Place: Anza Borrego State Park, Borrego Springs, California
Coordinates: 33.13867, -116.37523
Length: about 1 mile
On Christmas morning we made and early start in the direction of Borrego Springs, coming from the Julian. Just past the left turn onto Yaqui Pass road, across from the Tamarisk campground, we made a stop. On the map we got a day before at the visitor center there was a little loop trail there, marked: Cactus Loop Trail. We thought it would be a good hike to begin the day with.
|A field of cacti|
The pamphlet had names and some information about the plants there. Mostly cacti, but not just.
The pale brittlebush provides the perfect background for the red Barrel Cactus. The grey color of the leaves come from their thick 'fur' coating of fine trichome hairs. These protect the plant from excess radiation and from water loss.
Another non-cactus typical to that region is the Ocotillo bush. Its bare branches extend upward, giving the entire plant the appearance of 'The burning bush'. At spring time, these Ocotillo will bear flame-red flowers at the tips of their branches.
No December flowers for us, though.
The trail goes up quite a bit - on the side of a little desert wash. Being the part where most of the rare rain water collects, the wash bed is also the area most dense with vegetation.
Without their blossoms, desert plants blend in with their rocky environment. From far, many of them appear to be rocks to the scanning eye. It takes a close look to see the richness of plant life in the area that seemed to be barren at first glance.
In spring time, following a good wet winter, these brown hills would be aflame with bloom.
We completed the loop and right next to our car a bird was standing on top of a bush. We all got excited - it was our first good sighting of this bird - a male Phainopepla. It sat there patiently, allowing Papa Quail to photograph him from every possible direction.
It is, in fact, a very common bird in those parts, but that was our first meeting with it.