Popcorn flowers have fuzzy stems. We saw a few of these plants here and there that had not bloomed yet.
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Chuparosa. This was taken by Josh with his iPhone. 
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Brown-eyed evening Primrose
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Dune Evening Primrose
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I think this is probably Dune evening primrose also. It’s just light pink instead of white.
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Sand verbena. There is so much of this blooming that you can see them from very far away.
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I think this is another brown-eyed evening primrose.

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Another type of blue heliotrope or phacelia. I love blue and purple flowers!
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A type of blue heliotrope or phacelia. I thought it might be canterbury bells at first but the way the flowers are clustered doesn’t look right.

While walking around by Coyote Canyon, we found a dry wash. Three of my boys were fascinated by the way the mud had dried in layers and broken with some of the edges curling up.  One of them even told me, “Mommy, this is much more fun that the flowers!” Doesn’t that just sound like a boy? I’m glad that they found something out on our walk that was interesting to them. They even wanted to take some of the layers home with us. Sorry, boys, you can’t bring any dirt home with you.

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We hiked out to this weather station and then headed back to the van. There were also some cryptic signs in this area with the words “Viking Block” and then a number. Josh looked them up and found out that they were in relation to a program for environmental protection.

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Of course, we had to visit our old friends, the scorpion and the grasshopper. We also drove by the serpent. The kids love seeing the metal sculptures. Hopefully, it will not be the last time we get to visit Borrego Springs.

Borrego Springs, California: Wildflowers 2017

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To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wildflower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

-From “Auguries of Innocence” by William Blake

 

Last year, we went to Borrego Springs around this time hoping to see the wildflowers. We did get to see wildflowers last year, but not as many as when we were there in 2008. Last year, we also found these amazing metal sculptures in Galleta Meadows.

This year, we were able to go to Borrego Springs with Josh’s family. It was a fun day trip with our kids, our nephews, Josh’s parents, and his sister. During a superbloom year, there are a LOT of people who visit Borrego Springs to see the wildflowers. We left as early as we could and were in Borrego Springs by 9 AM, but there was already quite a crowd there!

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We like to stop at a turnout on the S-22 before heading into town. The overlook we stopped at last year was busy so we had to stop at a different turnout.

Our first stop in Borrego Springs was the Borrego Desert Nature Center near Christmas Circle. They offer free daily wildflower maps every year. The staff there has always been kind. The store there is also a good place to browse for books and gifts. My son, Matthias, is a rock hound and picked up a pocket-sized book about rocks during our visit last year. I wish I had taken pictures of the building when I was there. The Nature Center is located at 652 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA. The Nature Center is not related to the Anza-Borrego State Park Visitor Center. In fact, when we drove past the street to the Visitor Center, there was a police officer directing traffic just at that intersection!

Once we drove into town, the traffic let up a little bit but it was still very busy. It was not too difficult to find parking near the Nature Center though. Josh and I were able to run in for the day’s wildflower map.

This was today’s flower map. It’s really informative and the lady who gave it to us explained to us which places were the best to go. We didn’t make it to every place on the map unfortunately. I think we needed another day or two to hike all the trails and visit all the flower fields.

It was very sunny and quite warm while we were out so sunscreen and lots of water were a must!

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Palm Canyon Trail, Hellhole Canyon, and Little Surprise (the trail we hiked last year) would have been difficult to find parking, so we decided to go visit the flower fields off of Henderson Canyon Road. This is the area we visited when we only had two kids, Corran and Matthias, in 2008. The flowers were spectacular here.

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Desert sunflower buds – my nephew Sawyer found these for me to photograph

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Desert sunflowers carpeting the area off of Henderson Canyon Road

The desert sunflowers were everywhere here. We also saw sand verbena, desert lilies, and brown-eyed primrose across the street, away from the hills.

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Sand verbena – lovely purple flowers. When we first got out of the car, I think the scent of these flowers was what we smelled. Possibly combined with the scent of orange blossoms from an orange grove close by.
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Desert Lilies – These were my favorite flower this year. They are a little unobtrusive so you have to be looking for them or you will step right over them.
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Brown-eyed Primrose – I had to look these up once we got home, but these pretty little flowers were everywhere this year! This one is all by its lonesome but most of the others we saw tended to be in little bunches.
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We walked by the desert sunflowers on a dirt road skirting these rows of palm trees. One of the boys said these palm trees looked like they formed a cave.

