Yes, I’m back where I started this winter’s desert explorations because I just knew, with December rain there would be wildflowers in Palm Canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Plus I’ve been following Desert Wildflower Reports. I was not disappointed.
Because the temperatures are peaking in the mid-80s, and I’m generally a slow starter in the morning I decided to camp for one night in the state park campground so I would be there for a late afternoon walk in the shade of the canyon walls and get out early the next day for a hike up Palm Canyon in search of wildflowers. Plus, I could then fill and dump the camper tanks at no extra cost.
The volunteer on duty allowed me to cruise the campground with a map marked with the available sites without hookups which I don’t need. The people in #108 were packing up to leave and this site gives a view right up the canyon with no neighbors on that side. Sweet. I took it for $23/night. Then because it was too early to check in, I reserved the site and went to lunch in town.
I’d already had some interesting sightings that morning. Before I even left my camp off of Rockhouse Trail I’d seen several mushrooms that had forced themselves through the hard desert soil looking like Shaggy Manes. Mushrooms in the desert? Of course I had to look it up in my trusty Audubon Deserts field guide. Desert Inky Cap has often been called a Desert Shaggy Mane yet is more like a stalked puffball without gills and although not poisonous they are hard, dry and woody. I left these alone.
My campsite was level so setting up meant, park. And flowers were scattered all around. As I was backed right up to the mountainous wall of Palm Canyon it was shady by 3pm so I took a little walk and never got out of sight of camp because there were flowers at every step. They are mostly small and delicate, thin stalked with flowers from 1/8 to 1 1/4 inches across. Have to be hardy to survive in this harsh dry environment.
The following morning I was on the trail just before 8am and it was already feeling warmish. More scattered flowers with a profusion of Brittlebush showing off it’s yellow blooms. The perfect rock garden with busy bees and birds pollinating.
On the way up canyon some folks were stopped with their binoculars out watching three Mt Sheep, one up on the ridgeline silhouetted against the sky and the other two very difficult to see until they moved a bit.
As I approached the palm grove where water still trickled in a tiny stream before disappearing into the ground the trail was briefly lined with almost neon mesquite. The oasis is such a sharp contrast to the desert floor.
I started to take the Alternative trail and saw flowering Beavertail cactus but then it started to climb and it didn’t make sense to me to go up hill to get down canyon. So I turned around and hoofed it back to the camper.
Almost within sight of the parking lot a group of people were stopped. No wonder, several Mt Sheep were within 5-20 feet of the trail just eating away and not bothered by the click of cameras or hikers moving past. How exciting.
After the hike and lunch I went to the visitor center so I could find out what all these flowers were. And I still don’t know them all. Unfortunately my wonderful Audubon Desert book is all inclusive—birds, plants, flowers, trees, bugs, snakes—which means it just doesn’t show everything.
I know it’s still cold in parts of the winter world but spring is coming. Hope you’re thinking of planting flowers that benefit butterflies. Maybe some seeds like these you can get from Amazon.
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