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.

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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

 

 

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15th Anniversary Trip to Las Vegas, NV: The Food

Josh and I were married 15 years ago on January 5th, 2002, a few months after 9/11 and the day after Josh’s 22nd birthday. That certainly was a crazy time. It was even crazier a year later. We had been planning to go to Las Vegas for our 1st anniversary, but the military changed our plans. We hadn’t had any concrete plans to go to Las Vegas anyway; maybe we kind of knew that we would not be able to go.

For the next 14 years, every anniversary, we threw around the idea of trying to go to Las Vegas, but it never happened until this year. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect, since we had never been there, but we ended up having a great time!

We really enjoyed just walking around and looking at all the hotels and shopping, but I think the food is what we enjoyed most.

Our first night we went to a restaurant near Paris called hexx. This is also where I discovered the only bean-to-bar chocolate seller in Nevada. I buy from Nibble here in Southern California, but hexx’s chocolate was about equal in taste and texture.

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Antipasto salad

The food here was very good, but also very expensive! It was worth the price though because everything tasted delicious and fresh. We thought about coming back but later decided we would try the buffets for the next two days.

The buffets actually worked out well for us. We would eat breakfast at our hotel (loved our free breakfast at our hotel!), head out for the morning to play tourist, skip lunch or eat a light snack (one day our light snack was macarons!), and then go to a buffet for dinner.

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The macarons we bought from Le Macaron, a shop in the Grand Canal Shops in the Venetian. Flavors going clockwise starting at the top right: Passion fruit, Hazelnut praline, Basil White Chocolate, Lavender White Chocolate, Orange Chocolate, Salted Caramel. $17.40 for 6. I think the Salted Caramel had gone bad by the time we ate it. The Basil White chocolate was good, but the Lavender was too lavender-y. I think my favorite might have been the Passion fruit.

I did some research before we went to any buffets and had read a lot about Wynn hotel’s buffet. It lived up to all the reviews. I wish I had taken pictures of the actual buffet, but it went on forever! And the dessert buffet was like a dream.

The hotel itself was gorgeous inside. So many flowers everywhere!

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A lot of the Christmas decor was still up even though it was a few days after New Year’s.

We ate too many desserts as you can see, but they were so small that we didn’t feel too bad about eating all of them! Each one was beautifully presented.

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The next day we ate at Bellagio.  They were still running their holiday pricing for their buffet so it cost us quite a bit to eat there.

We wanted to see the gardens at Bellagio, but I think they were in the middle of changing from their Christmas decor.

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There was a LOT of seafood at the buffet, so that is what I ended up eating! We don’t eat seafood at home since I am the only one who really likes it.

The dessert buffet had just as many (or possibly more!) beautiful desserts as at Wynn. There were also cannoli! I haven’t had one of those in such a long time. We used to live in Philadelphia when I was a kid (when the base was still there), and I still remember the cannoli my mom and dad would buy for us!

After our dinner at the Bellagio, we had to watch the dancing fountains. We got to watch them twice!

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We were only in Vegas for a few days so we did not get to try any other restaurants. I guess that just means we will have to go back someday!

-Lynn

 

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. 

A Little Trip Downtown

Today was one of those perfect Southern California days. Please don’t hate us for our weather! It was 70 degrees down by the water today, a beautiful day to be out and walking around in short sleeves.

There are some places in San Diego that we have been going to for years and years and we just don’t want them to change. To us, they are iconic San Diego.

Seaport Village is one of those places.

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