 

We saw quite a few creatures during our walk, fortunately, no rattlesnakes! There were many of these caterpillars around. Later, I found out that these are white-lined sphinx moth caterpillars.

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Can you find the ladybug? Always nice to find these helpful insects around! We also saw a beetle or two as well as a lot of gnats and flies!

After taking pictures of the field of desert sunflowers, we headed down the road to the west end of Henderson Canyon Road. This was an interesting hike. We saw quite a few different flowers than we did in the flower fields.

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Saguaro Sculpture in Galleta Meadows, near the intersection of Henderson Canyon Road and Borrego Springs Road

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This is the area in which most of the metal sculptures are located. We did not visit too many of them this year, though we did make the sea serpent sculpture our last stop before heading out of Borrego Springs.

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Ocotillo – with buds. We found a lot of cactus and ocotillo during this hike.
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A closeup of ocotillo buds

The beavertail cactus were in bloom. Their hot pink flowers are so bright they almost don’t look real!

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Teddy Bear Cholla with Brown-eyed Primrose

The flowers in this area were mostly desert dandelion, desert chicory, and blue phacelia.

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Desert dandelions
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There are so many wildflowers in this picture that I don’t think I can name them all. They make a beautiful picture though.
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Sand verbena and desert chicory
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Beavertail cactus with desert chicory
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Purple mat – these are tiny tiny purple flowers. You almost don’t see them unless you are looking at the ground as you walk.
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Blue phacelia – I’m glad I didn’t run into the teddy bear cholla that was right by these!

There were a few flowers that I wanted to see that we didn’t find – monkeyflowers, dune evening primrose, and canterbury bells. Maybe we will find them next year!

The flower fields are beautiful, but the trail hikes are also beautiful and a lot like a treasure hunt. We almost stopped at Little Surprise Canyon on our way out of Borrego Springs, but three of our five kids had fallen asleep! So we will have to save that hike for another time.

Some links to more information about some of the flowers and plants we saw:

Desert Sand Verbena

Brown-eyed Evening Primrose

Desert Sunflower

Beaver-tail Cactus

Teddy Bear Cholla

Purple Mat

-Lynn

 

 

Save

Salton Sea – Follow-up Post

For any readers who are not familiar with this region of California:

Why must it be saved?

  • The Salton Sea became a permanent lake after 1905, but a lake did exist at times in the area before humans began to control the flow of the Colorado River.
  • Because of the reduction of wetlands due to housing development, the Salton Sea is a key stopover for bird migration along the Pacific Flyway.
  • In 2018, an agreement between the Imperial Irrigation District and the U.S. Department of the Interior to send water into the Salton Sea will end. This will accelerate the decline of the Salton Sea. If the sea is allowed to dry up, 100 years buildup of dust on the lakebed will be exposed to the wind and cause toxic dust storms that will impact the health of everyone who lives in the region, as far away as Los Angeles. These dust storms would also affect the agricultural areas of Coachella and Imperial Valleys.

What is being done?

Where to learn more:

 

Salton Sea – Western Shores

The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake, but you might also call it an engineering accident. This 350 square mile body of water was created in 1905 when a diversion of the Colorado River in Baja California to irrigate land in Imperial County went wrong. The flow of the Colorado River overwhelmed the banks of an engineered canal and the resulting overflow of water flowed into the Salton Basin for two years, creating the Salton Sea. It was 1907 before the mistakes could be corrected and the course of the Colorado River controlled.

At first, in the 1950s, the Salton Sea was a magnet for tourism and water recreation, but over the years, the increased salinity and pollution of the water and the smell of dead fish have caused the towns located on the shores of the sea to shrink in population. The water of the Salton Sea is 5 times saltier than seawater and only a few species of fish now survive in its waters.

We visited the Salton Sea at Salton City, a once hopeful resort town. It was about a 45 minute drive from Borrego Springs and the roads weren’t in the best condition.

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This beach was private property so we weren’t able to go walk out onto the sand here. The first thing you notice when you get out of the car is the smell. It was so bad it gave most of us a headache afterward. It was also very, very windy!

The Salton Sea does serve as a migratory stopover for birds. We only saw a few seagulls while we were there.

