Sunday, April 5, 2009

Anza Borrego State Park adventure

Right now the deserts are blooming. I wanted to see this phenomenon for myself, so I packed up and headed for Anza Borrego. We had two goals; to see some flowers (I wanted to see cactus blooms) and to see some fossils.

We first headed to the mud hills area where there are Pliocene oyster fossil beds. This area is rather crazy looking as there are very large hills of dried mud all over the place. These hills are studded with gypsum, making them sparkle in the sunlight as if they were studded with palm-sized mirrors.

We followed a wash, a narrow path that had been carved out by sudden rushes of water, in order to reach our destination; the elephant knees and the oyster beds.
Along the sides of the wash was the only signs of green plant-life in the mud hills area. There were sage-like bushes, but most of the plants were as small as the size of your hand. Flowers were small and low to the ground, most likely pollinated by wind or ants. There was a beautiful plant with brilliant purple flowers, which was my favorite for the whole trip, as the flowers were so delicate looking, yet it was growing in such a harsh environment.

When we got closer to the elephant knees, we noticed that the top of the mesa and on three nearby formations there were a dark layer on top about 2 feet thick. When we hiked up the side, we saw that it was completely made of small shells and parts of shells. We could not find the oysters the size of dinner plates, but we did see a rather large piece of a fossil oyster. So goal 1 was accomplished.

Afterwards we headed back towards the center of the park where there was more green life.

Here we went on cactus loop trail, where there were several kinds of cactus and other plants in bloom. On the cactus side, there were beaver tail and hedgehog cactus which had magenta flowers, and barrel cactus which had yellow-green flowers.

There were also jumping chollas, which had green flowers. These cactus have a habit of breaking off their arms and hitching a ride on a passer-by, thus 'jumping' to a new area.

There were also some fantastic ocotillo plants in bloom, which I've been strangely attracted to since I fist saw them on a trip to Arizona. They have thorny stems, and only produce small leaves and large flowers after the rains. The flowers were these bright red spikes on the top of the plant (the first picture is of these beautiful plants).

After our cactus hike, we headed to the visitor center and palm canyon to see if we could spot the big horn sheep which are said to roam the park. Although this unplanned goal was thwarted, we did get to see a variety of wild life that did not leave us disappointed. In just the canyon, we saw tons of lizards, quail, ravens, and endangered desert pup fish in a man-made habitat. In mud hills, we saw tons of butterflies, lizards, and a cute beetle. On our way into the park, we even spotted a coyote crossing the road. All and all, an amazing experience!

1 comment:

Miriam Goldstein said...

Too bad about the sheep, but I'm glad you had fun anyway!