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March 14, 2017 /

GratiTuesday: The Desert’s Super Bloom

The rain came in abundance to California this year. The sheer volume caused problems in some areas, but most of us have reveled in the frequent downpours. Our gardens look lush, lawns (those that still exist) are green, and weeds are sprouting up everywhere.

March is the month that deserts traditionally experience their blooming season, but our five-year drought has negatively affected the annual spectacle. Fortunately, this year’s rains have not only benefitted homeowners and gardeners in coastal and inland areas, it has created a “super bloom” in our local desert – the likes of which we haven’t seen in many years.

After reading about the large wildflower-seeking crowds ascending on Anza-Borrego State Park during the weekends, my husband and I decided to make our trek there on a weekday. This was supposed to be a prime week and we knew the flowers could fade quickly under harsh winds, rising temperatures, and the ravenous caterpillars that can eat through the flowering plants at an amazing rate.

We got an early start Monday morning (made more difficult because we just sprang forward, and 6 a.m. felt like it came an hour too soon) so we could beat the heat and the traffic as much as possible. When we both worked, a 6 a.m. wake-up alarm was not unusual. Now that we are retired, we’ve learned to appreciate sleeping until we decide to get up. This day, though, the flowers beckoned,  so we dragged ourselves out of bed and into the shower.

The two-hour drive to the state park takes us east, winding through ranch country and along fields planted with citrus, nuts and grapes. Starting at close to sea level where we live, we climbed over 3,000 feet into the hills before heading back down the windy pass to the desert floor.

We started to spot flowers here and there as we approached Borrego Springs, the small town just outside the park, but it wasn’t until we drove into the park that we saw the blooms carpeting the desert sand, colorful against the backdrop of the mountains and blue, clear skies.

I’m so grateful for this year’s spectacular desert wildflowers. Some people think of the desert as being dull and colorless, or hot and full of plants that have painful thorns. I grew up in Southern California so I am familiar with its often subtle beauty. But, after the ample winter rains, this spring’s super bloom isn’t subtle at all; it is showy and colorful, and exploding with life.



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  1. cindy knoke / Mar 14 2017 8:44 pm

    We were there on Friday!

    • / Mar 15 2017 1:24 pm

      Wasn’t it great? I’ve read that the cactus will be in full bloom a bit later – we didn’t see much of that, mostly just the wildflowers.

  2. Anabel Marsh / Mar 15 2017 1:04 am

    So lovely!

    • / Mar 15 2017 1:27 pm

      I wish we had a four-wheel drive vehicle (or thought to bring good hiking gear) so we could have gotten further back into the unpaved areas… I bet it would have been even more lovely there.

  3. pentopaper647 / Mar 15 2017 3:13 am

    I’ve just been writing about the spring flowers in UK, very different but they all have a beauty and are always so welcome after the long winter, they brighten the countryside and lift one’s mood.

    • / Mar 16 2017 4:01 pm

      I was thinking about that when I was writing the post. Anyone who lives in an area that has massive spring blooms might be underwhelmed with the desert flowers. But, knowing that the desert floor is usually so subtle in its palette, it was such a treat to see all the colors.

  4. karen207 / Mar 15 2017 3:29 am

    Janis, what a beautiful reminder of the beauty of the world and the beauty of retirement. To have those spring blossoms after years of drought is such a gift. As is having the kind of wonderful spirit that gets you at 6 a.m. to go visit the blooms – even on spring forward day!
    Thank you for the post and the pictures.

    • / Mar 15 2017 2:40 pm

      Being retired and (for the most part) in charge of our own schedules is so freeing. We were grumbling a bit when the alarm went off, but getting there early was worth the pain. I am so very grateful that a 6:00 or 6:30 alarm isn’t part of our daily experience!

  5. Maggie Wilson / Mar 15 2017 3:39 am

    So glad that you got a chance to see this. Thanks for sharing.

    • / Mar 15 2017 2:42 pm

      Even though I’ve lived here my whole life, I think this was the first time I’ve experienced the spring wildflower spectacle. Who knows what next year’s winter weather has in store for us so I’m glad we went.

  6. theunassuminghiker / Mar 15 2017 4:48 am

    Very pretty! Glad the rains also provided a positive outcome. I can relate about the early mornings. I used to wake up 5 minutes before the alarm and had no trouble getting up early. It amazed me how easily I learned to sleep in and not even feel guilty about it. Retirement is the BEST!