It took us about 20 minutes just to find a place where we could actually walk down to the shore on public land. There were no signs anywhere and it seems like there is no tourist industry at all. We drove around in circles many times and ended up at quite a few dead ends!

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We finally found what must have once been a public beach. There was a sign covered in graffiti in the parking circle that said it was open to public use sunrise to sunset. It looked like no one had been in the area in a long, long time.
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I really hope the graffiti on this doesn’t say anything awful… Even the graffiti is old. It looks like it’s from 2008 maybe?
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I have never seen water this color. It was black and almost forbidding. You don’t want to go swimming in that!
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Josh and 3 of my boys went down to the shoreline. From what they told me, it was not a pleasant experience. I’m not sure what the clouds in the distance are that over the water. Maybe it’s water vapor from the lake.
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The Salton City golf course… or driving range? Or both.
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Another view of the golf course.

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I wonder if this was a tilapia.

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The shores were littered with dead fish. The smell in the air was mostly dead fish and even some sulfur. Because of the increasing salinity of the water and algal blooms, the fish die in mass quantities.
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Josh said the sand wasn’t really sand. They were walking on crushed shells.
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In this picture, you can see a few lenticular clouds forming in the distance. They are also called UFO clouds. We saw quite a few more on our way home. Probably because of the rain heading toward the desert over the mountains.
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It was quite an experience to go from the hot, windy desert to the rainy, cold mountains!
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Of course, we had to stop in at Julian on our way home for some apple pie at the Julian Pie Company. We were there right before closing time. Their cinnamon ice cream and Dutch apple pie are awesome. The kids like their pie crust cookies.

The Salton Sea was definitely our most interesting adventure that day. In fact, someday we would like to drive to a part of the southeastern shore, near a place called Salvation Mountain in Niland, California.

Visiting Salton City was almost like seeing what an apocalypse would do to a town. In fact, an episode of the TV series Life After People examines this former resort town and its abandoned tourism industry.

2018 would probably be the point of no return for the Salton Sea if nothing is done to save it. It looks like there may be some state funding going toward saving the Salton Sea. We are only two years from that point of no return, so we will see what happens.

-Lynn

Follow-up post is here.

We have a Facebook page.

Note: I am a bit flabbergasted by how many times this has been shared as an article. It was never meant as an article but was only supposed to be a blog post finishing a short series I wrote about a family day trip we took to the desert – Borrego Springs – Wildflowers and Borrego Springs – Galleta Meadows. There are inaccuracies in this blog post, but I am going to leave it the way it is. I am writing a follow-up blog post that will correct these inaccuracies and detail some of the ways that have been presented to save the Salton Sea. I hope to have it posted within a week.

Borrego Springs, California – Galleta Meadows Estate

We were supposed to be in Borrego Springs to look for wildflowers. After our hike through Little Surprise Canyon, we were driving to Henderson Canyon Road to find more wildflowers when we were distracted by these metal sculptures in the distance. We had happened upon part of Galleta Meadows Estate and the Sky Art installation, owned by philanthropist Dennis Avery, who passed away in 2012, and created by artist Ricardo Breceda. Admission is free! I think it is wonderful that Dennis Avery was willing to share these sculptures with those of us visiting Borrego Springs. We spent so much time roaming around looking for more sculptures (we should have picked up a map of the sculptures at the visitor center!) that our little scavenger hunt kept us from continuing our wildflower hunt.

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A herd of elephants in a dust storm! The effect was a little bit eerie!
It was very windy while we were out in the desert, which is why we ended up not hiking as much as we wanted. The wind kicked up a lot of mini-sandstorms while we were looking at the sculptures.

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The scorpion is what caught our eye while we were driving by. I am so glad we stopped in spite of all the sand flying around! I was even able to get in a little bit of a science lesson. While we were out looking at these sculptures, we kept getting caught in sand clouds that generated static electricity. So when we touched each other or the car, we got a little bit of a shock!

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My oldest son was fascinated by the dust devils. Here is one that we saw just past this row of dead trees.

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This one was my favorite of all the sculptures. It was huge! We stayed at this one a while. My kids had fun playing around it, except for Gwen. She stood by me the whole time, trying to keep her hair from flying around her face.

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These historical markers are scattered all around the property. I think it is about 3 square miles of land.

