Super Bloomin'


Every year, we try to make it out to the Anza-Borrego desert at least once for a camping trip, usually at our favorite campground, Agua Caliente. But in all the years that we've headed out there, I've never once witnessed a Super Bloom.

In fact, I'd never even heard the term "Super Bloom" until last year, back when Death Valley exploded in a sea of color. This is because San Diego has been in a drought since I moved here almost 7 years ago. Now, after the wettest winter in years, we're finally out of the drought and we have our own desert wildflowers to prove it.

Thousands and thousands of them.

Between the rain and the spring temperatures, Anza-Borrego finally experienced the perfect conditions for a once-in-a-decade event: the Super Bloom. Seeds that have been dormant for years and years were finally set to bloom, smattering the drab desert landscape with yellows and blues, pinks and purples.

Something else I learned about the Super Bloom? Apparently it's kind of a big deal. So when our friend Jason learned that Agua Caliente's campsites were already booked up in anticipation, he decided to use it as an excuse to check out another awesome campground: Fish Creek Wash.

After turning off the 78 onto a graded dirt road, you'll see a sign for Fish Creek Primitive Campground about a mile in on your left-hand side. Or, if you're Ryan and I, you'll arrive at night, miss the tiny sign completely and drive 3 miles into the canyon, never going faster than 10mph thanks to all the sharp rocks and boulders.

To be fair, we could have given up on finding our friends for the night and camped anywhere inside the canyon. In fact, many fellow campers were doing just that. But what the canyon offers in natural shade and pretty geological formations, it lacks in bathrooms and fire pits, features that Fish Creek Camp offers for its 6 first-come, first-serve campsites.

So we pressed on, eventually found our group and settled in for a night of star-gazing, drinking too much tequila (me), and second degree burns from falling onto the aforementioned fire pit (also me).

Covered in pollen

The next day we woke up to unrelenting desert temperatures and spent the day waiting out the heat with music and beers under an E-Z up tent. When the heat finally started to drop, we piled into two cars and drove back into the canyon to check out some of its incredible geological rarities by the light of day. 

Shooting their album cover

The main destination was the Anticline, a geological formation that forms an arch in the sediment. Apparently, this is pretty rare to see up close and the Fish Creek Wash Anticline has been featured in many a geology textbook. Who knew!

Ryan, with the "Elephant Knees" behind him

After the Anticline, we headed into the canyon a bit further until we hit the trailhead for the Wind Caves hike, a short mile-long hike to some natural wind caves. After climbing the first two steep hills and stopping at the overlook to check out a formation nicknamed Elephant Knees, I decided not to make the rest of the hike. The dogs weren't technically allowed on the trail and with the heat, I didn't think it was safe for them anyway. So we hid in the shade while Des and Ian checked it out, then headed back to the campsite for a charcuterie board, rosé and an almost full moon. #glamping

The next day it was Super Bloom time. We packed up our campsites and drove a half hour or so to downtown Borrego Springs, then to the Borrego Palm Canyon Visitor Center where Bonnie had been told we could pick up wildflower maps and identification guides. That's when I found out how much of a "thing" the Super Bloom actually is. 

As I looked around us, thousands of San Diegans were pouring in from every direction, sending rivers of glittering rooftops pouring into the canyon. There was nowhere to park in the Visitor Center area and we were starving so we ended up going to the nearby Palm Canyon Hotel and RV Resort for lunch instead. Apparently, everyone else had the same idea and even though we managed to eat, the restaurant ran out of food within the hour that we were there. 

By the time we were done eating, we'd given up on the Visitor Center completely. We grabbed a wildflower map that the hotel had provided and decided to drive to some of the highlighted spots away from the largest crowds, towards some of sculptor Ricardo Breceda's 100+ sculptures that fill the Borrego Springs landscape.

Armed with our new wildflower guide, we spent the next hour driving from spot to spot, hopping out and photographing the blooms as we went.

Out of all the pretty flowers that we saw, I think my favorite might have been the white desert lilies. Their bulbs can be as deep as 4 feet in the ground! It's incredible that such delicate flowers can exist in such harsh conditions.

Once we were all wildflowered out, we rejoined the rest of the entire population of Southern California to hit the highway for 3+ hour drive in traffic back to San Diego.

The good news? Not to be outdone, the highway didn't look too shabby either.