View from the deck of the Visitor Center, Anza Borrego State ParkOne of my favorite places to go is Anza Borrego State Park in southern California, about three hours from my home in Los Angeles. It is the largest state park in California. I always make a point to stop at the visitor center with its beautiful cactus garden and wide angle view across the landscape.
OcotilloThe tiny town of Borrego Springs sits in the middle of the park, but for miles around the land is wild and full of desert plants and wildlife. It is a great place to hike and, in the spring, to look for wildflowers. After rainy winters carpets of tiny blooms cover the desert floor. The beavertail, barrel and chollo cactus sprout blooms at their tips. And the tall ocotillo plants burst with brilliant orange flowers. Springtime is also the perfect time for birdwatching as hummingbirds hover over blooming flowers, cactus wrens and orioles bring food to their babies, and roadrunners race across the path.
Several years ago I wrote a book for children, WATCHING DESERT WILDLIFE, about my fascination with the way living things have adapted to the lack of water and extreme temperatures of the desert. Art and I traveled to deserts throughout the West to photograph and research the book. I loved getting up early to catch the sunrise--one of the best times for photography and also for watching wildlife. Footprints in the sand showed where nighttime animals had walked and with luck we knew we might see some of these creatures before they settled down for the day. We often saw coyotes on their way back to their daytime lairs and we listened to birds singing their early morning songs. My role on these excursions was to look for wildlife and also to be a photographer's assistant. In one case, as I backed away from one of our subjects I inadvertently stepped on a cactus! It took several days to get all the spines out of my foot!
Lizard basking in the sunIf you are lucky, you might see some desert bighorn sheep (the borregos after which the park is named) while you are in the park. I have seen them on several visits.
For information about visiting the park, click here.