From a Photographer’s Perspective
I have lived in San Diego since 1970, but only recently ‘discovered’ the desert, particularly the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. When five decades back, my husband suggested we visit the desert, I pretty much told him that he was crazy. Why would I want to go to an arid and hot desert when California is full of lush, green regions, and of course, the beach!
Wish I had gone back then, and now I realize how much I had missed. My children also missed opportunities to see this vast, diverse, and beautiful region of California, so close to our home town-San Diego.
Since then, I have made amends, taking trips to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP), with not just my ‘kids’, now adults, but with my four grandkids, two of whom are teenagers! I really want them to get to know the desert community and develop an appreciation for the unique landscape of flora and fauna.
Last August, my eight year old grandson was so excited to see the canopy of stars in the sky. He was able to identify the Milky Way and many of the stars. As an added bonus, we were also treated to a shooting star or two. His wonderment was something special to watch! My two teenage grandsons really enjoyed hiking The Slot, which is a narrow siltstone canyon and provides one of the most exciting hikes, just one of the many trails in the ABDSP. We even drove up one late at night to the edge of town of Borrego Springs to view the sparkling stars.
My first visit to Borrego Springs was back in 2016 to attend a photoshoot with a “Meetup” group specifically to photograph the Milky Way. I fell in love immediately with its amazing beauty. Since then, I have gone to the ABDSP so many times, that I have lost track!
ABDSP is a Dark Sky Preserve, so conducive to shooting stars and capturing the Milky Way. With hardly any ambient city lights, the dark skies are truly just that. I was even fortunate to capture the Neowise Comet (see above image.) It is is known for being the brightest comet in the northern hemisphere since Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. According to NASA, the comet orbits the sun every 6,800 to 7,000 years. Neowise Comet is currently about 70 million miles (111 million kilometers) away from Earth. Wow!
Additionally, the desert offers such stark contrasts of landscape and weather. I have photographed the dark rain clouds, vibrant sunrises and sunsets, crescent and full moon, and of course, the Milky Way.
I have even photographed wild flowers there. Yes, there are a variety of vibrant and diverse wild flowers in early spring after a good amount of rainfall during the rainy season. There have been some blockbuster years when the desert has had ample rain. But it does not happen every year. The mountains that surround the valley of the town of Borrego Springs are simply awesome and are perfect backdrops for the desert blooms. The different varieties of the blooming Palo Verde and the cacti are a botanist’s and photographer’s dream. The Ocotillos with their bright red blooms cover the desert floor during spring and early summer months. There are even some Red Ocotillos in some parts of Borrego Springs. The red color of the foliage is due to color changes akin to fall color changes in some parts of the country.
And how can I fail to mention the Galleta Meadows and the metal sculptures created by the artist, Ricardo Breceda? Borrego Springs is home to over 130 metal sculptures scattered around the desert floor. They are a public art display worth visiting. The most famous and the largest one is the Serpent. It runs from one side of the main road to the other side totaling 350 feet in length. Many of my images are of the serpent-sunrise, sunset, moon, Milky Way, etc. shot over the giant head of the serpent.
The Clark Dry Lake Bed is an amazing place with such a history and geological interest. Standing on the caked earth, one can only imagine a river running through this region thousands of years back. Even now after a flash flood, the dry lake bed gets a decent soaking of rain water. I have shot star trails during just one of these events and captured the reflection of the stars and the mountains.
Above and below are a few other random shots that I think represent Borrego Springs and the ABDSP. Known for its rugged and arid landscape, ABDSP is one of California’s most beloved state parks. It is also the largest, with 585,930 acres. The park is also home to 40 named mountains, the highest of which is Combs Peak (6,188ft) and the most prominent of which is Whale Peak (5,341ft).
Until recently, I was not aware that Borrego Springs is a mecca for bicyclists and motorcyclists. Every November the best endurance time trial racers from around the world gather in Borrego Springs, a quiet Southern California resort community. They come to determine who is the fastest in the world, to set personal records, and to spend time with friends in the bicycle racing community. Last fall I also witnessed an event, “Babes Ride Out.” Women motorcyclists from all over the country converged to ride all over Borrego Springs and the ABDSP. It was quite a sight to see so many Harleys and other motorbikes.
Borrego Springs and ABDSP boasts several organizations. Among them are the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association (ABDNHA)that hosts lectures, hikes, and other educational events and fun activities. They also have a beautiful store on the main drag and sell everything ‘desert’, including jewelry, paintings, post cards, photographs, wearable art, etc. The other organization is the Anza Borrego Foundation. Their mission is to protect and preserve the natural landscapes, wildlife habitat and cultural heritage of the AZBDSP and its surrounding region for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. Also, a great place to visit is the Borrego Art Institute, which is a nonprofit organization “that’s here to inspire and enrich the Borrego Springs community.” These are the ones I am aware of, but there could be other worthy organizations as well.
Borrego Springs has extreme temperatures that can go way above 100 degrees in summer and below 40 degrees in the winter. Average annual rainfall in the desert generally less than 8 inches and precipitation of just 35 days or so.
I can go on and on about Borrego Springs and the ABDSP, but this is meant to be an introduction to those who have never been there. I encourage you to occasionally break away from your usual places to visit, and try exploring some of the other great places in Southern California-some perhaps lesser known but yet very unique spots!
As I drive away from Borrego Springs on a evening of clouds and brilliant skies…..
The SERPENT bids me adieu!
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