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(Barefoot) Return to Anza Borrego Desert State Park

March 2, 2015

The past five years of our annual late winter visit to Anza Borrego Desert State Park, I have been able (blessed! ecstatic!) to spend the weekend camping without shoes.

That’s right: barefoot. In the desert.

And I’m extra-pleased when my grandkids join me in wandering shoelessly around camp and up the Palm Canyon trail. They are smart kids who know when to put their shoes on to keep it fun. No pressure from Grammy, just do what you need to be able to run and climb and have a good time in this beautiful place.

My siblings (we are all grandparents now . . . yikes) still give me a bit of a hard time about it, but I’m the youngest, and have always been subject to this birth-order-inspired ribbing. As the years passed, though, I began to realize the joke’s on them: Yeah, I’m the youngest. Pick on me all you want, ’cause we may all be old now, but I’M STILL THE YOUNGEST.

OK. That’s out of my system.

It’s actually a great legacy our folks left: they first took us camping here in 1962, and this many years later, four of the seven of us were able to return and reminisce in a place that is much older than we are.

Speaking of having seven siblings camping here: our mother loves to tell the story of time (somewhere in the 1960s) the park ranger came by our campsite, counted heads, and solemnly proclaimed that the campground regulations called for no more than eight people per site . . . eliciting this response from Mom: “Which one should I send home, the youngest or the oldest?”

So every year those of us who are able to sneak away from our busy So Cal lives make the windy drive down Montezuma Grade to the Palm Canyon Group Campground (since there are way more than nine of us these days).

We were fortunate enough to witness both wildflowers and gentle rain this weekend; here’s a few images to encourage others to visit one of Southern California’s most beautiful and barefoot-friendly places–the trails are so well-traveled my toes have never been punctured by a single cactus spine (well, almost never: there was that hike to Hellhole Canyon several years ago . . . but we weren’t really on a trail at the time my sole found a fallen cholla cactus branch.)

This lovely caterpillar will one day be a white-lined sphinx moth. Hello, toes!

This lovely tubby caterpillar will one day be a white-lined sphinx moth. Hello, toes!

Hiking just a bit up the Palm Canyon trail before sunrise yields all kinds of fine photo ops, like this silhouette of Font's Point and ocotillo. The bird-like structures at the end of the branch arms are vivid red flowers.

Hiking just a bit up the Palm Canyon trail before sunrise yields all kinds of fine photo ops, like this silhouette of Font’s Point and ocotillo. The bird-like structures at the end of the branch arms are vivid red flowers.

Another bright red desert bloomer: chuparosa, favorite flower of hummingbirds. (I think this is a Costa's hummingbird perched here.)

Another bright red desert bloomer: chuparosa, favorite flower of hummingbirds. (I think this is a Costa’s hummingbird perched here.)

Where there's wildflowers, there's butterflies--difficult to catch with my terrible little point-and-shoot camera, but this California Patch butterfly politely posed long enough for me to get this image.

Where there’s wildflowers, there’s butterflies–difficult to catch with my terrible little point-and-shoot camera, but this California Patch butterfly politely posed long enough for me to get this image.

How spectacular the annual wildflower show will be depends on the amount, intensity, and timing of the winter rains. I would rate this year "pretty good" . . . I've seen more (who remembers spring 2005?!), but even one or two blooms is enough to put a smile on my face. Here's one of many desert sand verbenas to be found, some in sweeping swaths.

How spectacular the annual wildflower show will be depends on the amount, intensity, and timing of the winter rains. I would rate this year “pretty good” . . . I’ve seen more (who remembers spring 2005?!), but even one or two blooms is enough to put a smile on my face. Here’s one of many desert sand verbenas to be found, some in sweeping swaths.

Wildflowers at dawn . . . brilliant! (This is desert brittlebush, Encelia farinosa.)

Wildflowers at dawn . . . brilliant! (This is desert brittlebush, Encelia farinosa.)

Along with the annual wildflowers, the cholla cactus are lighting up the desert right now.

Along with the annual wildflowers, the cholla cactus are lighting up the desert right now.

When we finally reached the stream in Palm Canyon,  I celebrated with one of my granddaughters by cooling our toes.

When we finally reached the stream in Palm Canyon, I celebrated with one of my granddaughters by cooling our toes.

This granddaughter made a point of scaling every boulder she could along the trail.

This granddaughter made a point of scaling every boulder she could along the trail.

These coupled master blister beetles  fascinated the grandkids (and me too).

These coupled master blister beetles fascinated the grandkids (and me too).

Jack rabbit ears: transformed in the slanting light.

Jack rabbit ears: transformed in the slanting light.

All the grandkids got a kick out the doorless, roofless stone restrooms (but they were flush toilets . . . go figure).

All the grandkids got a kick out the doorless, roofless stone restrooms (but they were flush toilets . . . go figure).

And of course the Ricardo Breceda metal sculptures scattered around Borrego Springs (on private land) are always fun for kids to stare at.

And of course the Ricardo Breceda metal sculptures scattered around Borrego Springs (on private land) are always fun for kids to stare at.

A favorite ritual: leave camp in the bird-song--filled dark, and head for the Palm Canyon wash to find a granite perch to watch the desert day come to life.

A favorite ritual: leave camp in the bird-song–filled dark, and head for the Palm Canyon wash to find a granite perch to watch the desert day come to life.

Barefoot Wandering and Writing at Anza Borrego Desert State Park: our annual family pilgrimage that brings back memories for me, and creates new ones for my grandkids.

Barefoot Wandering and Writing at Anza Borrego Desert State Park: our annual family pilgrimage that brings back memories for me, and creates new ones for my grandkids.

Until next year . . .

Until next year . . .

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian permalink
    December 17, 2015 6:25 am

    Well thank you so much Thea! Anyone who knows me knows I’ve had a lifelong appreciation of footprints. It’s not that unusual…check out flickr and all the footprint photos. To me, footprints have always reminded me of summer, of being carefree…I find footprint photos to be just fun. So thanks again! I’ll be watching your blog in 2016! Looking forward to your adventures!

    • December 17, 2015 8:31 am

      And may your New Year be filled with adventure as well! Happy Trails!

  2. Brian permalink
    December 15, 2015 11:24 am

    Merry Christmas Thea and happy barefooting in 2016! I keep an eye on your excellent blog. Love the stories and lovely footprint photos!

    • December 15, 2015 2:13 pm

      Hi Brian! Thanks for the note . . . Merry Christmas and Happy Barefoot New Year to you! Please know that whenever I take a photo of a barefoot-footprint . . . it’s for you 🙂 (It’s a nice feeling to know there are folks out there who appreciate this odd pastime of mine!)

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