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I thought these were giant sloths, but maybe they are a relative. I wasn’t too fond of all the sand and wind myself so I tended to stay in the car after we visited the serpent.

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These sculptures are incredibly detailed! There are over 100 of them on the property. We didn’t see nearly enough of them.

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This looks like a kind of raptor to me. My boys loved these. They got out of the car to see them.

We are hoping to make a trip to see the desert wildflowers every year, so hopefully next time we are in town, we can find the rest of the sculptures.

-Lynn

We have a Facebook page. 

Borrego Springs, California – Wildflowers

The second week of March is supposed to be the best weekend to go to the desert and look at the wildflowers. We hadn’t been to the desert during the spring wildflowers for almost seven years!

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Borrego Springs wildflowers – March 2009

With this year being an El Nino year, we were hoping that the wildflowers would be blooming like crazy. We still found a lot of wildflowers but they weren’t as obvious as the last time we were there. We had to look for them this time! When we stopped by the visitor center to pick up a map of the area, the ladies there told us that in spite of El Nino they had only gotten 3 inches of rain this year. The average rainfall by this time is 7 inches.

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Borrego Springs – March 2016 – My boys loved the way the hills looked. They said it looked like a painting.

We decided to check out a few of the trails in the area. Because of the high winds though, we were only able to hike one small trail called Little Surprise Canyon. There will be a lot of pictures from now on in this post.

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Heading out on the trail. Gwen, the youngest, is riding in the hiking backpack Josh is wearing. Ian, Rhys, and now Gwen have ridden in that backpack.

This was a good trail for kids. It wasn’t too long. The trail “next door” to this one is called Hellhole Canyon and that would have been a 6 mile hike. If the wind hadn’t been so bad, we probably would have hiked at least part of it.

All of our kids are rock hounds so they were also picking up rocks to take home.

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The wildflowers were so tiny that it was very easy to miss them. I kind of liked them this way though. The purple flower is purple sage, and the tiny yellow flowers beside it are a kind of poppy.
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This is ocotillo. They are everywhere here! And grow very tall.
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Desert lavender – my focus was a little off on these. I’m still figuring out how to use my camera.

 

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Yellow poppies. These were so nice to see everywhere. The yellow is cheerful.
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Matthias and I found this flower. It was the only one of its kind we saw during our hike. It’s called a ghost flower because of the yellowish-white almost translucent petals. It was so small that we could have easily stepped on it!
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Rock daisy – I didn’t see too many of these either
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I always love to see cactus flowering. This is a barrel cactus.
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Probably my favorite flower I saw during our hike. Beavertail cactus. The hot pink flowers are easy to see from very far away!
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It was so fun to go out on a hike with my family. I think it has been a while! Our last hike together was probably in the Petrified Forest in Arizona. The boys had a great time exploring rocks, dirt, and the little canyons here and there.
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We probably went through every color of the rainbow during our hike. This is indigo bush.
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Josh said this might be a packrat nest. I’m glad we didn’t see any rats!
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Desert chicory – this one caught my eye because it was all by itself by a rock.
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This yellow wave of flowers is called brittle bush I think. It is a type of sunflower.
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At first I thought these were ocotillo flowers, but then I realized that they weren’t the right shape. These are chuparosa.
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I love blue flowers. These are wild heliotrope. Very small flowers. I’m glad I was able to get a picture of them.
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This is teddy bear cholla cactus. It looks cute but you don’t want to hug it!
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We drove through the mountains to get to the desert. There was an overlook of Borrego Springs you could stop at. It was interesting to be able to look down on the town like this.
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In the far distance in this picture, you can see a thin line of water that is the Salton Sea. It is about 30 miles away from Borrego Springs. On a whim, we decided to drive there after we were finished with our adventure in Borrego Springs. I’ll write about the Salton Sea in another post. Now that was an adventure!

Josh took some pictures too. So I’m going to talk about a few of those.

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You can see in this picture where water obviously runs down the mountain during a rainstorm. I was hoping it might rain while we were in Borrego Springs, but it ended up raining later, while we were driving home!
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A panoramic photo Josh took of our hike at Little Surprise Canyon.

Thanks for coming along with us on our hike in the desert! My next post about Borrego Springs will be on some metal sculptures we stumbled across in town. We were going to look for more wildflowers but ended up spending the rest of our time at the sculptures

-Lynn