Tuesday, March 17, 2009

San Diego, Part 1 (Anza-Borrego Desert)

Hiking in Rainbow Canyon with my handsome brother-in-law.

My wife and I spent a week in San Diego and environs (March 7-March 14, 2009). My next youngest brother, my brother-in-law (about whom I have written before), and my father and stepmother all live in San Diego County, so there's no shortage of places for us to stay and visit. A pilgrimage to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in the eastern part of the county is always among our highest priorities, and we visited twice during this trip, once on Sunday (March 8) with my brother-in-law and again on Tuesday (March10) with my brother, my father and my stepmother.

The desert reportedly was in riotous bloom this year (there was even a feature about it on NPR's All Things Considered), and I think that this week (March 15-21), it is probably is floriferous. But the week that we visited, many of the flowers were just beginning to emerge. Parts of the desert were spectacular, but according to veteran desert visitors, this year is good but not great. From someone coming from the East Coast, I had nothing to complain about.

We completed two short hikes on Sunday. First, we scrambled a mile up an area unofficially called Rainbow Canyon, so named because erosion has exposed bands of multicolored, tortured rocks. The plants growing in the alluvial outwash at the lower end of the canyon were blooming profusely, but within the tight confines of the canyon, only barrel cacti were in in bloom. There were lots of moderately difficult climbs up spilloffs and chutes, but we navigated them all successfully and had a great time. I also added two bird species to my life-list at Rainbow Canyon: Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens), and Lawrence's Goldfinch (Carduelis lawrencei).

After we emerged from Rainbow Canyon, we traveled 20 miles south to Mountain Palm Springs. Here, we walked up a canyon that featured several stands of California fan palms growing in oases at the bottom of the canyon. My brother-in-law and I climbed another mile and a half up the canyon to see the elephant trees growing in a basin above the palms. I added another bird to my life-list here: a White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica).

It was a great day. In fact, any day in Anza-Borrego is a great day as far as I'm concerned.

View of Anza-Borrego (and my brother-in-law's nice butt) from Elephant Tree Basin

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