    • / Mar 15 2017 2:44 pm

      Me too! I had always considered myself sort of a “morning person.” Now that I’m retired, I’m not so sure. Retirement IS the best!

  7. Ron Walker / Mar 15 2017 5:28 am

    I envy you. What a breathtaking beauty, to see in person.

  8. Parkit / Mar 15 2017 5:56 am

    The pictures I see posted look beautiful!

    • / Mar 15 2017 2:47 pm

      I’ve always enjoyed the desert anyway (except for the heat… I’m not so great with a lot of sun on my pale self), but seeing the blooms made it even more special.

  9. Ally Bean / Mar 15 2017 5:57 am

    Beautiful. The colors inspire me. Thanks for getting up early. Definitely worth the effort.

    • / Mar 15 2017 2:51 pm

      I’m happy that we got there as early as we did. Even on a Monday, the visitors were starting to arrive en masse by mid-day. Getting there early allowed us to beat the traffic and the heat.

  10. Keith / Mar 15 2017 6:01 am

    Janis, on this cold day, I can feel the sun off your pictures. Thanks for sharing your trip. Keith

    • / Mar 15 2017 2:53 pm

      Our rains may be only in our memories now… it’s starting to look like spring and feel like summer around here. I hope you warm up soon too!

      • Keith / Mar 15 2017 6:09 pm

        Me too. I did now the grass today, but while it was sunny, it was only 40 degrees.

  11. Kate Crimmins / Mar 15 2017 6:27 am

    So beautiful. The desert has it’s own kind of beauty.

    • / Mar 15 2017 2:55 pm

      It really is lovely. It always amazes me how plants and critters have adapted to – and thrive in – its harsh climate.

  12. Liesbet / Mar 15 2017 7:36 am

    How pretty, Janis. I love wildflowers and was wondering how the parks and the deserts in the west must look like now. Just going for a walk here in the hills, I am in awe of all the pretty little flowers and their colors. Spring has sprung! Still having a hard time getting up at 6:30am, since it is dark again at that time. I was doing so well before the time change this weekend!

    • / Mar 15 2017 2:59 pm

      I bet the hills where you are staying are lovely too. I am a great supporter of Daylight Savings (yay, more light at the end of the day!), but now that I’m retired and can make my own schedule, it’s less of an issue. I’m sure we’ll both get used to it soon, especially as it gradually gets lighter earlier.

      • Liesbet / Mar 15 2017 3:02 pm

        You’ll have to see for yourself on my blog of today. 🙂 It is just starting to be colorful… Yes, looking forward to longer – and earlier – days again!

  13. Kristine Puzel / Mar 15 2017 9:17 am

    So glad you took the opportunity to see this amazing event, and you picked great year to do it! There is something about the desert heat and stillness that is somehow very calming. There is really so much to see and do in that area, but I think the blooming of the wildflowers is one of the best ‘events’ you could attend!!

    • / Mar 15 2017 3:03 pm

      Although Borrego Springs is experiencing a glut of visitors its not used to, I’m happy that the super bloom has inspired so many to make the drive. I think there are a lot of people who have been to Palm Springs and think they’ve really visited the desert. You are right – there is so much to see and do.

  14. Rin Porter / Mar 15 2017 9:56 am

    Wish I were there to see them! But your description and photos helped me experience this wonderful event.

    • / Mar 15 2017 3:06 pm

      I’m glad we were able to see it. With our crazy weather, who knows when the right rain conditions will happen again.

  15. Joanne Sisco / Mar 15 2017 11:39 am

    Janis, I can imagine that after such a long drought, this was truly a spectacle that no photo could really grasp! Like you, I wouldn’t have hesitated to get up early to catch it 🙂
    Sometimes we just have to take advantage of the bounty that nature provides us with while we are able!

    Am I correct in guessing there might have been a nap later in the day? 😉

    • / Mar 15 2017 3:09 pm

      I’m happy that we made the effort, although a couple of grumps invaded our bodies for the first few hours after we woke up. We were both very happy that we made the trip… and also grateful that we could take a nap when we got home. I have no idea how I did that day-after-day when I worked.

