Sunday, March 12, 2017

Amazing Wildflowers in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park


When you mix a good amount of rain with lots of sunshine and the right level of humidity, you end up with blankets of colorful wildflowers spread across the Anza Borrego Desert, which sits northeast of the California Historical landmark and mountain town of Julian.  
For years I have wanted to see these spring wildflowers but could never interest anyone to see them with me.  Until two days ago.  I nonchalantly mentioned to Gerry that "the desert flowers are peaking and now is the time to see them."  Someone had posted on social media a couple of photos of the wildflowers and I thought, "wow, I have to see them now."  I was surprised Gerry was agreeable!  He thought maybe we should pack for an overnight stay since we didn't know how long we'd be out in the desert.  And he thought maybe we could spend some time in Julian, too.  Should we stay the night in Borrego Springs, or perhaps Julian?  We really didn't have a plan other than to see the wildflowers.  We would just see how the day played out, then decide what to do.
Photo credit:  Don Bartletti
Anyway, we had a late start yesterday morning and decided to take the picturesque drive through the Cuyamaca mountains, bypass Julian and go around the other side of the mountain straight into Borrego Springs, a quaint village with a population of approximately 3,500. The drive for us was a little over two hours due to a section of the mountain road being blocked by fallen rocks and branches that were being cleared.  Other than a little bit of a delay, the drive was as scenic as the weather was gorgeous.  Such a perfect way to start the day.  Once we reached the desert, the temperature was in the high 80's at around 1pm.  The Anza-Borrego Visitor Center parking lot was full, but visitors were leaving as quickly as they arrived.  Once they secured their map and other information, they took off for their favorite hiking trail or desert spot.



There were so many options for hiking and flower-gazing.  We chose to skip the hikes this time around and opted to explore the wildflowers along Henderson Canyon Road, which is a very long road.  My goal was to find the glorious lupines but they were not to be found.  It turns out we didn't 
drive to the far, far end of the road.  Next time I'll find the lupines.  They're one of my favorite flowers, as are the sunflowers.





We did find beautiful specimens like the desert lilies the dune sunflowers, and many others including a variety of succulents and cacti.




When we had our fill of fragrant wildflowers, we headed back out to the main road that takes you back to Borrego Springs.  Before turning onto Borrego Springs Road, we saw a giant metal turtle. Then we saw other turtles, and as we drove around, there were other creatures and things to be found!  These are the works of artist Ricardo Breceda.  There are over one hundred life-size metal sculptures of animals that roamed this desert over a million years ago.  Historical figures and humorous and fanciful pieces are also featured.  People from all over the world come to the desert to see these sculptures.  If you'd like to learn more about Ricardo Breceda, click here.







You will not find all of the structures in one area.  These photos are just a few spread along Borrego Springs Road.  The remaining structures are spread throughout this desert area.  If you plan to visit as many of these structures as you can, after viewing the wildflowers, be prepared with sunscreen, head protection, your most comfortable shoes and lots of water and snacks. Wearing layered clothing is best as the temperatures are extreme.  Very hot during the day and very cool in the morning and going into the evening.  There's a full moon right now.  If you're able to hang around the desert area, you will be treated a special show of moonlight shimmers upon the desert landscape.
The wildflowers are plentiful right now, and so perky and bright.  But with so many people descending upon the desert, the smallest flowers are being stepped on unintentionally. Here are some tips to consider before making your trip to the Anza-Borrego State Park:

*  Desert annuals show best in mid-March.

*  Most visitors approach the state park from the east via Highways S22, S2 or 78.  Visitors from San Diego approaching via Highways 79 or 78 have the added pleasure of driving through the mountainous Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.  When the highway breaks away from high-country vegetation and you crest over the hill, you are treated to a spectacular view of the great bowl of Anza-Borrego desert.

*  If you are allergic to pollen, be sure to take antihistimine.  Pollen is everywhere.  We came home with yellow pollen all over our shoes.

* Plan your visit for a weekday morning as parking areas on the   weekends are full by mid-morning.

*  There are lots of restaurants and affordable lodging nearby.

*  Bring binoculars for spotting wildlife.

*  Call the State Park Wildflower Hotline to get updates on the wildflowers at (760) 767-4684.

*  For more information about the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, click here.


