Snowbirding 101

Stalking the elusive desert wildflowers

Lynne Benjamin visited Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California in search of beautiful blumen

An image of a white flower in the desert
These beautiful flowers are abundant despite growing in a desert climate. — Photo courtesy Lynne Benjamin

After four months of desert winter, I was so ready to find the wildflowers. Every part of my body and soul yearned for the renewal of the earth and the delicate growth in the desert. There had been a lot of rain this winter and we expected the spring wildflowers to be outstanding. We checked the wildflower information line at the Anza-Borrego Park in California.

Darn, they told us the wildflower count would be fair. The rain had come too late in the season and there had not been enough heat.

You know, by this time it really didn’t matter, we were going to find whatever there was. Borrego Springs and the park are not far from the Salton Sea. We travelled along the west side of the sea until we found Salton City and Highway S22. Years ago when we were here, this whole area was being primed for development. Well, it hasn’t gone any further and whatever they had done has disintegrated.

A beautiful discovery

Not only did we discover an incredible array of wildflowers, we found an unexpected surprise–metal sculptures scattered throughout the whole area. The purple of the sand verbena (or desert vervain) and the yellow of the brittle bush along the sides of the roads made a good start at assuring us that the world was no longer drab and colourless and that spring was actually coming.

As the road started to climb, we noticed a few ocotillos—then more and more—stems swollen from all the rain and heavy with leaves and blossoms. When we stopped to take some pictures, we discovered desert lily buds with their long tentacle-type leaves growing out of the rocky soil. Then later, we found flowering desert lily plants. The wildflowers in Borrego grow in masses. The primrose mix with the vervain and the desert sunflowers join in the chorus to add to the harmony.

Lifelike creations

As we wandered along the Henderson Canyon Road and back towards town on the Di Giorgio Road we saw some abandoned vineyards off to our left. On the right, some workers were out in the field—so we thought. “Look Fred, they aren’t moving. Those aren’t workers, those are sculptures!”

There was a van pulled off on the side of the road and a woman was walking over towards the field. I joined her. “Do you know anything about these?” we asked each other. We looked at each other blankly.

As we toured the area some more we found a giant camel and a giant sloth—both with young—and an elephant. They are all totally to scale and life-size. Apparently there are 54 such sculptures scattered throughout Borrego Springs area. The project was initiated by Dennis Avery, land owner of Galleta Meadows Estates in Borrego Springs and incidentally he is the grandson of the Avery office supply mogul. Working with the Anza-Borrego State Park, they developed a book highlighting the ancient wildlife that once lived there. Avery envisioned the idea of adding free-standing art to his property with original steel welded sculptures created by Perris Jurassic Park owner/artist/welder Ricardo Breceda based in Perris, California. You can see more about the project, the sculptures, Avery and Breceda on the Galleta Meadows website.

It always amazes me what you find even though you are not looking for it.

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