Anza-Borrego Flower Hunt

At last it was Friday.  No classes, projects weren’t due for grading until the weekend, and my calendar showed no meetings or appointments were scheduled.  Local weather was very “iffy” with showers possible and generally overcast.  Boy I was tired of this gray, wet weather and, worse, had a horrible case of cabin fever.  I grabbed a cup of coffee and had just showered when the phone rang,

To my surprise and delight it was my friend and colleague, Cynthia, and even more to my surprise, she wanted to know if I’d be interested in going to see how the desert flowers were blooming after all of the rain we’d been getting.  My calendar was clear and I recall mentioning in a previous post how the Roadtrek was whimpering and feeling abandoned. in the driveway.  This wasn’t to be a camping trip but still… it was getting OUT OF TOWN!  So after seriously thinking over the idea for about .003 nanoseconds I agreed it was a great idea.

It was great to be finally getting out of town. But by the time we hit Santa Ysabel it was raining, and the sky was dark toward the desert, so we stopped for breakfast.  The sharp wind blowing down from the mountains was not friendly.  Let’s just say that it did not appear likely that we should be overly worried about suffering from heat stroke.

I love the restaurant: it serves some of the best country comfort food I know of so to steel myself for the cold I loaded up on carbs with some incredible biscuits and gravy. By the time we finished the sky had mostly cleared, the wind had died down a little, and we headed on toward Borrego Springs over the Montezuma road through Ranchito… winter home of the Yeti.

Once in the park, It was strange; everything was very green and fresh, more so than I ever recall seeing, but up high at least there were very few flowers in bloom.  In past years I’ve always found the Henderson Canyon Road to be a good place for flowers so we headed in that direction.  I’ve seen this area hip deep in a carpet of yellow daisies on good years but what greeted us was lots of green bushes and plant life but not all that many flowers.  Perhaps we were late and had missed the main bloom but at first glance it seemed to be a pretty poor showing, especially in light of all of the rain.

Roadtrek with Verbena - Mar 2019 - for blog

Though not the riot of hip deep color I have seen before, there were still pockets of flowers, mostly Verbena, that surely were hiding some good compositions.  So we hauled the van over to the road side and hiked out to take a closer look.

Nevertheless, we were able to find several isolated areas with color so we stopped to see if any images were hiding in the bush that we could sneak up on and capture.  I had loaded some serious gear on board the van, but when we arrived, I simply grabbed my trusty little Canon 120S 12 megapixel “point and shoot” to see what was there.  I had expected to then haul out the serious camera if I saw anything but ended up shooting with the little critter for everything.  All of the photographs in this post are shot with that Canon 120S (c) N. David King.

I had once been asked to give a presentation on how a photographer should be able to shoot with anything available.  And certainly, point and shoot cameras and even cell phone cameras were getting better and better.  So once out of the car looking for some compositions, It was a bit “freeing” to leave tripod and heavy stuff in the van and just dance around the shots with this camera that is almost a toy by comparison.  Fortunately, it does allow for full manual operation so that helped quite a bit.

A couple of times I almost went back for the “real” camera, but I keep preaching that the tool that really counts is the one with the hand on the shutter button so we will see how it turns out.  Here are some examples.

Borrego flowers -Mar 2019-verbena 01 for blog

The clouds were providing broken light but definitely added a little drama to the background as the patters played on the hills and desert floor alike.

Borrego flowers -Mar 2019 purple and white boquet for blog

Though the Verbena was the predominate flower in bloom, mixed in with it were other flowers to provide some contrast.

Borrego flowers -Mar 2019 -037 primrose

Here and there were these beautiful little flowers.  I thought they might be a form of Primrose but to be honest have no idea what they are.

Verbena and daisies for blog

At one spot the daisies were growing in the midst of the verbena and provided a beautiful color contrast, especially when the mix was added to the sky.

Cynthia shooting Borrego flowers for blog

I took the shot above and turned around to find Cynthia also focused in on the yellow and purple bouquets.  My blown up knees will not allow me to get up and down as easily and she can do… frustrating.  I’ll bet hers is a killer shot!

When we finished we headed over to Ocotillo Wells to check on Cynthia’s property and to grab something refreshing in the “Iron Door” bar.  Wow… if you want something out of the ordinary, this is the place for you to check out!!!  The denizens were folks that I would bet had some tales to tell.  And many would make some really interesting portraits once they trusted you enough to allow it.  But that would take time and we needed to get back to Carlee’s in Borrego Springs to rendezvous with another friend of Cynthia’s also named David.

Once we met up, he had a map from the rangers as to where the flowers were supposed to be blooming.  One area was a field on the north side of the Salton Sea Highway near the turnoff to Arroyo Salado.  Generally, this area seemed devoid of flowers but sure enough, we pulled into a parking area and there in front of us was a hillside carpeted with Verbena mixed in with some other assorted flowers.

Verbena field near Arroyo Salado for blog

Here, across from Arroyo Salado was this field of Verbena.  The little parking area was filled with cars and people also out enjoying the flowers.

The light was good so we hiked down the hill then up to the carpet of flowers.  Once on top of them it was similar to the clumps we had found near Henderson Canyon… but still worth a shot or two…

verbena Fields for blog 01

Once down among the flowers it was apparent the “Carpet” was not as dense as it appeared from up along the highway.  Nevertheless there were some clumps and from them you can see the fields of verbena in the middle ground.

verbena Fields for blog 02

The light was starting to get really good and bring out the color of the flowers and the surrounding low lying sand dunes.

After one more stop we really needed to head back since Cynthia had some work to get down later that evening and in any case the evening was firmly setting in.

verbena Fields for blog 03.jpg

Coming back over the Montezuma road the dark skies on the western horizon were laced with a beautiful salmon colored light coming from the setting sun over the far-off ocean.  It almost looked like an erupting volcano was hiding just behind the clouds.  It was at once soft and peaceful and at the same time, dramatic.  It was a visually stunning end to a perfect day of shooting.





About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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2 Responses to Anza-Borrego Flower Hunt

  1. gene says:

    Glad you were able to get away…sounds as though it was a good trip.

  2. Perfect timing for this post, as we are headed there on Monday. Looks like you had a perfect day. Thanks for sharing the great pics!

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