  16. laura bruno lilly / Mar 15 2017 11:42 am

    Hubby’s a desert rat, brought up in Southern New Mexico…where he took his young bride (me) to live the first few years of married life…so I too fell in love with its surprises. What fun that this is one of those splashy spring times in the desert southwest…enjoy!
    Your photos are making me homesick…

    • / Mar 15 2017 3:15 pm

      New Mexico is beautiful too! We passed through on our road trip a few years ago (we stopped for a few days in Santa Fe), but I’d like to go back and really explore the state (especially the native American dwellings built into the hills and the caverns).

  17. Shelley / Mar 15 2017 11:52 am

    Im with you on sleeping till you feel like getting up. I marvel that not so long ago I had my butt out of bed EVERY day at an ungodly hour (way, way before 7 AM). Nowan exercise clas before 9 AM is a stretch, so to speak.

    • / Mar 15 2017 3:18 pm

      How did we do it? It’s hard to imagine that our brains were able to function that early. Thank goodness those days are over!

  18. Ann Coleman / Mar 15 2017 12:13 pm

    I was so glad to hear that California finally got some much-needed rain, but I didn’t know it would result in so many flowers in a desert! Thanks for the photos!

    • / Mar 15 2017 3:26 pm

      I read that the last decent showing of desert flowers was in 2010, but it was nothing like the super bloom this year. The succulents in our yard – even though they are “drought resistant” – still love the rain and are blooming like crazy too. I guess there is a big difference between surviving drought and thriving with enough rain.

  19. Donna / Mar 15 2017 3:05 pm

    I love wild flowers….and your photos of the desert’s ‘super bloom’ are fantastic. Great post! Thanks for sharing this.

  20. Terri Webster Schrandt / Mar 15 2017 3:42 pm

    I would love to see this, Janis! A few years ago (might have been 2010, but I think it was before that), on our drive down in March, the hills along Hwy 5 near the Grapevine were covered with poppies and other blooms. I may have an old grainy photo of it somewhere! I’m just grateful for rain!

    • / Mar 15 2017 4:07 pm

      I bet that was beautiful! I’ve seen pictures of poppy fields, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually experienced it in person. The rain is probably making trees and flowers bloom nicely up in your area too.

  21. Under the Oaks / Mar 15 2017 3:43 pm

    I loved the desert in El Paso! Love this post. Your pictures of the desert blooms make me smile… beautiful!

  22. Denise / Mar 16 2017 3:54 am

    I saw some lovely flowers in the Arizona deserts. Thanks for sharing yours.

  23. Gabe Burkhardt / Mar 16 2017 5:11 am

    I know what you mean about adjusting to a more relaxed wake-up schedule. However, some things are absolutely worth it, and it looks like you experienced one of them. Thank you for sharing with us so we could sleep in and still enjoy a taste of the super bloom.

  24. Savoring Sixty and Beyond / Mar 16 2017 7:34 am


  25. Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread / Mar 16 2017 11:43 am

    Thanks for sharing such beauty with those of us still encased in white. 🙂

  26. rangewriter / Mar 17 2017 8:45 pm

    I heard it was lovely this year. Great that you went to extra effort to see and document the bloom. Lovely pics.

    • / Mar 18 2017 11:00 am

      We are glad we made the trip too. Also glad we got there early… the crowds have been a bit overwhelming to the little town of Borrego Springs.

  27. Dr Sock / Mar 19 2017 8:10 pm

    Wow! I have never seen the desert in bloom. It looks lovely. I live in a semi-arid part of Canada. Much of the year, the wild grasses on hills of the river valley are dry and yellow, but in June, the wet season, the hills are as green as Ireland. There are lots of wideflowers too, but not as showy as the desert blooms that you photographed.


    • / Mar 19 2017 9:44 pm

      It was a treat that doesn’t happen every year. I love how every ecosystem is so different – I bet tHe green hills are beautiful too.

  28. Dr Sock / Mar 19 2017 8:11 pm

    Wild flowers, not wideflowers.

  29. susan@onesmallwalk / Apr 11 2017 7:23 am

    What a great side-trip. There’s something very peaceful about the desert. It always seems to draw me in, make me look closer. Since I just bought my senior discount to the National Parks (thank you!), I think a road trip to the desert southwest is in the making 🙂

    • / Apr 12 2017 9:27 pm

      When we were there, the cactus wasn’t yet in bloom. Perhaps they are now – I hope you make the trip to see them!

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