There were a few things that compelled us to make Anza-Borrego a destination this year. For one, Nova has repeatedly lamented that she's never been camping. Growing up, my family went to a lot of campgrounds, but with an old camper to sleep in, we never really pitched a tent and roughed it. But in my late teens and twenties, I had a small group of friends who made a tradition of camping in Anza-Borrego, at the Borrego Palm Canyon campsite. Though we slept in tents, it was still not roughing it because I always appreciated the bathrooms and showers, and the honorary group leader, whom we called Toro, who always brought pounds of shrimp and carne asada and eggs and fruit and cases of beer and booze and made some amazing meals over an open flame, but eventually we all sort of fell out of touch and I've not ever been camping since.
The other massive influence, as I'm sure is the case with everyone else, was social media. I saw an "Anza-Borrego 101" seminar/talk at Adventure 16. I can't exactly recall the lady's name, but she sold the park quite well. "The largest state park in California" and "the 2nd largest contiguous park in the continental US" were the kind of factoids we wanted to hear, selling us on a low-cost, close to home adventure. Enough that we made two trips pre-Superbloom, parking at the visitor's center and walking into the Palm Canyon campground along the paved walkway.
I'll say this, too. In case you haven't noticed, I'm not the outdoor type. Or even the daylight type. And we still haven't gone camping. Luckily Darren and I have this sort of overlapping life experience of long car rides with our families, enjoying scenic drives, family road trips and the like. He's an adventurer, and Nova has certainly picked that up from him, whether that's nature or nurture, I don't know. But we have commitments and obligations and I don't do too well being 'off the grid' or away from wi-fi for any stretch of time. But Anza is close enough. This is something we can all do and meet somewhere in the middle...Nova bouldering and climbing, Darren trying to hike as much as possible before losing daylight, and me quietly enjoying the birds, the frogs, the crickets, the beauty of vistas and sounds of nature, while packing a cooler of cheeses and salami and seltzers and crackers and peanut butter and jelly to make sandwiches.
Recommendations: Check the Anza-Borrego Foundation site. Know a destination. The first couple times, we Google mapped to the Visitor's Center, which had us take the 8 to the 67, through Ramona, to the 78. This time we decided to go the 8 to 78, around Lake Cuyamaca, toward Julian, through Banner. The colors as we descended into the valley were stunning, nothing we could capture with pictures but something we won't soon forget. Most of all, learn about the park. As long as you're not on private property, Anza is one of the few parks where you can literally pull off just about anywhere, so long as you're not on the roadway. There are tons of resources and informative sites to find your own adventure. Also, as painful as it was, leave your dog at home. There are a lot of restrictions about dogs on the trails, and while we got away with it in the colder winter months, she was better off skipping this trip.
Lastly, I know there are some brilliant photographers, and I do not consider myself one of them, but all of these are shot with my Samsung S7 phone. I took all of my cameras in the car, but you have to consider if it's really worth lugging all your gear, plus water, plus other essentials or just trying to soak it all in. I opted for just the phone.
This thing is almost over. The flowers are drying by the day, the colors fading fast, and many say this is probably the last week to really take it all in. If you do, skip the sculptures for another time (unlike us, wasting precious sunlight hours), and find your own flower adventure.
More pictures after the jump.