This month I saw flowers in a quantity and variety I never expected to see! Our California son lived up to his name as trail boss and took us on an adventure during a few days of the California “superbloom” – that celebratory wildflower explosion born of the winter rivers of rain.
Purple and orange painted the embankments beside the freeways as we drove out of Los Angeles toward the desert. At freeway speed, it’s hard to identify flowers beyond the unmistakable orange of California poppies and a guess at purple sage or verbena. Closer to our destination, Borrego Springs, and carpeting the huge surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert Park, a haze of golden-yellow brittle bush stretched as far as the eye could see.
The desert can look vast and inhospitable from a distance, barren and bleak, and so utterly different from anything familiar. But up close, in the narrow, sandy canyon trails, tiny clumps of two or three small plants often bloomed in the shelter of rocks in the trail – tiny garden patches formed where seeds are protected from footsteps.
And beyond the trail – so much color – pink from prickly pear cactus flowers, varied yellows and oranges from recognizable flowers like buttercups and desert marigolds, penstemon and mallow, and the whites of desert chicory and pincushion flower. And unfamiliar plants like fairy dusters whose small feathery blossoms look just the right size for a housekeeping sprite, or the strange ocotillo plant – spikey stems seem bare but up close have tiny leaves with tips of bright red blossoms.
Borrego Springs, normally a place of moderate temperatures in winter, provided a couple of days of 96°! But we stayed at the Hacienda del Sol – a refurbished motel full of bare bones comfort and charm with motel rooms and casitas. (Their motto is “the 1950‘s called and wants their motel back.”) The updates are perfect – heat pumps but old-fashioned radios, internet but no television, Formica tables but wool blankets and hot showers.
And a great pool to delight the kids in daytime heat. At night we could lower the deck chairs, lie back, and stargaze as we attempted to expand our knowledge of constellations beyond our Alaska familiarity with the Big Dipper. Borrego Springs is an International Dark Sky Community – and for those of us accustomed to winter dark lit always by streetlights and a glow from buildings and the never-dark skies of northern summers – this was a thrill. Lying in the dark under the sky provided a vivid awareness of our place in a vast universe, where we float on our tiny speck full of color and life.
We returned to the Northwest to plentiful April showers – and the cold and wind of our never-ending winter. But bulbs, shrubs, and trees, like their desert relatives, flower anyway!