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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No Wildflowers This Year

Among the weeds choking out growth and good government are the hundreds of boards, commissions, and advisory committees that have sprouted over the years. They devour time, money, and energy far beyond any real contribution they make. — Mitch Daniels

Yesterday my wife and I took our annual trip to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County to take in the elegant displays of California Desert wildflowers that normally blanket the desert floor at this time of year. With the heavy rains we had experienced in January, February and March we were expecting a bonanza of colorful flora.

When we arrived at the Anza Borrego Desert Center we went in to ask the staff where the best displays of flowers were and much to our chagrin we were told there weren’t any displays this year. It seems that the rain was good and the flowers began appearing in large numbers and then there were three days of freezing weather and that was the end of the flowers. All that was left were a few scattered flowers here and there and the cactus, which were blooming in profusion — especially the Cholla.

The Anza Borrego Desert State Park is one of the best places to view desert wildflowers in Southern California. About the only flowers you will not fine there are the California Poppies. For poppies the best place to go is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. Anza Borrego is usually replete with Sand Verbena, Desert Lilies, Desert Dandelions and California Mariposa, but not this year. There were a few scattered bunches of verbena here and there, but that was about all.

However, the cacti were in in full bloom. The Cholla, Beavertail, Barrel and Flowers of the Cholla CactusHedgehog were resplendent with their yellow, orange and magenta blooms. Also the Ocotillo trees were doing well, even providing nectar for the numerous hummingbirds buzzing about. And of course there were plenty of Brittlebush, which seems to thrive almost anywhere. You can see brittlebush along the roadside, on the rocky slopes and all over the desert floor.

We always enjoy our sojourns to Anza Borrego in late March or early April. The weather is always in the mid 70’s or low 80’s and the skies are clear and blue. The desert air is clean and refreshing.

This time we wandered up Henderson Canyon Road, past the orange and grapefruit groves, to a strange collection of welded metal art at Galleta Meadows Estates. Dennis Avery, land owner of Galleta Meadows Estates in Borrego Springs envisioned the idea of adding 'free standing art' to his property with original steel welded sculptures created by 'Perris Jurassic Park' owner/artist/welder Ricardo Breceda based in Perris, California.

The sculptures were commissioned by part-time Borregan Dennis Avery and sit on land he owns and allows the public to use – Galleta Meadows. Avery carried a copy of the “Fossil Treasures” book under his arm as he watched a crew from Perris Jurassic Park unload the sculptures.

The project doesn’t end with the gomphotheres. Avery has asked Breceda, a former construction welder who created his first metal dinosaur 10 years ago, to sculpt camelops, sloth, turtles and other creatures that once roamed Anza-Borrego.

Sculptured metal art at Galleta Meadows Estates, Borrego SpringsThe first three sculptures cost about $14,000, but Avery said he’s already put $45,000 in to the project and he wants to keep going. He has also received a $160,000 donation from an anonymous donor.

So, even though we did not get to see the wildflowers we did discover a new attraction in Borrego Springs. If you ever decide to take a trip to Anza Borrego make sure to allow some time to drive about at the western end of Henderson Canyon Road and see some of Avery’s metal creatures. Each sculptured creature sits on a concrete platform surrounded by a drivable roadway in the desert sand — don’t worry, you won’t get stuck, it’s hard-packed desert sand.

Also don’t forget to stop at the fruit stand at Henderson Canyon Road and Di Giorgio Road and pick up a bag of fresh oranges or ruby-red grapefruit. The stand works on the honor system. You pick a bag of oranges or grapefruits and drop the required money in a box.

You can view a gallery of my photos from our trip to Anza Borrego by clicking here.

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