                                                                   

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Girlfriend Getaway

Yesterday was an awesome day with great friends. We did the Girlfriend Getaway with Day Tripper Tours in San Diego, and it was fantastic. It was a day full of chatter and laughter, afternoon tea in Long Beach and a few hours at the Vintage Fashion Expo in Los Angeles. This expo is a huge event that takes place fives times yearly in both Los Angeles and San Francisco.
If you've never done a Day Trippers Tour, it's a great way to get out of town for the day to explore museums, tourist attractions and special events throughout southern California. The cost of the day trip might seem high to you, but it includes your round-trip transportation from a pick-up point in San Diego, admission fee, meals depending on the tour, snacks and a very entertaining tour guide. What I love about these day trips is you don't have to drive. Just show up at your pick-up point and let the bus driver take you there.

We had a very comfortable bus ride in the rain.  It was a perfect day to anticipate our visit to have delicious hot tea in an elegant Victorian setting.  It brought back memories of Gerry and I walking through the heavy rain at Edinburgh Castle to have tea in The Queen Anne Tea Room. It was one of the highlights of our perfect day in Edinburgh. Upon arriving to the tea room, I was delighted to see how pretty the tea room looked from the street, so English-ly quaint!  I was more impressed with the wait staff who welcomed us as we made our way to the Grand Tea Room. I felt like I was back on a cruise ship.
Elise, owner of Elise's Team Room, has a business that has been thriving since 1996. Whatever she did, she did it right as tea rooms don't generally do well as a private business.
Contrary to what you see in the food photos, I left feeling absolutely stuffed. I forced myself to eat everything, and that's something I never, ever do, but I couldn't help myself. The lemon scone was one of the best scones I've ever tasted, and that's coming from my own experience enjoying scones in tea rooms throughout England and Scotland. First came the lemon scones with clotted cream, lemon custard and blackberry jam. Next came the tea sandwiches (cucumber and cream cheese, butter and raspberry jam, chicken salad and egg salad), then finally the piece de resistance. . . the chocolate biscuit cake that takes two days to make! This was Princess Diana's favorite chocolate dessert (she was a chocoholic), and hence the name of our event at the tea house was called the Princess Diana Tea. The teas were great, too.


On to Los Angeles, the Vintage Fashion Expo was very interesting. I've always admired retro fashions, and have even worn pieces that resemble styles from the 1950s and 1960s. This expo at The Reef, a creative urban habitat in South Los Angeles, was eye-candy for me. There were so many cool people walking around wearing retro styles, even children were participating!

Walking through the booths brought back lots of memories - clothes I wore as a child, as a teenager and especially, the lovely clothes my mom wore as a typical housewife caring for her children. I always admired my mom's clothes, shoes and her jewelry from the 1950s and 1960s. As a teenager, I used to sneak a peak in my mom's closet to look at her evening dresses and shoes and hope that she'd one day give them to me "when I was all grown up". Alas, I grew to have a completely different body type from my mom, body measurements and all. The good news is that my mom did give one of her cocktail dresses to my daughter, Lindsay, and it's a stunner. It's an espresso-colored, body-hugging number with spaghetti straps. The fabric shimmers in the light and you can't take your eyes off of it. I just texted her to tell her not to give that dress away as dresses of that type were selling at the expo for $450 on up. I didn't bring a lot of money with me to the expo because I thought I'd be bargain hunting. Well to shop vintage means you better come with lots of bucks, and maybe bring your credit card, too.
I came upon a non-designer alligator (gasp) handbag that I loved and it was priced at $450. Ugh. First of all, I know what you're thinking. A poor alligator was killed for its skin but that was decades ago and way before PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was founded in 1980. However, it is legal to have alligator skin in the state of California. Secondly, I would never, ever buy animal skin or fur these days. Times are different. We're now very concerned with protecting our wildlife from becoming extinct. I dismissed purchasing this bag because of its price, but found a similar 1940's handbag for $60, and it's in good condition. I was able to haggle the price down to $50.
Going through the vendor areas, I found three dresses that I adored. I couldn't stop looking at them, and I knew that I'd look great in them. In fact,Trini told me that this one particular shoulder-baring trapeze dress was totally me. It was my style but at $650? I couldn't do it. I can start saving for it, though, and maybe at next year's expo, that dress will still be there to become mine.

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