Waiting For Rain

The ocotillo is one of my favorite plants in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. It is designed to survive minimal rainfall and is drought resistant.  The cane-like branches of this shrub reach to the sky and dominate the landscape. It produces up to 100 branches from a shallow-rooted crown. I have seen ocotillo up to 30 feet tall and because there are so few trees in the desert, birds perch on its thorny branches and seek protection from predators. While biking I have come across huge flocks of doves that lift off as one when you get too close. The branches bob up and down after the weight of the birds have taken skyward and it is quite the display if the cane like branches are flowering. The thick leathery ovate leaves seem to grow over night after a rainstorm and it is not unusual for an ocotillo to leaf out and go dormant five times a year. The ocotillo’s bissexual, bright red-orange flowers are clustered at the tip of each stem and have a nectar-secreting gland on the flowering buds. A variety of insects and hummingbirds frequent the flowers and the green and red of the shrub add color and height to the desert landscape. They are wonderful to photograph and add a lot to the stark beauty of the desert because you can see through the thin branches and can place them in the foreground of the photograph. Anza Borrego is home to many ocotillo shrubs and when off roading, biking or hiking, they add a prehistoric graceful beauty to the otherwise low lying flora that hug the desert sand.

Put On Your Rain Dance Shoes

The storm arrived last night around 1am and I felt like doing a happy dance in the still of night. It is such a big deal when it rains in the desert that everything and everyone celebrates on some level. I didn’t exactly put on my dancing shoes, but I did pull on my UGGS for a second day in a row and Callie got to chase olive leaves and observe a beautiful rainbow developing in the northwest.  It is fresh and brisk outside and the trees have been washed and the dust and sand packed down for a day. The winds are just starting to pick up and there is a chill in the air which means I actually get to put a sweater on too! With the winds come beautifully formed clouds that spiral and sail past the mountains at dizzying speed. When a storm arrives, it is time for me to get out the camera to take landscape photographs. Cloud formations add so much to the overall scene and the desert landscape has such a big sky format that it compliments the dry and arid ground. Southern California received some much needed rain yesterday and Anza Borrego Desert State Park accepted the storm today with relief and appreciation. It feels like the ocotillo turn green and leaf out over night and the beautiful red blossom on the tips of the branches were noticeable today when I went out on a bike ride. You can smell the sage and creosote and quail are dashing around in the underbrush while the white winged doves choose to risk flying erratically overhead. There is a sharp-shined hawk that is so athletic and fast out here that even when the doves are hiding under a bush, it can divebomb down and force them to take flight. There is much more of a sense of the precariousness  of life in the desert and every day a bird or jackrabbit survives is a gift. I could hear the coyotes howling last night and the young pups do their best to join in the chorus. Their voices are higher pitched and so joyous that you just have to hope the season will be kind to them. The scorching hot summer temperatures are behind us and for that, I too can rejoice. Thanksgiving arrives this Thursday and Michael and I and hopefully our good friend, Fred are going to go to Ram’s Hill Country Club for our traditional feast. I don’t have to cook this year, another cause for celebration! Happy Thanksgiving to all…

A Hike to Borrego Palm Canyon-October 6, 2016

My brother Tom and sister in law Frances, Michael and I went on a mid morning hike to the oasis of Borrego Palm Canyon in Anza Borrego State Park today. It was a beautiful morning with just a slight breeze and not a cloud in the sky. We started out with a temperature of only 79 degrees and ended the hike with it reaching 89. It is not a major hike and most people in moderate health and fitness should be able to finish the round trip of approximately 3 miles with relative ease. You start off winding through and up a sandy wash with ocotillo, sage, desert willow and creosote bordering the trail. The trail is well marked until you reach the last few markers and we ended up helping a couple who had turned around before making it to the fan palm oasis. Michael and I were able to convince them to head back up because they were so close and the end journey so worth it. At marker number 15 you have to veer sharply left in order to cross what little standing water is available after a long hot summer. If you stay to the far left side you can cross over and into the oasis. It is like entering another world and must be so cherished by the sheep and wildlife native to the area. The last time I hiked Borrego Palm Canyon, I was able to literally walk right past a large herd of bighorn sheep. We had taken the alternative route in the spring and today we just stayed on the main trail. There was evidence of recent sheep, but because it was so warm, I am sure they were resting in the shade of distant rocks. The oasis is quite spectacular and you can rest and have a picnic in the shade of these massive skirted palms. My brother lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, so the dramatic and stark contrast of the desert in comparison to the lush climate of Canada made for an exciting adventure. I did not hike with my cat Callie today because of my concern for her becoming overheated. The photos below of the bighorn sheep are from the hike I did last spring.