Trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

I wandered around a few days at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in mid-March 2005 to see the wildflowers. This was my first trip there, despite having lived in San Diego for 5 years, but the reports of seasoned wildflower watchers sounded too good to miss this year's bloom.

Being an amateur wildflower watcher, and unfamiliar with the park, I did far too much driving (180 miles beyond the drive there and back) and too little hiking. I also got badly car sick from driving on the roller-coaster mountain roads with their twists and dips, and spent the better part of the second day in the hotel trying to keep my stomach inside my body. As far as seeing wildflowers, I was rather disappointed. The desert was certainly thriving in ordinary greens and yellows, but before the trip, my imagination had conjured up exotic blooms and burning colors and visions of entire hillsides fluttering and swaying in the wind. Because of such silly expectations, I kept driving on and on, trying to get to that spectacular place that I knew must lie beyond the next hill. It wasn't till I started the drive home on the third day that I finally began to appreciate and enjoy the desert landscape. I came to realize the beauty of the desert landscape rests on humbleness and simplicity and not on the kind of garish grandeur I was mistakenly seeking. With this new understanding, I stopped the car and spent a few hours taking pictures before finally crossing the park borders for home. The eclectic bunch of wildflower photos on this page were all taken at this time. All these little vignettes were out there in the desert landscape, and I nearly missed them.

NOTE: Click on a photo for the larger version.

A bit of sunshine breaking through clouds and falling on a pastorale scene in Santa Ysabel, a small town on the way to Anza-Borrego.

Sunshine behind a knoll in Santa Ysabel.

I was awestruck by the glow and brilliance of millions of stars in the desert darkness. I quickly learned, however, that it takes special equipment to capture a photo that does any justice. This photo, taken at the campgrounds, is my humble attempt. I took advantage of a slight amount of light pollution near the horizon to create a silhouetted landscape adorned with stars. (Some blurring caused by star trails is evident in this exposure of 30 secs at f/2 at ISO 1600 with a 50mm lens [an equivalent of 75mm when mounted on a D100].)

Wildflowers are hardy living things, subsisting off bare rock it seems.

Some blooms are quite small and easy to overlook or trample.

What a wonderful canopy of golden-headed stalks that this flower lives under!

The earth growing back after the 2003 Cedar Fire.

Another example of growth after the Cedar Fire.

Last modified: Mon Mar 21 10:31:46 PST 2005