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.

66 thoughts on “GratiTuesday: The Desert’s Super Bloom”

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

  5. 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!!

    1. 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.

  6. 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? 😉

    1. 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.

  7. 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…
    😦

    1. 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).

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

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

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

    Jude

  13. 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 🙂

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